Sports Editor’s blog: The day a backwater finally made the headlines

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Growing up in Lincolnshire, I was acutely aware that few people had any idea where the county of my birth actually was. Even those who lived there in some cases.

It may have been England’s second-biggest county, a thin boast I would use in its defence when called upon, but it’s national profile was as flat as the landscape.

It was hardly ever mentioned on the TV news, even the local variety, unless something really bad had happened, or Margaret Thatcher was mentioned.

The black hole theme continued into sport with famous sons and daughters not exactly tripping off the tongue. Aside from Geoff Capes.

This deep void has made Lincoln City’s rapid, and I suspect temporary, ascent into the football stratosphere all the more out of character for the yellowbelly county.

I still don’t know what was most astonishing about their latest upset at Burnley.

Was it winning away at a Premier League side? Becoming the first non-league side in more than a century to reach the quarter-finals?

Or was it the simple fact these history-makers were the same perennial no-hopers I mis-spent many hours of my youth and pounds of my pocket money on?

For the BBC, City’s exploits must be like manna from heaven. For years, the Beeb has steadfastly force-fed us the ‘magic of the cup’ mantra.

This in spite of the competition sporting all the romance of a hot date at an abattoir from a sport which has all the heart of Oz’s tinman.

The phrase has been a bland, slightly condescending and largely meaningless pat on the head for lower league teams, calling for compulsory shots of ‘real’ fans eating their Bovril and half-time pie in small provincial grounds.

The call for magic simply seemed a desperate cry to bring back our childhood when the cup was indeed something a bit special.

But this year, with two non-league crusaders reaching the last 16, it has been a bit special.

Over the next week-and-a-half, the papers and TV will finally locate the long-forgotten county and give Lincoln all the attention of a long-lost friend.

The question I ask is whether I should do the same?

After many years of the occasional glance from over the county border, it would be wrong of me to join the populist hordes and bask in City’s reflected glory.

But there is a shared history, however small, and even a little emotional connection.

More than enough of my formative football-watching education was done on the concrete terraces of the Railway End and Sincil Bank, putting up with plenty of professional hoofers and duffers, to now earn a small share in their happiness.

But when Sean Raggett bundled in the goal the Burnley fans had dreaded, my thoughts went instantly to the friends who have suffered more than their fair share of thin, season in and season out.

I smiled for them as I imagined their delirium at that incredible moment.

Supporters such as these, and at clubs all around the country, have true provenance: their chosen team is their local club.

Their love is unconditional and nearly always unrequited. Loyalty is not dependant on silverware, unless cups were made for gallows humour.

An unhealthy dose of reality will surely soon kick in to spoil this new-found fleeting romance.

For all the shocks and the thrills, in all likelihood the semi-finals will be all-Premier League, quite possibly exclusively made up of its top five.

But before my county settles once more into its accustomed slot in the shadows, there’s still time for one more surreal Saturday afternoon.