Lincoln City Football Club
Lincoln City, more fondly known by fans as the Imps, are a Football League Two team based at Sincil Bank. Their history has been turbulent, with long seasons of consistent relegation followed by swift re-promotion, and little success in major competitions.
Their biggest achievement in the FA Cup was reaching the last 16 on three occasions, the last time more than a century ago in the 1901-2 season. Lincoln City have always had a strong fighting spirit, however, coming back from disaster to take the 3rd Division North Championship three times and the Division Four championship once.
Formation and Early Years
Lincoln City were formed in 1884, as an amateur side, after the disbanding of Lincoln Rovers. They initially played at the John O’Guant ground, rented to the club by a wealthy local brewer, before moving to Sincil Bank in 1895. Their first game saw them defeat local team Sleaford 9-1, an encouraging start for the newly formed club. George Hallam established his name by taking the team’s first ever goal and hat trick.
More success followed in the club’s first competitive match with an 11-0 win over Boston Excelsior. The initial years saw them focus on the County Cup, winning it for the first time in the 1886-7 season. The same season also saw them win the Lincolnshire Senior Trophy.
1891 saw Lincoln Rovers make the decision to turn professional, and take the Lincolnshire Senior Trophy for the second time. They went on the following year to become one of the twelve teams that formed the new Second Division.
Their first match in the Football League saw them suffer defeat playing away against Sheffield United. However, revenge swiftly followed when they faced Sheffield again in their first home game, emerging with a 1-0 victory.
The 1901-2 season saw Lincoln reach their highest ever position when they finished fifth in the Second Division. They also played their way to become one of the last 16 teams in the FA Cup for the third time, an accomplishment they have failed to achieve again.
The following years proved to be turbulent for the club, struggling to retain a place in the Second Division. 1907 saw them relegated from the League, scoring only 21 points that season and finishing at the bottom of the table.
The following year saw them turn things around, winning both the Midland Counties League and the Lincolnshire Senior Trophy and secure their promotion back to the Second Division.
It wasn’t long before history repeated itself. In 1910 Lincoln City found themselves back at the bottom of the table and suffering relegation again.
The following year, aided by players including A Gardener and T Weild, the strong side fought back to emerge champions of the Central League and take their place again in the Second Division.
Struggling to settle within the Second Division, it seemed that Lincoln City were doomed to remain on the brink of the League, seeing relegation again in 1920 and for the third time achieving immediate promotion the following year.
The 1921-2 season saw the club help establish the Third Division North and the club remained drifting between the Third and Second Divisions for the next forty years, never finding a stable place within either.
Occasional years of promising play followed, finishing as runners up in the Third Division North in 1928 and 1931. They claimed the title the following season, goal average giving them the lead over Gateshead. Charles Pringle and Alan Hall showed the potential the club had to offer, the 42 goals scored by Hall that season setting a League record that hasn’t been matched since.
1933 saw their stay in the Second Division cut short, finding themselves immediately back in the Third Division North, and saw star player Alan Hall depart for Tottenham Hotspur. The team seemed unable to break the cycle, the same pattern of events occurring again in the 1947-8 and 1951-2 season.
1951 proved to be the most successful season the club had ever seen. Andy Graver established himself as the greatest goal scorer in the club’s history, his ability evident in the six goals he took in the team’s 11-1 win over Crewe Alexander. He proved vital in helping achieve the 121 goals the club scored that season, an all time record.
Lincoln avoided relegation again until 1960-1, very narrowly avoiding it in the 1957-8 season, where winning their last six games proved crucial to see them remain in the League by one point. Their success began to falter, however, and the early sixties saw them relegated twice in subsequent years, leaving them to start a long spell in the Fourth Division.
Fighting for Promotion
In 1971 Graham Taylor took over as manager and worked on building up the struggling side. In 1974 it seemed things were back on track and for the first time in years the team finished near the top of the table in fifth position, only just losing out on promotion when it came down to goal difference.
The club grew stronger and saw a hopeful season in 1975-6, breaking the record for the most points scored in a season with a total of 74. In one of the best seasons in the club’s history, Lincoln won 21 out of their 23 games at home and took 11 away victories.
They also became the first club in just under a decade to score 100 goals in a season and, finishing six points clear of their closest rivals, secured a long awaited promotion.
Graham Taylor moved on in 1977, a disappointment for the side who were left to look on as he led Watford to the First Division and FA Cup Final. Colin Murphy took his place but proved unable to prevent the team’s downward slide and 1978 saw the side drop back into the Fourth Division.
Things began to improve in the eighties with promotion back to the Third Division and steady performances seeing the club settle near the top of the table, narrowly missing further promotion, in 1982 and 1983, to the Second Division.
In 1985 the club were at the scene of a fire which broke out while they were playing away against Bradford City. This was one of the worst tragedies in football history, taking the lives of 56 spectators, including two Lincoln fans. The Stacey West stand at Lincoln’s ground was named in their memory.
It wasn’t surprising this tragedy had an effect on the team’s performance and the following two seasons saw them fall to an all time low and suffer relegation twice, finding themselves out of the Football and into the Conference League.
A year in the Conference League followed but the team went on fighting, beating Barnet to take the championship position. In a demonstration of the ongoing support the team had 9,432 fans turned up to see them beat Wycombe Wanderers at home in their last game of the season, setting a new Conference League record in attendance.
The team settled back into the Football League finishing tenth the next two years. A match in 1990 saw David Longhurst suffer a heart attack, resulting in the game being abandoned at half time. Maintaining their position proved to be a constant test, and the 1993-4 and 1995-6 seasons saw the club finish in 18th position.
Sam Ellis replaced Keith Alexander as manager but failed to rescue the team. A run of different managers followed and the lack of consistency showed in the club’s performance.
In the 1997-8 season the club were unable to maintain their pace, when despite winning their first sixteen matches and topping the table, six games later they had fallen to 11th. They finished the season positively, however, victory over Brighton bringing them promotion.
The club was suffering from financial difficulties and in 1998 Chairman John Reames put the club up for sale, making it clear that heavy investment was needed for the club to survive.
Supporters came together, setting up a group called IMPetus to attempt to raise the funds to guarantee the clubs future. A spell in League One, former Division Two, was short-lived, relegation following defeat by Wycombe.
The following year the club and Lincoln Council worked together and made a deal to prevent the club going into administration. Grant Brown made an impact, his 425th appearance for the side breaking a club record. Success in the League wasn’t as achievable, finishing 28th.
Life in League Two
Former manager Keith Alexander returned in 2001 as assistant to Alan Buckley. The club was yet again on the verge of going into administration, the collapse of ITV digital impacting on the amount of TV revenue. Fans rallied round again, raising over £12,000 at the team’s game against Rochdale.
The last few years have seen the club work for promotion from League Two, with a consistent run of good performances followed by disappointment at the last hurdle. In 2002-3 Keith Alexander took over as manager with the challenge of maintaining the club’s future in Football League.
His combination of low paid and new, previously non league players worked, with Lincoln reaching the play off final in 2002-3. This was the first time in history they had earned a place in the play offs, but disappointment followed with Bournemouth just beating them to victory.
Teetering on the edge of play off positions, the following season the side were lucky to reach the play offs again. However, Huddersfield crushed hopes of promotion in the semi-final and the club were left to fight back the following year.
2004-5 began well with Keith Alexander receiving the award for ‘Manager of the Month’ in November and the team moving swiftly into the top five places. Finishing in sixth place, the team progressed to the play off finals for the second time, but unable to perform their best when it really counted, Southend United took the title from them.
Promotion seemed to be continually just outside the club’s grasp, reaching the semi final on another two occasions but seeing their dreams dashed on both. The team’s failure to guarantee promotion in five successive play offs is a football record.
John Schofield and John Deehan took over from Keith Alexander as managers in 2006, Alexander feeling he had taken the team as far as he could. Their time with the club was short and they were sacked in the 2007-8 season after a steady stream of losses.
Peter Jackson is the man currently in charge, and with new, promising talent emerging from their successful youth academy, and some positive results, the team looks set to improve.
Lincoln City Football Club Ltd,
Sincil Bank Stadium,
Telephone: 0870 899 2005
Fax: 01522 880020
Take the train to Lincoln Central. Turn left out the railway station and left again at the main road, going over the level crossing. Take the seventh left into Scorer Street and the first right into Sincil Bank.
The City bus station is about 100 yards from the train station. Cross the road outside the station, turn right and follow the road round to the left. Take the bus (1, 1D, 7, 7A, 13, 14, 24A, 27, 27A, 601, SB4) to Campions Garage. From here walk to the roundabout, turn left, and the next left should be Sincil Bank.
For more information about the club, upcoming matches and how to purchase tickets see the Lincoln City website.