Lincoln City’s recent confirmation as champions of League Two marks another step in a remarkable rise through the divisions.
It’s a well-noted point that three years ago the club were struggling in the National League, losing 3-2 at home to Woking on the final day of the 2015/16 season.
Fast forward to today and they’ve won three trophies in successive seasons, made the FA Cup quarter-finals and the League Two play-offs in their first season back in the Football League.
Some point to the climb beginning with Danny Cowley and brother Nicky. Others go a little further back to Clive Nates coming in as an investor and later the chairman.
However, one player predates both. Matt Rhead joined the Imps in the summer of 2015, coming from Mansfield Town who deemed the powerful striker surplus to requirements.
Rhead isn’t a typical footballer. Up until his late-twenties he was working in a JCB factory in Stoke, watching his beloved Potters in action and playing non-league. He’s a football fan who made it to the professional game and made the most of his skills.
He’s an incredibly talented and skilful footballer, but the most noticeable thing about Rhead is his physique. Whilst he is a toned athlete, he’s much bigger and more robust than his peers. When he joined Lincoln, he looked to be a centre forward on his way down the divisions.
He could not possibly have predicted just how successful the move would have been and as the crowd invaded the pitch this weekend, a casual observer might have mistaken him for one of them. He’s a heart-on-the-sleeve type player, a man who looks equally comfortable in the stands as he does on the pitch.
Since arriving at Sincil bank he’s racked up half a century of goals and only trains three days a week to help his family life in Stoke. He’s a tireless worker though and the enthusiasm that drips off him on a matchday is incredible.
He knows what it means to watch on from the stands, he understands how a fan thinks and feels. Not only that, but he’s taken his strengths and made himself into a genuine League One footballer, recognisable across the basement divisions and still an important cog in the Lincoln City machine.
Matt Rhead saw the Imps during what the national media describe as the lowest period in history and now he’s experiencing the most successful period they’ve ever had. He’s going to be that little bit prouder, of himself and his club, as anyone else on the staff.