Percy Freeman: 1945-2016

It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Lincoln City legend Percy Freeman.

A hero of the Imps' record-breaking 1975/76 Fourth Division Championship winning side, Percy was arguably one of the most popular City players of all-time and in 2007 was named runner-up to Andy Graver by supporters in a special "League Legends" poll to mark the Club's 100th Football League season.

Newark-born Ronald Peter Freeman started out at Stourbridge before he was spotted by West Bromwich Albion, joining them in April 1968 as understudy to England international Jeff Astle.

Unable to displace Astle in the Baggies’ starting line-up, Percy left West Brom having made just three appearances in the top flight and was brought to Sincil Bank by Bert Loxley on a free transfer.

He was an instant success in the red and white stripes of Lincoln City, scoring in his first four home matches which included League Cup victories over Grimsby Town and Sunderland whilst his brace against Brentford will be best remembered as it came in a game during which the goalposts at the railway end collapsed.

By the end of the season he had scored 14 times in League and cup and after playing throughout the David Herd era was dealt a blow following the appointment of Graham Taylor as manager when an offer of £11,500 from Reading for his services was accepted.

Whilst at Reading he played regular first team football for a season and a half with but less than two years later he became disillusioned and left football briefly to work as a scaffolder.

After a brief return with the Royals, Percy was persuaded to return to Sincil Bank by the man who sold him, Graham Taylor, for a fee £10,000 less than he was sold for.

The rest, they say, was history with the big man netting 23 times from his 35 League appearances as the Imps clinched the 1975/76 Fourth Division championship in record-breaking style.

"I thought I was out of it at one time but it was nice to see Graham come in and buy me back," recalled Percy back in 2006 when he joined his former colleagues at a special dinner to mark the 30th anniversary of the title-winning campaign.

"I’d married a Lincoln girl and we’d gone down to Reading but it wasn't very good. Although things started alright, I didn't enjoy playing there and I didn't get on with the manager. I just wanted to get back to Lincoln really and was prepared to pack the game in, which I did for a while.

"Graham then came in, had a chat with me and told me to get myself fit. I did that, he kept to his word and brought me back."

City had come within a whisker of gaining promotion the previous season, missing out on 0.0383 goal average. Percy was confident that had City gone up that year then we would have been looking at promotion to the Second Division, rather than to the Third.

"It would have been lovely to see what that team could have done in the next division that season. I don’t think anybody would have stopped us. West Brom struggled to beat us in the FA Cup and they only did that by taking Dave Smith out.

"It was such a good side and it was such a great set of lads. Everybody worked for each other and in all my time at the Club I never heard a bad word between any of the players, even the lads who weren't playing and couldn't get in the side. It’s definitely the best side I've played in without a doubt."

It was a side led by Graham Taylor who, at the age of 31, was just a year older than Percy when the Championship was clinched. Both left Sincil Bank in the summer of 1977 - Freeman retiring from the professional game to concentrate on his roofing business and Taylor being lured to Watford by Elton John.

Handed a testimonial against Sheffield United in May 1977, Percy later went on to play for Boston United before he managed a number of county non-League sides including Nettleham, Boston FC and Stamford.

Percy had been suffering from ill health for some time and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this extremely sad time.