WOODY FEELS AT HOME IN LEAGUE

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Matt Bad­cock

WHEN Alex Wood­yard turned up for his first day at Lincoln City’s pre-sea­son, he and his team­mates were shown a video of the club’s rel­e­ga­tion from the Foot­ball League. Re­mark­able

The idea from the Imps’ new man­age­ment team Danny and Nicky Cow­ley, who Wood­yard had fol­lowed north from part-time Brain­tree Town, was to help every­one hit the re­set but­ton and fi­nally draw a line un­der the dis­ap­point­ment that still hung over the club six sea­sons on.

A year later, the squad turned up on day one to be shown clips of an in­cred­i­ble sea­son that saw the Imps win the Na­tional League ti­tle with 99 points and beat Premier League Burn­ley on their way to a re­mark­able FA Cup quar­ter-fi­nal with giants Arse­nal.

Mid­fielder Wood­yard was one of the most im­por­tant play­ers in a Lincoln side that got their city to fall back in love with the club again.

“At the start of pre-sea­son they showed us a video of all last year and how well we did,” Wood­yard told The FLP. “What it felt like to achieve what we did and how good it would feel to achieve some­thing like that again.”

The 24-year-old has made a good start to life back in the Foot­ball League hav­ing dropped into Non-League fol­low­ing his re­lease from Southend United.

He had spells at Dart­ford and Farn­bor­ough be­fore join­ing boss Cow­ley at Concord Rangers and then Brain­tree Town. Un­der the for­mer PE teacher’s guid­ance, he has re­vived his ca­reer and last sea­son he was one of the di­vi­sion’s best per­form­ers.

That led to in­ter­est from a clutch of League One clubs in the sum­mer, but he chose to stay loyal and is en­joy­ing the new chal­lenge.

“I’ve worked hard to get back to the Foot­ball League,” the for­mer Eng­land C cap­tain said. “It’s a step up and ev­ery league has its lev­els. It’s good to play in front of some re­ally good crowds and at some lovely sta­di­ums so it’s en­joy­able.

“In Non-League there are a few part-time teams whereas in the League every­one is full-time and train­ing ev­ery day. Ev­ery­thing just has that lit­tle bit more about it.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a mas­sive step. There are some good teams in Non-League and you ob­vi­ously see how many Non-League play­ers step up.”

The Imps made a solid start with four wins and four draws from their first 11 games, but they are hardly a sur­prise pack­age with last sea­son’s ex­ploits mak­ing waves across foot­ball.

Sum­mer ar­rivals like Matt Green and Ol­lie Palmer, along with the re­newal of a loan deal for young Burn­ley winger Josh Gin­nelly, have all added ex­tra qual­ity.

And de­spite los­ing cen­tre-half Sean Raggett to Cham­pi­onship side Nor­wich City, they have man­aged to keep the pow­er­ful de­fender, con­sid­ered one of Non­League’s best tal­ents in re­cent years, on loan un­til Jan­uary.

Wood­yard thinks their ri­vals have recog­nised the tal­ent they have and says that’s why they have to keep mov­ing for­ward them­selves.

“I think you can see teams are giv­ing us re­spect,” Wood­yard said. “Teams do all their home­work and they have their game plans.

“We’ve been do­ing well, we just want to keep in and around it. Where I’ve played for the Cow­leys be­fore at Concord Rangers and Brain­tree, our teams have tended to kick on from Jan­uary.

“We’re try­ing to evolve and get bet­ter be­cause, like I said, teams have game plans. As you push up the leagues, you’ve got to adapt and push on.

Adapt

“We’ve still got a lot of last year’s squad and added some re­ally good play­ers in the sum­mer. From day one they’ve bought into it and they en­joy it. A lot of them say it’s one of the best clubs they’ve played for, which is great.”

A big part of that is no doubt the sup­port­ers, with Sin­cil Bank crowds top­ping the av­er­age at­ten­dance charts in League Two (pre-week­end they were av­er­ag­ing more than 8,500).

“We’ve got the high­est away at­ten­dance too,” Wood­yard said. “The fans are right be­hind us and I think they’re en­joy­ing it!”

PIC­TURE: TGSPHOTO

IN CON­TROL: Alex Wood­yard on the ball in last month’s League Two win at Steve­nage

BIG DAY: Wood­yard takes on Arse­nal’s Alexis Sanchez last term

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