The first game of any season is always a big fixture, but this Saturday’s curtain raiser at Lincoln is extra special for the club's new commercial executive and former captain John Finnigan.
‘Finners’ spent 4 years at Lincoln before joining the Robins in 2002.
Having been frustrated with his role in the reserves at Nottingham Forrest, he went on loan to Lincoln in April of 1998, playing six times at the end of the season which saw the club get promoted to what is now League 1. John commented, “It was a good opportunity to further my career, play in front of a crowd and get a buzz from it”.
Following that promotion, Lincoln paid £50k for him that summer and he went on to play over 100 times for the club playing against teams such as Fulham, Stoke and Man City. He fondly remembers one of those occasions, “we actually managed to beat Man City at home which is unbelievable looking back seeing where the two clubs are now”.
Having played for the club at that level he is saddened to see where ‘The Imps’ currently find themselves. “It’s really disappointing for me. It doesn’t appear that they’ve really found their feet yet. They’ve been bottom half since they went down which is disappointing”.
Following the collapse of ITV Digital, Lincoln had to offload several of their top players for financial reasons, including John. “I loved it there and to be honest I never really wanted to leave. But after the ITV Digital collapse the club put about 7 or 8 of us on the transfer list, not because they didn’t want us but because they thought we were the players they could recoup some money for. Within a few weeks I’d arrived at Cheltenham”.
And the rest, as they say is history. John played over 200 times for the Robins after joining in March of 2002, helping the club into the play-offs and scoring in the play-off final win that year. “I scored on my debut and I think my 15th game was at the Millennium Stadium which was great. I think I’d scored 1 goal in my previous 100 games for Lincoln but scored 3 in my first 15 games for Cheltenham to help win promotion”. John soon became club captain and led the Robins back to another play-off success in 2006.
He played in this fixture for both teams and like most, would relish the opportunity to be back out there playing, “Yeah I’d love to be out there, although I’d probably embarrass myself now as I can’t run. But these are the games you look forward to. I used to love playing against my old clubs. When I was playing for Lincoln I actually scored against Cheltenham here and when I played for Cheltenham I scored against Lincoln so I’ve scored in this Saturday’s fixture twice for the two different teams”.
Even without himself being out there to help, he is still feeling positive about the season ahead for the Robins, “From what I’ve seen of the team I’ve been impressed. I think we’ve got a good attacking side and hopefully the defeat at Wimbledon might have just woken us up a little bit to be on our guard at Lincoln”.
Despite having been part of both clubs, there is no doubt as to where John’s heart lies; “I greatly enjoyed my time at both clubs. Lincoln for 4 years and Cheltenham for 7 and a half. But Cheltenham and Gloucestershire is where I’ve settled down, this is where my kids are and this is what I see as my club now. Fingers crossed it will be a good game but my loyalties are with Cheltenham and hopefully we can get the 3 points”.