To say the Cowley brothers have turned Lincoln City’s fortunes around would be an understatement – probably the understatement of the century considering the duo have transformed the club from a perennial mid-table ‘nothing side’ languishing in the depths of non-league to the third tier of English football in just three seasons. It will be the first time in two decades that the city of Lincoln has a team to support that high up the English pyramid. Since joining the club in May 2016 from Braintree Town, the two brothers have won something every season – the National League Premier title in 2017, the EFL Trophy in 2018 and now the League Two title this year. Danny and Nicky Cowley have somehow improved year-on-year and I don’t expect that to stop anytime soon.
It is a dedication to the game, the eye for talent and a continued drive for success that has put the club and themselves well and truly on the map. Now it feels strange to not see them linked with any vacant managerial job from the upper echelons of the game. The Cowley’s unparalleled work ethic is highlighted in the fact that they are often working at the club for hours on end, sometimes that even stretches to 20-hour days. Whether that be trying to find the next player to strengthen their side or meticulously watching tape on their next opponents, the two of them do it all by themselves and it clearly pays off. Their ethos centres around being able to squeeze the extra one percent out of everyone to ensure maximum potential – this is done through numbers, statistics and analysis which they spend all week combing through.
On the pitch, their squad is notably impressive, amongst them is Lee Frecklington – a League Two runner-up and League One playoff winner, Michael Bostwick – a League Two playoff winner and Matt Gilks – a Championship playoff winner. Attracting that calibre of player was probably never going to happen in the minds of supporters until the Cowleys came along. It is the reputation that they’ve created which attracts players of this ilk to Lincolnshire. In the forward areas they have the goal-hungry John Akinde who bagged 17 goals in 52 appearances last season, aided in no doubt by the tricky exploits of winger Bruno Andrade who scored 11 himself but also provided six assists. That’s just a handful of the players who have contributed to their success over recent seasons.
The summer has been quite quiet for the management duo so far but there are two signings which start to elevate this side into League One contenders. Jack Payne joins from Huddersfield on a free transfer, the 24-year-old was the standout player for Bradford despite being relegated – he bagged nine goals from midfield and assisted five more. Talented youngster Joe Morrell also joins The Imps on loan from Bristol City – he’s featured for City’s senior side four times last season and was a regular for Wales under-21s. Upon joining the club, Morrell mentioned that as soon as there was interest it was something he wanted to pursue which is in no doubt down to the Cowley’s impact.
With pre-season just around the corner, the duo are keen to emphasise that they haven’t forgotten where they’ve come from with friendlies against a handful of local non-league signs with the club agreeing to split all gate receipts. This sort of attitude only filters down through the squad as a reminder that what they’ve achieved is nothing short of outstanding but the journey doesn’t stop there. Lincoln City aren’t in League One to mess around – they have lofty Championship ambitions.