9th February 2008
Sincil Bank has been Lincoln City’s home since 1895, the club formed a year earlier, the origins of works team Lincoln Recreation FC, playing 300 yards away at the John O’Gaunts ground, named after a medieval proprietor who owned the nearby land. In 1894 City’s landlord died and his family sold the estate to builders, the club then moved south to the other side of Sincil Drain (a canal forming an overflow from the River Witham, thought to have been created by the Romans) mainly thanks to the efforts of the supporters who raised funds and developed the new ground themselves.
During the early years the ground also hosted cricket matches, a cinder tack was added to hold athletics and cycling, but the ground remained basic until the 1930’s, which saw the construction of a terrace at the Railway End and a new Main stand to the east. After the Second World War the capacity was raised to over 20,000, after The Imps gained promotion to the 2nd Division in 1948 their average gate rose to 16,500, more extension work followed through the late ‘50’s/early’60’s including the installing of floodlights in 1962 and five years later a record crowd of 23,196 witnessed a League Cup tie v Derby County.
The Imps nickname derives from the mischievous little creatures, sent by the devil to do his evil work, according to the 14th century legend, two of the little buggers caused chaos in Northern England before heading to Lincoln Cathedral causing more mayhem before an angel appeared, turning one to stone while the other escaped, that Imp seems to have taking refuge at Sincil Bank, as the ground has suffered it’s major share of setbacks and bad luck. In 1908 a freak storm toppled the Main Stand over on to it’s back, landing in a nearby field (amazingly after a short break they played on) while in 1929 the South Park stand, along with the club records were destroyed by fire, but again thanks to the efforts of the clubs supporters and an FA loan, a replacement was in place within two months.
The club continued to struggle, raising finances by staging boxing, wrestling, greyhound racing and in 1966 a major rock concert took place, featuring The Who, The Kinks and The Small Faces (Wow!.. What a line up!) then exactly 40 years later the venue held the city’s biggest ever gig, 13,000 were in attendance to witness Westlife, Liberty X and Journey South (Ugh!.. What a line up!)
The grounds poor fortune continued, this time the perimeter wall of the South Park terrace collapsed during a League Cup tie with Stoke City in September 1975, which meant the closure of the terrace for good. With the rest of the ground slowly going into decay, they became one of the first clubs in ground redevelopment following the Bradford Fire and Hillsborough, City were Bradford’s opponents on that tragic day in May 1985, among those dead were two Lincoln supporters Bill Stacey and Jim West and it is in their memory that the Stacey-West Stand is named.
City have the unwanted milestone of being the first club to suffer relegation from the Football League to the Conference in 1987, but this
setback turned out to be a blessing in disguise, after the council had previously bought the ground for £225,000, they backed the club after relegation, helping rebuild Sincil Bank, there was even a rise in attendances as the Imps returned after only one season, the club have organised events this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their return to the Football League.
I arrived in Lincoln at 1.15pm unintentionally finding a prime parking spot on the riverbank; a short walk from the stadium, after a short tour of the exterior of the ground and purchasing a fifteen quid ticket, I went into the supporters club ’The Trust Suite’ which welcomes both home and away supporters as well as neutrals like myself, I watched another inept performance from the Toon and witnessed a live auction, with a signed framed picture of Peter Shilton going for £26. (I think the winning bidder was a Forest fan)
I watched the game with the hardcore Lincoln support in the covered Stacey West Stand, it has a capacity of 2,000 red seats which are now look more pink than red, this was the away section until 2002, when the old Railway End terrace was demolished the away support now share the CO-OP Community Stand, a large single tier covered area which runs pitch length, it has a capacity of 5,700 and was opened in 1995. This stand is shared with the home support which includes the Imps brass band, who have maybe the John Bonham of football drumming amongst their ranks.
The far goal has the IMPS Stand which replaced the old South Park End, this has a small section of green seats and has a row of 17 executive boxes running along the back, there’s also an electric scoreboard and a large digital clock.
The St Andrews Stand, now known as the Lincolnshire Echo Stand is very distinctive, opened in 1987, it sits proudly on the half way line, leaving gaps at either side, this was due to clubs relegation from the Football League meaning a reduction in the originally planned capacity, there’s 2,200 red and white seats, the very bright yellow stairways sets it off, giving a more attractive appearance, one side has been filled in with a small family stand with the police control box on top, while the other section is still empty apart from a selection of rubbish skips, which were constantly being filled up throughout the game by the ground staff.
Lincoln have improved since the appointment of Peter Jackson in late October, after flirting with the bottom two for most of the season Jacko has steadied the ship and City are heading in the right direction,
City’s opponents Rochdale have a fantastic away record, 14 games unbeaten, stretching way back to August, on the opening day at Peterborough, so I was expecting an entertaining encounter, but no matter how the game went, it would surely be an improvement on the TV game I saw earlier.
An even first half finished with City taking the lead in stoppage time, a free kick by Frecklington on the edge of the box was too hot for the keeper, who parried to ball into the path of Jamie Forrester to net the rebound. Rochdale equalised in the 56th minute, with a well taking goal from their danger man Rene Howe, who beat the offside trap with a cool finish that the Fonz would have been proud of, however City finished strongly and grabbed the winner on 81 minutes after a long throw-in fell kindly to Danny Hone in the box, notching his first ever league goal, the roar that greeted the final whistle showed what a big win this was for City.
After two blank Saturday’s due to bad weather, it was good to be bagging a new ground, especially one with such a chequered history, the last league club I visited In Lincolnshire was rival club Boston United who sadly fell under the league trap door, but I’m confident the Imps won’t go the same way, not unless those devilish creatures return to cause more mischief and mayhem at Sincil Bank.