Lincoln City FC

Lincoln City manager Mark Kennedy has been hard at work implementing his “aggressive press” play style on the squad ahead of his first season in charge at the Imps.

The EFL season begins this weekend after a summer break, and it’s all change at Lincoln City. There is a new manager at the helm after Michael Appleton’s departure, in the form of ex-Republic of Ireland international Mark Kennedy.

The former Birmingham City assistant manager is gearing up for not just his first full season in charge of Lincoln City, but of any senior professional side – having only spent half a season at Macclesfield Town in 2020.

Kennedy has spent the last month or so preparing the players for the new campaign with a rigorous pre-season schedule, which he told The Lincolnite was all about ensuring the players understood how he wants his team to play.

After rumours and whispers of who it might be, Mark Kennedy is the new Lincoln City manager. | Photo: Andrew Vaughan / Lincoln City FC

During his press conference ahead of the season opener at home to Exeter City on Saturday, Mark Kennedy said: “I’ve gone really big on trying to implement my style on the current group and I’ve been really impressed; the buy-in by the players has been phenomenal.

“I’ve laughed and joked with them because they might well hate it, but from a coach’s point of view looking at it, they have given absolutely everything and tried everything that I’ve asked of them, sometimes to the extreme!

“In certain situations, because I’m talking about a high, aggressive press, we’ve been going at times where we just can’t jump there, but it’s that enthusiasm and wanting to show what we want to do. It’s music to any coach’s ears.”

Kennedy has discussed more additions in the coming weeks before the transfer window closes, but he has already brought in a number of players to the squad – such as Paudie O’Connor, Charles Vernam, Tashan Oakley-Boothe and Carl Rushworth.

Charles Vernam, 25, will be returning to his roots as he signs for his hometown club Lincoln City. | Photo: Andrew Vaughan / Lincoln City FC

He said of the squad: “We’ve got a good group of players and the players we’ve brought in, we identified them as being very good before they came in, and they’ve shown that as well.

“The transition is always hard for anybody when you’re coming to a new club, it was quite funny on the first day we told the players to make the new guys feel welcome, and I’m stood there telling them this thinking I’m in the same boat!

“Football is a brilliant environment, it braces you in and it can be really positive, and I think our players have made it really easy for those guys.

“The biggest compliment I can pay the players that are here already is that you would think the new guys have been here for a long time.”

Kennedy was also asked about how he has found his early times at the club, for which he had nothing but praise for Lincoln City from top to bottom.

He added: “I’m very passionate about my job. When we’re presenting to players who come into the club, I think we’re very good with what we presented them.

“With any pitch, people are trying to sell you the sun, moon and stars, and the biggest compliment I can pay the club is that what we’ve pitched to them is real, and when I spoke to the club about myself coming in, it’s not just a sales pitch to get you through the door, it is everything that it was, and I can testify to that thankfully.”

As England’s Lionesses continue to make history at the European Championships, Lincoln City Women are leaving their own mark on the game, with club captain Amy Kay at the forefront of it all.

Women’s football has soared in popularity in recent years, and England’s heroic run to the European Championships final this summer is inspiring a generation to take up the sport and continue the development of the game.

There are few better examples of this than at Lincoln City, where the women’s team have, for the first time, been awarded a licence for an Emerging Talent Centre, meaning the club will now be the hub for talented female footballers in Lincolnshire.

It is the latest step towards elevating the women’s game and providing equal opportunities in sport, irregardless of gender.

A key part of Lincoln City Women’s success, which saw an unprecedented run to the FA Cup 4th round last season, has been club captain Amy Kay – a talismanic leader on and off the pitch.

Lincoln City defender Regan Poole and captain of the women’s team Amy Kay at Lincoln Cathedral ahead of the new season. | Photo: Chris Vaughan / Lincoln City FC

Amy is not just captain of the first team, she is also the women’s pathways leader for Lincoln City Foundation, and a coach within the club’s academy. She truly lives and breathes football and her hard work is now paying dividends.

She said: “It’s huge for me. I’m from round here so to have something like that back in Lincolnshire and a city that has always got behind and supported women’s football, it’s brilliant.

“We can now give young girls something that they can have here again, it was the main reason why I came to this club. We’re all role models now and I’m jealous to be honest, these younger girls coming up are going to have all the things that we could only dream of really!

“But that’s what we are here for, to make sure these younger players get the opportunities to strive for the equality that we maybe didn’t have access to.”

Amy was at the England game at Bramall Lane, Sheffield on Tuesday night, as the Lionesses roared through to the European Championships final with a resounding 4-0 win over Sweden – the number two ranked female side on the planet.

She told The Lincolnite it was “fantastic to witness” and see the nation support the women’s game, which has been overlooked for so long as the men’s game grew to unimaginable heights.

“It sounds strange to say but I actually forgot I was watching women’s football to be honest,” Amy said. “The atmosphere was brilliant as people spoke about the players, the game. It wasn’t seen as women’s football, it was just a football match.

“You have to remember the FA banned women’s football for 50 years, unfortunately we’re playing catch up. Nothing happens overnight but it’s great to see young players being encouraged to play football, and we’re seeing that at sessions.”

Lincoln City Women have another reason to be excited this weekend, as they kick off their 2022/23 season against local rivals Doncaster Rovers Belles in the first game of the new FAWNL Division One Midlands campaign.

The game will be played at the LNER Stadium, home of the men’s team, in front of what should be a large crowd, with tickets costing just £5 for general admission.

As for England, the final of the Women’s European Championships takes place on Sunday, July 31 at Wembley Stadium, with the Lionesses taking on either France or Germany at the home of English football.

Lincoln City forward Tom Hopper, born and bred in Lincolnshire, has been named club captain ahead of the new season – and he can’t wait to get going as the campaign begins this weekend.

The Imps will start their League One season on Saturday with a home fixture against newly-promoted Exeter City at the LNER Stadium. It will be Mark Kennedy‘s first competitive match in charge of Lincoln City, having replaced Michael Appleton as head coach in the summer.

One of the first big decisions the new manager had to make was naming a new club captain, following the departure of previous leader Liam Bridcutt as his contract expired.

He kept his candidate local, opting for Boston-born forward Tom Hopper, 28, who has now been at the club for two and a half years after joining from Southend United in January 2020.

Tom Hopper will be hoping to lead from the front as captain of Lincoln City. | Photo: Lincoln City FC

At a press conference ahead of the season curtain raiser, Hopper told The Lincolnite that there is “no hiding” from the pressure of being captain at a local team.

Tom said: “When you’re a Lincolnshire lad playing for a team in the county there’s no hiding from it, you have friends who are fans that will tell you if you’ve played rubbish, so there’s definitely pressure that comes with that.

“It’s a nice kind of pressure, though, when things go well you know you have people close to the club that are more receptive to that and you enjoy it a bit more. There’s definitely for’s and against’s for it, but all in all it’s brilliant.”

Imps boss Mark Kennedy. | Photo: Chris Vaughan / Lincoln City

Manager Mark Kennedy described Hopper as “an outstanding character” with “so much” to offer the side both on and off the pitch.

Kennedy said: “He leads by example with how he trains, he leads by example in how he conducts himself, he’s a very bright and intelligent guy when you speak to him.

“He’s got huge respect from the group, which he commands and he gives out, and ultimately he’s a good player. He offers so much. Everyone within the club will be pleased for Tom and I don’t think anyone will be surprised, though there were lots of capable candidates.”

The 28-year-old striker struggled with injuries last season which limited his game time, but he insists he is now raring to go after completing a full pre-season schedule.

He continued: “I missed too much football last year through injury, so with a full pre-season under my belt I feel ready to go this year.

“The lads are in the same boat, everyone can’t wait for Saturday to come around and get the fans back, I’m sure they’ll be here in great numbers to support us and we can’t wait to have them here.”

Hopper also discussed the standard of League One, which again has a host of big-name teams this year – including the likes of Barnsley, Derby County, Ipswich Town and Sheffield Wednesday.

“When you come into football at a young age you want to play against the best possible,” he said. “The standard of League One is improving massively year on year and I think that’s testament to English football.

“It’s going to be a challenge there’s no doubt about that, some really tough games, but ones you want to play in, but they don’t hold any more weight than any other game. No matter who you’re playing against, three points is the goal.”

+ More stories