The term "legend" is often overused when it comes to describing footballers but it is a most fitting and apt description for Andy Graver, voted Number 1 in the poll of City fans in 2007, who sadly died on January 18th.
Born on Craghead, County Durham (his father Fred had played for Grimsby, Leeds and Southend) Andy was working as a miner and had played for local sides Quaking House Juniors, Willington Atheltic and Annfield Plain when he rejected terms with Coventry City and opted to sign for Newcastle United in 1947.
Competition for places was not surprisingly fierce with the likes of Jackie Milburn and George Robledo at St James’ Park and Andy’s only first team appearance came in a 1-1 draw at Manchester City in January 1950.
He moved to Sincil Bank the following September for a fee of £3,000 and made an instant impact by scoring on his debut, a 3-1 victory against Halifax Town, as he went on to finish second top scorer (behind Johnnie Garvie) with 19 goals in 37 Football League appearances.
In an interview in 1996 he admitted he was very homesick after moving south and was ready to "pack it all in after my first month here. After each game I was straight on the train north to be back with family and friends." It was only because manager Bill Anderson, a fellow northerner, told him "that if I went home for good I’d be letting myself and everyone else down so I decided to stay and give it a go and I gradually settled into the city."
The following season 1951/52 proved to be one of the best in the Club’s history as we scored 121 goals in the Football League on the way to winning the Third Division North title. Andy top scored with 36 goals in 35 appearances including six in the record 11-1 victory over Crewe Alexandra scoring twice with each foot and his head. He nearly missed the game though because of illness!
The season though ended with him suffering a cartilage injury which forced him to miss the final six games (and the chance to beat Allan Hall’s seasonal scoring record) and a call up for the England B side to play Holland. City also reportedly turned down several offers for his services during the season one of which was a reputed £13,000 from Norwich City.
Division 2 football didn't stop the goals coming as Andy top scored again in 1952/53 with 18 in 40 League appearances and improved on that with 24 in 40 games the following season, including four in an 8-0 hammering of Blackburn Rovers at Sincil Bank in August.
The inevitable move from Sincil Bank finally came about in December 1954 with Leicester City paying £27,500 (plus Eric Littler) for Andy after he had scored nine times in 18 games for us. He scored on his First Division debut for the Foxes in a 3-1 defeat at Chelsea but failed to help prevent relegation and returned to Sincil Bank in the summer for £13,000!
His second spell here only lasted until November when, after scoring four times in 15 games, he was on the move again this time to Stoke City for a fee of £12,000. He remained at Stoke until the end of the following season scoring 12 times in 37 appearances and was on the verge of a move back to Lincoln in 1957 but Boston United offered a better contract and he moved there instead before he did commence a third spell as an Imp in October 1958 with us paying United £2,500.
His third 'debut' for us saw him score one and set the other up in our 3-2 defeat at Charlton Athletic and he commented afterwards that "I have come to stay this time!"
In the event he did remain until the end of the 1960/61 season adding a further 33 goals in 89 appearances to take his Imps’ career total to a Club record 143 goals (only one was a penalty) in 274 appearances along with seven in 15 FA Cup games.
Spells followed at Skegness Town and Ilkeston Town where a broken ankle eventually ended his playing career in 1963. He later returned to Sincil Bank as a youth coach and a scout and worked for many years at a local finance company before retirement.
Having settled in Bracebridge Heath, Andy was a regular visitor to City home games, and always happy to speak to anyone who wanted to, until recently when he moved to York to be near his family.
Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.
Andy Graver: 12/09/1927 - 18/01/2014
Sources: English National Football Archive, City’s Centenary, Who’s Who of Lincoln City, 100 Years at Sincil Bank