Lincoln City manager Danny Cowley has held his first press conference this afternoon since the Imps achieved promotion out of the National League at Sincil Bank.
Lincoln were the darlings of the nation for a short while last season. Not only did they win the division and earn promotion back into the Football League, but they also became the first non-league club to reach the FA Cup Quarter Finals.
They beat Premier League Burnley in the 5th Round before earning a trip to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal. That afternoon ended in a 5-0 defeat, but there was no shame in the brave performance against one of Europe’s biggest domestic clubs.
After that they won eight games in a row to win the league with two games to spare. That sparked dramatic scenes across the city including an open topped bus parade said to have attracted 30,000 local people.
As recently as a week ago a film based around the Imps’ season premiered across two screens at the Odeon in the city, and another 600 fans poured in to watch the unique documentary.
It made for a memorable season for Imps fans, but this Saturday sees the start of the new campaign. All the ceremony and celebration of just a few months ago is forgotten as they look to the upcoming season.
Fans may have been revelling in the club’s resurgence but manager Danny Cowley, the architect of the remarkable rise from the ashes, has been working fervently to get ready for the challenges the club will face at a higher level. They kick off with a trip to Wycombe Wanderers, a play-off chasing side from last season managed by former Imps legend Gareth Ainsworth.
“I don’t think we could have asked for a harder start,” said Danny. “We play four of last year’s top eight or nine in the first five games. It’s good for me though, we’ll get a clear indication of where we’re at.”
Danny explained how as soon as the Imps domestic campaign finished, he was scouting his opponents for this year.
“I actually watched Wycombe and Cambridge last game of last season, Nicky went and watched Stevenage and Accrington to give ourselves an idea of what the level was.”
One of the major components of the club’s success has been the work ethic of the manager and his assistant, brother Nicky. Whilst most fans were still recovering from the championship run-in, they were off across the country watching prospective opponents they were set to face.
Lincoln have sold 5,500 season tickets, and although the opening game is away from Lincoln, over 2,000 are expected to travel to see the triumphant return. Danny was clear on his thoughts on the Imps’ wonderful fanbase:
“I’ve missed them, I’ve missed that noise and those songs through the summer. My life will be a better place this Saturday, to hear that noise again!”
“We’re back with the big boys, back in the Football League. The supporters certainly deserve it, they’re top of League One support there’s no doubt about that.”
Last season Lincoln sold around 1,300 season tickets and the opening game of the season attracted just 3,400. At the time that figure was seen as a major step forward, but it seems nothing compared to the potential 10,000 that will gather at Sincil Bank a week on Saturday.
Much has changed in a few short months. The ground has been given a clean and polish, players have come and gone and an internal restructuring has seen lots of new faces behind the scenes.
One thing remains constant throughout, and that is Danny Cowley’s methodology. Much is expected of the team this season, but Danny isn’t feeling the pressure, despite being keen to keep fans grounded.
“You don’t want to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm, there’s a buzz around the city at the moment and rightly so. I do think we have to have a level of reality. If we’re around the top 12 come Christmas then we’ll get better as the season goes on.”
“Some people always talk about pressure but for me it’s really simple. Nobody puts more pressure on me than I put on myself.”
The Imps kick off at Adams Park in Wycombe at 3pm this coming Saturday.