We Are Imps…
I was lucky enough to take my football-mad eight-year-old to watch Arsenal play in their magnificent Emirates fortress this season.
It was a road trip of dreams – a Saturday we’ll never forget, pack up lunch secured and extra sweets for half time safely stashed away – a boys’ own outing to savour forever.
I’ll never forget his face as we rounded the north London corner and the stadium came into view, and as we entered the ground pitch side proper, I thought he (and I too) was going to explode with excitement.
But he wasn’t there to cheer on the Gunners – he’s not an Arsenal fan at all. My little yellowbelly had journeyed to see them play plucky Lincoln City FC and what a magnificent day it turned out to be.
We’ve been watching the mighty Imps together for a good two-and-a-half seasons now.
The World Cup in 2014 ignited my eldest’s football flame, so the logical next step was to form an allegiance with our local (struggling) non-league side.
Most Saturday afternoons now involve a visit to the hallowed Sincil Bank and a seat in the Co-op Family Stand to watch our local Lincoln heroes.
At times it’s been painful viewing, we’ve often had not a lot to shout about.
But just now and again and particularly in historic and mystical recent months, some glimpses of magic make wrapping up as snug as bugs in rugs worth it every single time.
There’s just something in the air. And as the Dambusters theme tune rings out (after Europe’s Final Countdown of course) and the players parade onto the pitch, a little look to the left to clock the cathedral is enough to send the shivers down the spine.
The obligatory half-time selfie, dutifully sent to mummy, and Back of the Net local chippy lunch before kick-off are now steadfast traditions too.
It’s a real experience for us both and one I feel very privileged to share with my little footie mad partner in crime.
We all have our glamour clubs, the teams we adopted as glory chasing youngsters, the Manchester Uniteds, the Chelseas and Liverpools.
But falling in love with your hometown team is something quite apart – almost spiritual and untouchable.
It’s a love that’s forged on the bitter cold Tuesday night terraces and wet and windy Saturday afternoons, when no one in their right mind should be waving a sacred scarf or singing a silly song.
But this season has been very different, very different indeed.
The 1,500 freezing fans have turned into 8,000 plus delirious disciples, roaring their team onto unrivalled success beyond all our wildest dreams – it’s been a legendary transformation.
What the Imps have achieved this season is truly remarkable. National League Champions with games to spare, promotion back to the football league, the first non-league side to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals in more than 100 years and an FA Trophy semi-final.
But the above success isn’t what will keep us coming back next season and the one after that and one after that etc etc…
At Lincoln City we feel at home, it’s our club, our ground, and we love it dearly.
It’s the rush of excitement as we push through the sticking turnstiles, tickets in hand, and the feeling of euphoria as we walk up the steps to see the hallowed green Sincil Bank turf.
The ecstasy and elation of the last minute win (there’s been a few) and the feeling of togetherness as we all sing and chant as loud as we can to get the boys over that finish line.
These are the moments that I’ll never forget and ones I’m certain my boy won’t either, as he grows older and recognises what a special time this season has been.
After all, we are all Imps at heart aren’t we?