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Lincoln City boss Gary Simpson says spirit of 2003 needed for top 10 finish

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: July 31, 2014

The late Keith Alexander with then assistant manager Gary Simpson in 2003

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Lincoln City boss Gary Simpson says getting his current side into the top 10 this season would match the feat of steering the Imps to the League Two play-offs in 2003.

Back then Simpson was in the dugout with manager Keith Alexander when they beat the bookies’ odds and turned a side coming out of administration into promotion contenders.

And now as Simpson prepares for the forthcoming Conference Premier campaign with a reduced squad, he believes expectations of a push towards the top end of the table need to be put into context.

However, he feels he sees in his team now the same spirit that was in the squad which reached a play-off final at the Millennium Stadium.

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“I understand expectations are growing,” said Simpson. “I think in pre-season we’ve done very well and held our own against sides from the Football League.

“It is brilliant there is that good feeling about, but I have to say, getting into the top 10 and pushing for play-offs this time round would be comparable to what I achieved with Keith Alexander after coming out of administration.

“Back then we were up against clubs with bigger budgets and we signed players out of non-league and managed to turn it around.

“It was a ‘them against us’ situation, and we are in that place right now, with a lot of other clubs in our current division building up their squads.

“I know Lincoln City are a big name in the Conference, but that does not mean we have a divine right to be in the top 10.

“What I will say is that I can look at my current team now and see that same spirit we had back then.

“In 2003, we had players in Simon Yeo and Richard Butcher who were here because they wanted to be at Lincoln City, they were certainly not here for the money.

“They were characters. The players we have now are those sort of characters and they are again here at Lincoln because they want to be part of the club.”

Last week, City chairman Bob Dorrian revealed the directors have had to find an extra £150,000 to balance the books at Sincil Bank.

Dorrian said the club needed to be attracting bigger gates to keep the finances on an even keel and believes staying in the top 10 will draw in the crowds.

Simpson believes in a perfect world his starting line-up could match the big spenders in the division, but believes he has to be realistic about the task that lies ahead.

“The division is interesting this season,” said Simpson. “Last season you looked at it and the two standout sides were Luton and Cambridge.”

“They got promoted and this time round you have a good 10 teams or more in the mix for those top five promotion places.

“I have belief that on their day my team can match them, but it is not as simple as that and we will face injuries and suspensions.

“That’s why working with a limited squad we look for players to cover a variety of positions, but we will be in a difficult situation if we get a large number of injuries – that’s the challenge we face with a limited squad.

“That said, we are seeing the benefit of making the commitment to get players on two-year deals last summer. They have improved and grown together and are better for having that time together.

“This summer we have added some good players to that core. Karl Ledsham and Sahr Kabba have shown in glimpses what they are capable of when fully fit. Tony Diagne has experience of the division above and Arnaud Mendy is really starting to come on now he’s got a full pre-season under him.

“Meanwhile, Jordan Burrow has been fantastic and again he is another lad who stepped down to join Lincoln so he could be involved, get games, and develop. I would like to have brought in more of that calibre, but finances have not allowed it.

“My only other frustration is that the finances have been such that I’ve not been able to start talking to players about extending deals. I hope that will change, but at the moment, that’s how it is.

“It is a challenge, but I think the fans are starting to see that spirit we had last time I was here and I hope that we can all pitch in and push forward.”

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  • Big_Kahuna  |  August 01 2014, 2:51AM

    Stateside comment - the squad is too small to compete; if the results go against the team then the gates will get smaller and everyone will want to sack the manager. Unless the squad get larger (quality players?) then I suggest you head out to the farmland and watch for flying pigs. If fund raising is needed, please get started before it is too late. I'll head to the casinos and try for an *11 million payout.

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  • eatmygoal  |  July 31 2014, 3:45PM

    The budget this season is about the same as last, perhaps slightly less. Yes it would be an achievement to get in the top 10, but I don't think it would be as great as 2002 when we finished higher and with a very small budget, perhaps the smallest relative to other teams as we were one of the first into admin. I think the main thrust that we will have a tricky season and the main part about a good team togetherness is spot on. If we make the playoffs I would say that would be a remarkable achievement. I also back the board on this with spending wisely and keeping the team going. There must have been times of late when we have been close to the edge.

  • Spilsby  |  July 31 2014, 3:28PM

    Too right I believe we should challenge for the play-offs. Didn't think it last season , but this season we should have a sniff at some point. And of course without over spending. I think RedImps1 is the only one on this story who thinks the board should put our club at risk and over spend. We are what we are and I am realistic about that. No way would 10th be an enormous achievement. 5th would be

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  • WhistlingD  |  July 31 2014, 3:20PM

    Well said revolution 9. He speaks a lot of sense...Most of the folk who complain about the board would probably get a right ear ache from the good lady wife if they started spending money they don't have! why it should be different for a football club I don't know. I couldn't even afford the petrol bill for all Hereford's trip to the high court.

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  • nigelsparky  |  July 31 2014, 2:16PM

    GS obviously was commenting on his belief that finishing in the top ten would be an enormous achievement, giving what he has at his disposal, in terms of squad and funds at this point in time. I feel that he is being realistic and honest in his opinion of how we will do this season. You felt in your initial comment that we should be "expecting" to be challenging for a play off spot let alone a top ten finish, and found his comments a little disappointing. To be challenging for a play off spot, GS's is under no illusion that it will take more resources than he has at his disposal at this point in time. So with your latest comment, I can only assume that you feel that given the resources available at this point, we should be "expecting" to be challenging for a play off spot without over spending? Is that correct? Like I have said before positive negative or realistic?

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  • Spilsby  |  July 31 2014, 1:30PM

    I have no frustration with the board. Just the psychology of GS words Why would I spend more than my income Nigel??? The story is about our chances of top 10 this year, and GS says 10th would be as good as play-offs the year we came back from the brink. So you think that is true? I think, for those that didn't know, you argue for arguements sake. I knew saying something negative would finally get you to say something positive about GS.

  • nigelsparky  |  July 31 2014, 1:19PM

    I think GS is being realistic, and I for one am not at all disappointed with his comments as I feel he is being open and honest. I also agree that the board from a financial perspective are doing all they can. As Revolution said a club cannot sustain reckless over spending year on year as there will always be a day of reckoning, like Hereford, Salisbury, and our near neighbours Boston found out a few years ago to their cost. Spilsby look at the squad as it stands now just 16 players its very thin mate, what GS has said makes sense, there will be injuries, there will be suspensions, I for one don't expect to be pushing for play offs, reading between the lines, I feel that the club is lucky that it's still in existence, and that is a credit to all the staff involved at the club. Would you spend more than your income Spilsby? or anyone else come to that? no you wouldn't so why should a club like Lincoln. Everyone needs to be like GS in this article, and become realistic.

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  • Revolution9  |  July 31 2014, 12:31PM

    GS is saying it as he sees it and quite rightly saying that you need that something extra, call it team spirit and a passion for the club, which he believes we have now that we had back in 2002/3. Pleased to hear him say it. But why the frusrtation with Bob Dorrian and the Board? The Board have kept the club afloat through a difficult period and we simply cannot spend money we haven't got. To do so would be to go down the Salisbury/ Hereford route. The Board have to balance success on the field with ensuring a sustainable financial future. Over borrowing and spending now might help with the former but would jeopadise the latter. It could well lead to be short term success of sorts and long term failure. I for one am pleased that the Bpard recognise this. They will make mistakes because it isn't easy but they should be congratulated by at least attempting to the right thing which is to improve the club and team without taking us out of business.

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  • eatmygoal  |  July 31 2014, 10:49AM

    Can't agree with GS on this. The playoffs then were completely out the picture, we had a terrible season the one before and were close to relegation and then almost ceased to exist. We had to have a manager by default because he was the assistant at the time, and last time around he got sacked. We had to a shop in the bargain bin for players. Odds on for relegation, but what happened that season was so far from expectation. I had to punch myself at the millennium stadium that year. Moving up a few places in the table this year is not even close to being similar! I take GS point but poor comparison

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  • redimps1  |  July 31 2014, 10:33AM

    Reading this makes me angry and disappointed not with Simpson but with Dorrian and the board!Yes we have some good players but the manager has no chance of competing at the top of the league and we have unrealistic 2900 average to achieve!Please go Dorrian and your board NOW! Midtable is only achieviable with a manager chomping at the bit but with one hand tide behind his back.

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