The Road to Cardiff - a memory by Andrew Blow, producer of the programme played out on Imps Rewind
It was a most remarkable season with a most unlikely outcome….
In the spring of 2002, Lincoln City FC went into administration following the collapse of ITV Digital and the loss of its funding. But I well remember that Lincoln was a city that did not want its football club to die.
In that close season, hundreds went on a fundraising march to show a High Court judge that there was still passion behind the Imps.
As the march ended I remember meeting Director Steff Wright at Sincil Bank and handing over a bucket of coins. I had also written a “begging letter” which other fans could use if they wished.
I must have taken a dig at wealthy Premier clubs because it was mailed on to an American business contact who declared “it’s the little guys against the big guys” and donated £1,000!
This was nothing compared with what Chairman Rob Bradley had to do. He had mortgaged his family home to raise £50,000. A magnificent gesture that was at once a declaration of faith and the first roll of a bandwagon.
The judge was kindly. The fans who attended the court in their City FC shirts provided further evidence of a going concern that should not be liquidated.
The club could continue, in intensive care if you like, under the watchful eye of an Administrator.
Budgets had to be slashed. Manager Alan Buckley’s salary couldn’t be afforded. Keith Alexander, his number two, agreed to step up.
The bookies made the Imps favourites for the drop to the Conference.
They reckoned without Alexander the Great - a man with vast experience of the lower leagues who could sniff a whiff of player potential where others could detect none. Above all, Alexander offered honesty, humility and humour.
Faced with the realities of a limited budget, he went for tough workmanlike lads who could do a job for him. To some in the non-league, he could offer League football.
Keith put faith in a 28-year-old postman playing in the Northern Premier who had been looked over and dismissed by League scouts for years.
Looking back, for me Simon Yeo stands out as a key figure. His crucial goals were a big part of the story. He scored the first and last home goals of the season…. both belters.
The first gave much needed early-season confidence to players and fans.
The last, eight months later, clinched a play-off place with minutes to go against Torquay United.
Who can forget the play-off games against Scunthorpe. Yeo’s brace in the remarkable 5-3 home leg put the Imps en route to the Wembley of the day - the Millennium Stadium Cardiff. (Wembley was being rebuilt). Yeo confirmed the road to Cardiff with the only goal in the second leg.
So a season that began with Administration was ending with a showcase play-off final.
Victory and promotion at Cardiff against a formidable Bournemouth team was too much to ask.
But there were many consolations. Simon Yeo, who had put down his postbag and turned pro, was interviewed on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme. Keith Alexander, tongue in cheek, said: “At least I got a new suit out of it.”
Thousands of fans got a taste of the big time in a 32,000 crowd. I well remember the camaraderie before and after on what was my first ever visit to Cardiff.
The publicity meant that the club confirmed their value to the city. They proved they were back in business…. ready for more rounds of the snakes and ladders of the Football League.
Andrew Blow, a lifelong Imps fan and a member of the RISC Gold Section, is Producer of the Bygone Lincoln DVD series and streams local nostalgia material from blowbyblow.co.uk