First appeared on the "Forgotten Imp" website in April 2000
Moving from Newcastle to Lincoln must have seemed an enormous step down, so I was interested in finding out what his initial reaction was when he heard of City's interest. "I wasn't playing regular football at Newcastle so it was a great opportunity for me. John Pickering was the coach at City who I knew well and Colin Murphy was really enthusiastic and sold the club to me." So having signed for Lincoln, what was his first impression of the club? "It was being run excellently by John and Colin. Lincoln has a reputation for being a stable club and was doing well. It was the first time I'd moved away from home but I was made to feel really welcome." As a Lincoln fan I obviously rate Sincil Bank as among the best grounds in the lower divisions, but what do players think of it? "Its smashing. The Simon's Stand is one of the most impressive in the division, as is the ground in general. The facilities and hospitality suites are magnificent."
OK so moving to the club was a good move, but what about the city itself? "Well I arrived from Newcastle as a 19 year old and Newcastle is an excellent city. In comparison Lincoln was about 10 years behind. We used to go to Sheffield to the cinema as in Lincoln the cinema use double up as a theatre. However it is now on the up, I still live in Lincoln (Skellingthorpe) and it's a nice place to live."
Whilst at Lincoln Tony played under four different managers so who did he find the easiest to play under? "Colin Murphy was excellent, I found out Newcastle were releasing me via teletext, but Colin was great and built up my confidence. I didn't fit in with Allan Clarke at all but I got on really well with Steve Thompson who was unlucky to miss-out on the play-offs. As for Keith Alexander I was out with my knee most of the time so I didn't really know him. The amount of managers Lincoln have had as been well documented and has contributed to their financial problems."
Being only young when Tony played for Lincoln I have problems remembering many games with him in them, however Port Vale away in the Coca-Cola-Cup first leg does stick in my memory. "Yes that was a great game as I scored two goals after coming on as sub, it was my first game after the knee injury so it was probably my most satisfying game at Lincoln. However I was very stop-start at Lincoln and never scored consistently" Of course those goals against Vale helped the Imps progress to the 2nd round and play Everton. So are there any other games that stick in his memory? "The Wembley play-off final with Chesterfield was very special as I became the first ever Chesterfield player to score at Wembley. I also scored on my Newcastle debut which was special."
Whilst at Lincoln Tony suffered an horrendous knee injury and was out of the game for 18 months, how hard was this period on him? "It was extremely hard, I was only 21/22 and was playing regularly so I was devastated. Also I'd just got married and had my first child(Emma) so it was particularly worrying as I obviously wanted to look after my family. However Lincoln were great, they stood by me. I had the best treatment, I had surgery at Harley Street by the same surgeon who operated on Gazza. Also the physio Neil McDiamond was great."
Luckily he made a full recovery and has since played for a number of teams, including Peterborough who he joined from Lincoln in June 1994. How did that move affect his career? "I was disappointed to leave Lincoln, but it proved to be a good move. I was on a 1 year contract and played in the reserves so was getting two or three games a weeks which was what I needed after my knee injury. I'll always be grateful to Peterborough for what they did and they never stood in my way when I left to join Chesterfield."
Whilst Tony was at City there were various promising young players, so who did he rate the most? "There was Dean West who I admired a lot and Darren Huckerby was in the youth team at the time. Other players from that time also went on, such as Matt Carbon and Matt Dickens." Is there anyone in the current City side that he rates? "Not really, to be honest I don't know that many players. It's been a poor league this season, any team can beat anyone. I'd say that 90% of the City players belong in this league."
Tony is currently at Mansfield Town, but where does he see his career going from here? "I've got one year left on my contract so I'll see that out, after that I don't know. I referee on a Sunday and I'm taking my Class One soon so I might go in that direction of maybe taking up coaching." Overall then what is his opinion of Lincoln City? "I enjoyed it here. However the financial difficulties are overshadowing it at the moment, they were made worse by last season when the players wanted pay rises. Players are quite powerful at the moment and the wages are filtering down from the Premiership. John Reames has chosen to lead from the front, whether that's right or not...(he shrugs)."
Before I let him go I had to know what his prediction for the night's game was. "We're a good young side and need to win to get back in the play-off race. A 5-0 win to Mansfield (laughs)."