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Ian Ridley: Lincoln City boss Danny Cowley can save the day!

THE MEDIA circus has moved on, a new story to be covered. Exit Sutton United – and Wayne Shaw with his Pie45 – enter now Lincoln City.

Shaw virtually became the embodiment (and a sizeable one) of a debate about the Non-League game. On the one hand, it should be still full of fun and him filling his face was just that. On the other, the National Game, certainly at National League level, works hard to project its growing professionalism and Shaw undermined that work.

I subscribe to the latter argument. And, in following the FA Cup tie against Arsenal on Twitter, it seemed no coincidence that this was a stunt linked to the betting company sponsoring Sutton for the night.

Neither did I feel too sorry for Shaw after he left the club, knowing that he has harvested a fair old sum for interviews and appearances.


We will leave the game’s authorities to decide on any betting issues – though with the goalkeeping coach currently out of the game, the FA may have trouble following through on any enquiry.

Perhaps they will wait for his return to Gander Green Lane that is being rumoured come next pre-season once the heat has died down.

A couple of days earlier, Danny Cowley’s Lincoln City had won at Burnley to secure the historic quarter-final against Arsenal, and it is hard to imagine any of his charges chomping on a snack during a match for the cameras.

One thing you can bet on is that won’t be happening at the Emirates next Saturday. So does that make me a killjoy? Someone at odds with the laughs to be had in the Non-League game? I hope not.

We have a couple of big lads on our coaching staff at Salisbury FC, where I am a consultant (unpaid of course), and I thought it funny when manager Steve Claridge tweeted that you could get odds on them NOT eating a pie or a pasty during a game.

Joking apart, Steve’s methods are highly professional, even at Step 4. And so are plenty of other clubs. I’m sure many clubs even at that level would not want themselves portrayed the way Shaw did his.

The Sutton manager Paul Doswell admitted: “It didn’t show us in the best light,” and it certainly detracted from the players’ creditable performance.

Wayne Shaw and THAT pie incident

And let’s not brush the potential betting breach under the carpet. In recent years, Non-League has been an easy target for some opportunists now serving jail time. Having cracked down, we and the FA cannot allow our game to be besmirched further and Shaw too should’ve thought of that.


Now, Non-League is a broad church, full of characters and the sense of fun that is often missing higher up the English game. There is a time and a place, however.

It has spent years seeking to shake off the patronising butcher, baker and candlestick-maker image often played up when FA Cup days come around.

In many ways, the National League is the Premier League of the National Game. Budgets can be huge, the competition having burgeoned ever since promotion to the Football League began in 1987, then offered a second place in 2003. It has always been a serious business, but now can be big business too.

Take poor Stewart Donald, the Eastleigh owner. He has spent millions trying to get it right but still the EFL formula eludes him, as he looks for his fourth manager of the season and contemplates huge pay-off cheques and wage bills in return for a mid-table position.

Doubtless Wayne Shaw is a decent, dedicated guy. But he got carried away in the spotlight and there is a lesson in that; a difference between showboating and showcasing.

Being a character is all well and good at the right time. At others, having character is more important. We look to Lincoln next Saturday.

Nobody will expect them to beat Arsenal, but we can certainly expect them to show class and professionalism. And Non-League at its best.

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