Where does time go? One minute you are a young striker forming the most lethal all English partnership the Premier League has ever seen, the next you are managing a 4th tier provincial club struggling against relegation from the football league. But everyone has to start somewhere, and when Lincoln City appointed Chris Sutton as manager in September 2009 they hoped that he would one day follow in the footsteps of Graham Taylor and errr John Beck.
But while Sutton was scoring for fun in Norwich City’s golden age in Europe, Lincoln City were enjoying one of their rare moments in the spotlight. Tuesday 21st September 1993 is not a day etched in the memory of many of us, but at Sincil Bank that night in the 1st leg of the 2nd round of the League Cup (known then as the Coca-Cola Cup) they will remember a real humdinger of a game played out between two teams over 70 positions apart. Lincoln under Keith Alexander were in 19th place in Division Three as it was then, and had just one win behind them. Everton were in sixth place in the Premiership (as it was then) and had won four of their opening seven league games.
Over 9,100 saw the game, which Everton ran out 4-3 winners thanks to a Paul Rideout hatrick (Everton won the second leg 4-2 as well) but it was their squad that caught my eye. Below is the Everton squad, along with their respective costs:-
Goalkeeper – Jason Kearton – Free from Brisbane Lions
Full Back – Paul Holmes – £100,000 from Birmingham City
Full Back – Andy Hinchliffe – £1,200,000 from Man City
Centre Back – Gary Ablett – £750,000 from Liverpool
Centre Back – Matt Jackson – £125,000 from Luton Town
Midfield – John Ebrell – Schoolboy
Midfield – Mark Ward – £1,000,000 from Man City
Midfield – Barry Horne – £650,000 from Southampton
Midfield – Peter Beagrie – £215,000 from Stoke City
Forward – Paul Rideout – £500,000 from Glasgow Rangers
Forward – Tony Cottee – £2,000,000 from West Ham United
Subs: Graham Stuart (£850,000), Preki (£100,000) and Reeves (Free)
Total value – £7,915,000
In today’s money, using our trusted Inflation Calculator, this would be worth just over £12million. Is Everton’s squad today worth this? Er no I don’t think so. Big haired Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellanini cost as much as this when he signed from Standard Liege in September 2008. Last season David Moyes squad was assembled at a cost of £60.25m, which using our reverse calculator £40million – meaning that the spending of Everton, an average Premier League club as multiplied by over three fold.
So what about Lincoln City? Their squad that night cost a total of £343,000, with their record signing Grant Brown costing £63,000 when they signed him from Leicester City. Today that would be worth £96,000. But here we can see where football has gone so wrong. In today’s game where the money all floats to the top of the tree, Chris Sutton’s squad has been assembled at a cost of….£17,500!
We caught up with Lincoln City’s star man, Grant Brown recently to get his views on the game. Brown went on to make 407 appearances for the Imps, and after two stints as caretaker manager, is back at the club today as Assistant Head of Youth at the club.
As a former player, you can surely swing a few favours here and there. So When was the last time you paid to watch a game?
The Play-off final against Bournemouth at the Millennium Stadium in May 2003
Lower league fans are wittier than those you find in the Premier League so what is the best insult thrown at you?
During an away game at Gillingham at a time when my hair was particularly long our fans sang for me to get my haircut….probably not not worst insult I have had but it’s all I’m telling you!!!!
Football fans often show little respect for the players. Have you ever been tempted to do a Cantona and jump in the crowd after some sustained abuse from an individual?
No, but was tempted to do it to a few of the opponents dug outs
Having played nearly 600 games for various clubs, you must have played with some decent players, so who is the best player you have lined up with?
Gary McAllister without a doubt when we were both at Leicester City.
Emile Heskey – big, strong and a real handful
You must have played in some really important games in your career, but what was the biggest game you have played in?
Lincoln City v Brighton & Hove Albion when we won promotion in 1998. We had to beat Brighton and hope Torquay lost away at Orient. We did our bit, and despite some intense Torquay pressure in the final few minutes, Orient won and we were promoted.
So most memorable game?
The promotion game, or the Cup ties v. Man City and Everton (See above). I also remember getting beaten 7-1 at Bury and Colchester United, not nice!!!
Six hundred games, that must be a fair few grounds you have playes at. So what is your favourite ground?
It may surprise to you to hear that I always enjoyed playing at Glanford Park, Scunthorpe where the crowd are always on top of you and there is a decent rivalry with Lincoln City.
Funniest moment on the pitch?
Macclesfield away when Barry Richardson (legendary Lincoln City goalkeeper) got sent off and booted the ball out of the ground in anger and then us playing the rest of the game with John Whitney in goal.
Football clubs one tradition that they are always trying to out do each other on is their Christmas parties. So what is the best one you have taken part in?
A few years ago when we started in The Miller’s in Lincoln with us all dressed as old ladies, the entertainment that was arranged was top drawer!!!! No more comment apart from that.
When did you realise you had to give up playing?
When I couldn’t combine playing and coaching, and of course when the legs wouldn’t do what the brain was telling them to do!
What is your long term ambition in and outside of football?
In football is to be as succesful as I can be, outside of football is to continue to be as good a father and husband as I can be.
Some of the wages being bandied around the media is scary. My club West Ham this week were trying to sign Van Nistelrooy for a reported £100k per week. Obviously part of that money goes into a central pension fund. Do all footballers get the same pension amount from the PFA?
No, it depends how much you have earned and how long you have played.
So you played both in the Football League and in the Northern and Southern Leagues. What is the main difference between a non-league player (say at Alfreton Town) and a league player?
As a League player you don’t realise how lucky you are until you drop out of it, virtually everything is done for you, all you have to do is get to training each day and perform during matches, Non-League players do it all for themselves and also have a full time job.
You played at Alfreton Town, now of the Blue Square North for a couple of years. What were your best memories of Alfreton? It scared us going there last season!
Great team spirit, good manager (David Lloyd), great lads and the best food after matches of all the Conference North clubs.
Having seen a number of games at the lower level this season I have to say some of the officiating has been very poor. So worst refereeing decision you have seen?
I can’t remember the occasion but when referee wrote reports on why they cautioned a player I received one that said ” the Lincoln City No.6 called the decision a load of shite” so that must be it then
So you played for over a decade at Lincoln. Did you get a Testimonial and if so what say do you have in arrangements?
Yes I got a Testimonial in 1999/2000 season which was very well organised by a committee that was set up on my behalf and I shall always be grateful for the work they did in that year.
Based on the freezing conditions and severe weather in the past few weeks, ever been so cold that you have faked an injury to come off?
Never!!!! I’m from the North East, they breed them tough up there.
What is worse? Wet Wednesday night game in Grimsby or Grantham?
Grimsby by a mile, Grantham is a great place to play on a wet night!
What sympathy do you have for big clubs with financial problems – such as Portsmouth, West Ham United or even Manchester United?
What about some of the little teams – I am not sure you are aware that Kings Lynn recently went bust and dropped out of the Northern Premier League?
It is a real shame about Kings Lynn, they were one of the best teams in the league when I was at Grantham. It’s difficult to get the right balance between living within your means and being ambitious and gambling a bit to try to get success.
What more could be done to help the smaller teams in the lower/non-leagues to survive?
I think more of the huge pool of television money that goes to Premiership clubs should go to the lower League clubs, how far this should filter down I’m not sure.
Do you think there should be more promotion/relegation to and from the Conference/Blue Square Premier?
Difficult question for me to answer considering Lincoln’s precarious position in the league, but yes I think three up, three down should be introduced. Many of the clubs in the Conference have Football League sets ups – Oxford, York , Mansfield, Luton, Cambridge – the list gets bigger every year.
What team did you love playing and why?
Hull City because we usually got a good result against them.
Worst decision you have made in football?
Away at Chesterfield, I tried to head the ball over the bar and scored an own goal.
What chance do Lincoln have of finding and keeping a really special youth team player with the Premier League Academies breathing down your neck?
We will always be vulnerable to Premiership clubs taking our best players but as long as they pay a good transfer fee then it’s good business all round.
One of the friends of the blog is Mick Harford who was also born in Sunderland and played for Lincoln. Did you ever play against him, and if so did he give you a hard time?
I only ever played against Mick in a friendly when I was at Leicester and he was with Luton, he had just been called up to the England squad so I don’t think he was too bothered about giving an 18 yr old centre half too hard a time
So finally, 407 appearances, Caretaker Manager, Coach and now Assistant Head of Youth Development…Why do you love Lincoln so much?
It’s a great place to live with good people and a football club that is desperate to be successful. And I want to continue to be a part of that.
Many thanks to Grant for taking time out to take us down memory lane. Football has a habit of making those games from yesteryear seem like yesterday. Cottee and Rideout will probably forget that night at Sincil Bank, but player like Grant never will. And that is why we love football, and honest professionals like Brown. If there was more like him in the game today it would be a much nicer place.