Without being disrespectful, Lincoln City are minnows in the footballing world.
Yet for such a relatively small team its nickname is one that I will never forget.
Why are Lincoln City called the Imps?
Let’s dive in and find out!
Why Are Lincoln City Called The Imps?
Lincoln City takes its nickname from the legend of the Lincoln Imp. The imp is said to have been sent to Lincoln Cathedral by the Devil to wreak havoc, where it was turned to stone by an angel. It can still be seen in the Cathedral to this day and is a popular tourist attraction.
A Slight Digression…
Before we dive into the story behind Lincoln’s nickname, the club actually played a big part in the first-ever season of football I can remember.
It was the 1986/87 season, when I was 7 years old. My team Everton became as League Champions, finishing 1st of all 92 Football League teams.
At the very opposite end of the spectrum, who was it that finished 92nd?
Yep you guessed it, Lincoln.
I remember it even more so because, for the first time ever, the team that finished bottom of the old Fourth Division would be relegated to the GM Vauxhall Conference as it was at that time.
And Lincoln suffered relegation in the most dramatic of fashions.
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A Season of Two Halves
Lincoln had been in the Third Division the previous season but suffered relegation to find themselves back in English football’s bottom tier.
It really was a season of two halves for the Imps (I promise we will come to the story behind the nickname shortly!).
In the first half of the season, from August to December 1986, Lincoln’s record was as follows:
P22 W8 D7 L7 Pts 31
Not groundbreaking, but good enough to have them within touching distance of the newly founded play-off zone.
However, by the time Lincoln took to the pitch for the club’s final game of the season on 9 May 1987, they were in a much different position, with the club’s record from January to May reading:
P23 W4 D5 L14 Pts 17
That meant they were in danger of being relegated on the last day of the season, but things could have been worse, they still had two teams below them:
The final day’s fixtures were as follows:
- Swansea City v Lincoln City
- Torquay United v Crewe
- Burnley v Leyton Orient
Lincoln seemed overcome by nerves and suffered a 2-0 defeat to Swansea.
However, even when the final whistle blew at the Veitch Field, they still had a long wait to see if their league status would be retained.
That is because Burnley’s game had been delayed by 15 minutes due to the huge crowd that turned up to see the possibility of the English League Champions of 1960 being relegated.
Not only that the game at Torquay went into injury time in the most extraordinary circumstances.
And the real hero of the day was a police dog named Bryn.
Bryn Bites Back
Over at Burnley the former league champions were doing all they could
A minute into the second half, they were 2-0 up against Leyton Orient, and whilst Orient halved the deficit they couldn’t get an equalising goal.
That win meant Burnley finished one point above Lincoln, so it all came down to what happened at Plainmoor.
With Torquay 2-0 down at half-time, it looked like they who would be getting relegated.
But just after half-time defender Jim McNichol scored a free-kick to give Torquay hope.
Still with just a few minutes to go Torquay were behind and bottom of the Football League.
Enter police dog Bryn.
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Extra police had been brought in for Torquay’s biggest crowd of the season.
Goal scorer Jim McNichol sprinted to the touchline to try and stop a ball from going out of play.
Bryn thought McNichol was running at his handler who had momentarily turned to look at the crowd.
He leapt at McNichol and bit him on the leg. The game was stopped whilst McNichol was treated for a wound that needed 17 stitches.
Torquay then went into five minutes of injury time knowing that with Lincoln having lost, an equalising goal would keep them up.
In the added-on time, Torquy’s Paul Dobson scored and gave them the point they needed to stay up on goal difference.
Torquay had been saved thanks in no small part to a helping hand (or should that be helping tooth) from a police dog!
The Lincoln Imp
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I am sorry for that huge digression!
Lincoln City are nicknamed the Imps after the legend of the Lincoln Imp.
The story goes that the Devil was feeling in a devilish mood and decided to let his young demons out to play.
One imp was sent to Lincoln Cathedral and proceeded to wreak havoc, and then started throwing stones and rocks at an angel who was trying to stop it
The imp goaded the angel, and challenged it to ‘stop me if you can’.
The angel responded instantly, and commanded “Wicked imp, be turned to stone”.
And that it was. It remains preserved in stone high on a pillar, in the Angel Choir above the shrine to St. Hugh in the Cathedral.
The imp itself is just over 12 inches tall, so it is not easy to spot, but it is very much a tourist attraction in the city, and is the reason why Lincoln City are called the Imps.
Lincoln City takes its nickname from the legend of the Lincoln Imp, a mythical creature sent by the Devil to wreak havoc in Lincoln Cathedral only to be turned to stone by an angel.
The Lincoln Imp can still be seen in Lincoln Cathedral, and also appears on the club crest and Poacher of the Imp serves as the club mascot.
The imp is somewhat of a tourist attraction in the city and Lincoln plays host to an annual Imp Trail, where 31 imps are placed around the city for visitors to find.
So that is the devilish story behind Lincoln’s nickname.