It’s been three years to the day since Sean Raggett scored for Lincoln City in the 89th minute to perform a ‘David vs. Goliath’ win at Burnley in the FA Cup.
Since then the Imps have climbed the English football ladder and last week the club announced they had received planning permission to increase the capacity of Sincil Bank.
By expanding the Stacey West Stand of the newly named LNER Stadium, the Imps could seat almost 1,500 more fans on matchdays, pushing the capacity over 11,500.
The stadium expansion is another move by the club off the field which echoes the ambition shown on the pitch.
When Imps manager Michael Appleton joined the club in September, he set his sights on the Championship and has reiterated this aim in his first six months.
Increasing their stadium capacity on a match-day is necessary if the club wishes to compete in English football’s second tier in the future. With success comes a demand for tickets and the Imps regularly sell out for fixtures, with an average of almost 9,000 fans at each game this season.
Lincoln have a clear goal as a club, and are preparing for it financially as well as a team.
Last season the club opened a shop in the city centre. In December, a three-year stadium naming rights deal was agreed with London North Eastern Rail. And although the stadium expansion would cost money, there is clearly a view this would benefit the club financially in the long term, like the LNER deal and club shop.
Lincoln are doing smart deals on the pitch. Players originally signed in lower divisions are being sold on in their prime for bigger transfer fees, for example Harry Toffolo to Huddersfield Town or Bruno Andrade to Salford City.
While it can hurt Imps fans to see players they love moved on, they might have to get used to it as a modern club model.
Lincoln are bringing in young players full of potential. Out of the 12 signings they made in January (loan or permanent), only two were over the age of 22. This is lowering the age of the squad, especially when older players such as Michael O’Connor and John Akinde are being sold too.
Lincoln City decade timeline
- 2011: 23rd in League Two, relegated to the Conference.
- 2012: Finish 17th in the Conference- their lowest ever finish.
- 2015: The Imps finish in the bottom half of the National League for the fifth consecutive season.
- 2016: Danny Cowley becomes manager of the club.
- 2017: Lincoln City win the National League and reach the FA Cup quarter finals, beating Championship leaders Brighton and Premier League side Burnley on their way.
- 2018: Lincoln City reach the League Two play-off semi-finals and play at Wembley for the first time in their history as they win the Checkatrade trophy versus Shrewsbury Town.
- 2019: The Imps have a thunderous campaign in the following season, rarely dethroned from the top of the table and promoted as champions of League Two.
- Present: Lincoln City are 15th in League One. Danny Cowley left for Huddersfield Town in September and Michael Appleton took charge as the Imps entered a new era.
The final hurdle
Of course, Lincoln City are still a long way off the Championship.
They have looked to be in a relegation battle at stages this season, but they’re now 15 points clear of the first relegation spot and only dreadful form and a Tranmere turnaround would see them drop.
The rest of the season will be about aiming for security in League One, before attempting a push up the table next season.
This can only happen with the right investment and recruitment in the squad however, and it will be interesting to see if the club’s off the pitch developments will aid this.