The History of Lincoln City FC: The Imps at Sincil Bank
The origins of Lincoln City (weareimps.com) are a bit lost in the mists of time. There is some evidence of a team playing under that name dating back to the 1860s but the first official record of an amateur association was not until 1884, and that is thus the date now the club claims as its birth. Part of the reason for the confusion was a fire at Sincil Bank during the 1929-30 season in which the clubs records were destroyed.
What is interesting is their longevity at their current home at a time when it is almost fashionable to change grounds. After just a decade at the John OGaunts ground, Lincoln City moved to their current Sincil Bank stadium in 1895.
Today, the club plays in the Conference, fifth tier of English football, and it is one of the more pleasant days out for travelling fans with a beautiful setting overlooked by Lincoln Cathedral and a city centre that has interesting shops, places to eat and Lincolns impressive selection of real-ale pubs. The clubs nickname of The Imps in fact can be traced to the cathedral where there is a statue of an imp that is claimed to be a real imp turned to stone by an angel. It is now a symbol of the city.
The Early Days of Lincoln City
The mystery surrounding the 1960s club is further confused by evidence of teams playing under the names Lincoln Rovers and Lincoln Recreation, though whether these were the same team with different teams is not known. What is known is that the present Lincoln City turned professional in 1891, having already won the Lincolnshire Senior Trophy and reached the last sixteen of the FA Cup, both in 1887. They repeated their FA Cup performance in 1890 and their Lincolnshire Senior Trophy success in 1892.
That year, they became one of the twelve founder members of the Football League Second Division. They finished fifth in that division in 1902, which still stands today as the clubs highest ever Football League position. They also again reached the last sixteen of the FA Cup, which again stands as a club record.
Their stay in the Football League was short-lived as they were relegated to non-league football in 1908, but their bounce-back was swift with a Midland Counties League triumph the following year allowing them re-entry. Another bottom finish in 1911 saw Lincoln City once again out of the Football League. In 1912, they were champions of the newly created Central League and rejoined the Football League the following year.
This pattern of struggling to maintain Football League status after professional football resumed at the end of the First World War, when the club was relegated out of the Football League in 1920, returning a year later after topping the Midlands Counties League. They club thus became founder members of the new Third Division North, and they finished runners-up in that division in 1928 and 1931. But in 1932 Lincoln City achieved their first ever major trophy when they won the Third Division North, though their stay in the Second Division was brief, with relegation in 1933.
The up and down nature of the club continued after the Second World War with promotion back to the Second Division in 1948, relegation in 1949, promotion in 1952 and relegation in 1961, and then again in 1962 to the Fourth Division, where they were to stay until 1976 when they won the Fourth Division.
Lincoln Citys Recent Form
After the 1976 promotion, Lincoln Citys manager Graham Taylor left to join Watford taking them from the Fourth to the First Division and an FA Cup Final appearance. The team he left behind went into decline and were relegated back to the fourth tier in 1979. Promotion as runners-up back to the third tier happened two years later.
In 1983, Lincoln City finished runners-up in the Football League Trophy, but that years competition is not officially recognised as having existed as this was a trial before the competition started formally the following season.
In 1985, the club took part a game that ended in one of the biggest tragedies of English football. It was the last game of the season away to already promoted Bradford City. Lincoln City were safe from relegation and there was nothing to play for, apart from watching the Bradford fans having a party to celebrate their success. However, a fire broke out in one of the stands, and fifty-six spectators lost their lives. Two of the deaths were Lincoln City fans Bill Stacey and Jim West and the Stacey West stand at Sincil Bank today was so named in their memory.
The following season saw Lincoln City again relegated and in 1987 they finished bottom of the Fourth Division and were relegated out of the Football League. But The Imps had been here before and knew how to bounce back, which they did the next season. It was a long wait though for the next promotion, which happened in 1998, but again just for one season as 1999 saw them relegated to the fourth tier, where they stayed until 2011 when they were again relegated out of the Football League and into the Conference.
Recent years have seen the club battling more on the financial front than on the football pitch, with the club going into administration in 2002. Despite being forced to sell most of their players, the club remarkably reached the play-offs in each of the following five seasons, though they lost in all five to Bournemouth, Huddersfield Town, Southend United, Grimsby Town and then Bristol Rovers.
Today, they continue in the Conference with fans enjoying a beer in a local pub before and after the match or the hospitality and hog roast at one of the better supporters club bars in the country. On field success may be rare, but as said a trip to Lincoln is still one of the best days in the football calendar.
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