The story of Lincoln City Football Club is similar in many ways to that of several of the clubs in the lower divisions of the Football League; a tale of struggle against adversity interspersed with its own unique moments of joy and despair. Lincoln City became the first Football League club to be relegated automatically to the Conference in 1987. Fortunately Conference football was only endured for one season and has not returned since.
Football in the town became popular in the early 1860’s. The first formal club, Lincoln FC, was founded in 1861. In those days the game was played by the rich exclusively for the rich, a situation which we find ourselves heading for again today. They merged with the Lindum cricket club to become known as Lincoln Cricket and Football Club. Lindum calls for a brief explanation. When some early Celtic tribe settled at the foot of a hill near a pool, today known as Brayford Pool, they called the place Lindon. The Romans latinized ‘Lindon’ and called the place ‘Lindum’
A second team around were Lincoln Recreation FC who played their matches on the Cowpaddle, so called because cows grazed here, hopefully non-matchdays only. Regardless of the cow’s droppings and doings the players wore an immaculate uniform comprising of red caps, belts and socks, with white jerseys, bearing on the left breast the Lincoln arms.
By 1884 there was a host of clubs in the area, including the aforementioned Lincoln Cricket and Football Club, Rangers, Albion and newly formed Lincoln Rovers, the originally named Lincoln Recreation. The formation of Lincoln City was to create a team from Lincoln capable of competing for the Lincolnshire Senior Cup.
Lincoln City had several fields to choose from and, probably not surprisingly, abandoned the Cowpaddle. A new pitch was found at John O’ Gaunts, preferred because it provided the option of enclosing the venue and hence charging entrance fee money.
Meanwhile the gentlemen from Lindum FC, increasingly worried by the new team in town, approached Lincoln City with a merger plan but the proposal was rejected. In an effort to effectively kill Lincoln City, Lindum FC moved to Sincil Drain, slightly northwards from today’s Sincil Bank but still the origin of the present ground. However, Lincoln City’s good fortunes on the field eventually forced Lindum to succumb to defeat. Their vacant pitch was taken over by Lincoln City in the summer of 1895 and developed it into what is now Sincil bank.
When Lincoln City were formed they retained the old Lincoln Recreation FC colours of red and white, though sadly ditching the ‘beautiful red velvet caps with big golden tassels’ and belts. The design has varied over the years from a nicely traditional striped affair to the much lamented all-red shirts and white-sleeved ones with red shorts.
Initially the Lincoln arms adorned the shirts, from 1960 till 1964. These arms date from at least the 14th century. The fleur-de-lys is the symbol for the Virgin Mary, patron saint of both the cathedral and the city. The St. Mary also appeared on the oldest known seal of the city, known from around 1300. The red cross on the silver background is that of St. George, silver being the symbol of purity, justice and gentleness, while the red is thought to symbolise valour.
In 1993 the letters LCFC were added to the quartered shield of the arms to form the club’s present emblem. During interval periods in the early and late 1970’s Lincoln City have also embraced the imp image, the little devil carving that adorns the inside of the cathedral of Lincoln.
This creature also gave rise to that wonderful and peculiar nickname of ‘The Imps’. Legend tells us that when, long ago, the Devil’s Imps were making out mischief, one of them was blown all the way to Lincoln Cathedral. When he got there he said he would take the lives of the clergy and the choristers as soon as he had destroyed the furnishing inside the cathedral itself. He had only just started his wicked work when an angel appeared and had him turned to stone. If you look carefully you will find that he is still there.