Jimmy Link (Episode 16.5: A Lincoln Legend)

If you live in constant fear, you cannot enjoy living.

I’m sat in a seat around half way down The Selenity Stand. Just looking out at the pitch, the Lincolnshire Cooperative Stand entering my peripherals as I scan the pitch. Completely vacant apart from the groundsmen, patiently mowing the grass. I realised that on my first couple days, there was a couple people absent who I just haven’t had time to speak to. The groundsman is one of them. As I’m losing my track of thought, his wave snaps me out of my trance-like state. I awkwardly wave back before he summons me with his index finger, curling it back towards himself before extending it again to repeat.

As I walk down the steps, I can’t help but feel emotional. This stadium has seen us mount a title charge, beat Man United, Spurs, Chelsea, Palace. You name them, we’ve beat them. Well not literally, my chart isn’t even 20% complete yet but you know what I mean. I step down onto the playing field and walk round the freshly cut area of the pitch. As I approach, he lifts his flat cap up and turns off the strangely soothing sound of his lawnmower.

“You’re scared aren’t you?” croaks a raspy ageing voice. I’m not sure if he means scared of the future or scared of him. Either way, the answer remains the same. I nod my head clunkily.

“I know you are. I can read people, I can tell. Jimmy Link.” His arm held out. I grasp his hand firmly, which is alarmingly warm, and shake.

“I’ve worked here for years and let me to tell you: the buzz on a match day with you in charge is different. It’s a different kind of excitement.” He carries on.

“There is no reason to be scared this season. You are overachieving. Punching above your weight. The football is the best played at this pitch for as long as I can remember. Even if you get knocked out of the cup, even if we drop into the play-off places, you are safe. You’re a hero.” I sympathetically smile at his attempts to calm me as we begin walking to the other half of the pitch.

“Let me ask you something. Do you think you’ve done a good job?” It’s not a hard question to answer.

“Of course.”

“Ah, so you do speak?” he chuckles to himself. “If you feel successful, then why are you scared of failing so much?”

I stop walking as does Jimmy. “Because the job isn’t finished yet.” He opens his mouth to speak but stops himself before continuing to walk forward. We walk in silence for a minute until he come to a half once more.

“If the job isn’t finished, you will always be scared.” I look inquisitively, turning my head like a confused puppy.

“This job isn’t for a season. Unless you’re Sam Allardyce. This job is for the next 5, 10, maybe even 15 years. If you live in constant fear, you cannot enjoy living.” Before I can even question how philosophical a statement just came out the mouth of a bloke who cuts grass for a living, the floodlights all simultaneously turn off leaving darkness to engulf the stadium. The lights are only off for a second or two but when they flicker back on, Jimmy is gone. I turn around looking for him but there’s no sign of him. It’s almost like he disappeared, taken by the momentary blackness.

I turn back to face the Cooperative Stand and see the white seats filtered in amongst the sea of red seats no longer spell ‘Lincoln City’. Instead, they spell three words.

‘Just wake up’. So I do.

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