Date: 3rd December 2017 at 9:40am
Written by:

You probably won’t have heard of Taylor Haines, although there is a very good chance that you have seen her.

You probably won’t have heard of Taylor Haines, although there is a very good chance that you have seen her. Taylor is the dancer with the artificial leg in the television advertisement for AXA. She is nineteen years old, hails from Alaska, and is a very special individual indeed.

Born with a bone disorder called fibular hemimelia, Taylor’s left leg was amputated below the knee before her first birthday. She could have retained the leg, but it would have had no function without the missing fibula. She could not have walked on it, never mind danced. Her mother took the incredibly difficult decision to choose function over form: the form would be gone, but at least she would be able to have some kind of movement through prosthetics. It did not represent the most propitious of starts in life. The young Taylor might have been forgiven for developing a monumental chip on her young shoulder and vanishing into an impermeable shell, but not a bit of it.

“Are you going to watch life, or are you going to be in the middle of it?”

She chose the latter, and began to take part in regular sporting events and even triathlons from the age of five. She played football and began dancing at the age of eight. She made it safely through auditions for her High School dance team against sixty other dancers.

In response to the usual comments from other children, her reaction was unequivocal.

“Mom, tell them I’m not disabled.”

That attitude carried her safely through the difficult teenage years when dark moments threatened to take her under. She would feel envious of her friends wearing party dresses and high heels. Guess what? She wore them anyway.

Today, she lives a life that should have been impossible. What people notice about her is confidence, grace and – let’s be honest about it – beauty. When she started at the University of Wisconsin last year, she passed the auditions for the university dance team before anyone found out that she had an artificial leg. The leg only becomes noticeable when the titanium ankle joint glints under the spotlights. That must have come as a surprise to them.

When AXA needed a dancer with an artificial limb to take part in that advertisement, they did not expect to find a dancer. But Taylor Haines was not just any old dancer. She was the right dancer.

Football clubs exist in perpetuum – at least most of them do – and as a consequence football is in a state of constant evolution, a breathless merry-go-round of managers and players. The only constant is change. Promotion to the Football League meant that Lincoln City had to improve the quality of player at their disposal. In came Michael Bostwick, Josh Vickers, Ollie Palmer, Matt Green, Rob Dickie, Neal Eardley, Cameron Stewart and Ellis Chapman who were all new to the club, plus Billy Knott, Harry Anderson, Sean Long and Josh Ginnelly who played a part last season.

Some of those have undoubtedly improved both the side and the quality of the squad in depth, but here’s a brutal fact: some of them have not. And that represents the vagaries of the transfer market in microcosm. Every signing is a gamble, as is the decision to release a player. Every team selection is a gamble thereafter, and you stand or fall on the signings you have made.

Let me ask you a question: would you rather have a talented player without the right spirit, or a lesser player with it? No one is doubting the commitment or professionalism of any City player, but there is definitely more to being a successful footballer than the ability to kick a football.

Following the dismal performance in the 1-0 defeat at Colchester, Danny Cowley made some intriguing comments about going back to players he could rely on. Presumably he was alluding to those who helped us out of non-league football and then fell out of favour in the wake of those new players arriving in the summer. The starting line up for the Port Vale game showed no fewer than seven changes in terms of personnel and position, and City delivered the best performance for two months. That is not a coincidence.

With the transfer window about to slam open in a month’s time, the same thing applies. Some may look at the better players out there and start drooling in anticipation. In theory we have enough money tucked away to compete with any other club at this level, but that does not mean we should simply go out and spend it on the headline makers. Social media is awash with the less mentally-competent Lincoln supporters whining pitifully about summer recruitment and boldly stating that Cowley should spend the FA Cup money on five or six players in January. I have never read such brainless tripe in my life. It is not about spending lots of money.

Danny Cowley says football management is about making the right decision, not necessarily the easiest decision. Taking that theory one stage further, perhaps it is sometimes about the right player, not necessarily the best player. Once you have the right player, the best player takes care of itself.

Taylor Haines is not the best dancer out there for sure, and she never can be. But she was the right dancer when called upon, and there is a lesson in there somewhere.

Who did our members consider to be November’s star players?

Player of the Month is HARRY ANDERSON for the second successive month. The number of players we would genuinely miss, were they to be absent, is a small one relative to the size of the squad. Harry would be on that list, the proof coming from our dip in form when he has been absent. During the four games he missed in October, we scored one goal; in the four games since he returned, we have scored eight. Enough said.

Second place goes to MATT RHEAD who is one of the players who epitomises the spirit of Cowley-era Lincoln City. The big man needs just one more goal to reach forty for the club, the first to achieve that milestone since Lee Thorpe and the only the fortieth in the club’s history.

Third place goes to JOSH VICKERS. Our new goalkeeper turned 22 during the month, giving us some indication of exactly what his potential in the game might be. To have displaced the popular Paul Farman with such ease is no mean feat.

The average team score per game of 6.49 is a significant improvement on the October figure of 6.29.

1. Harry Anderson 7.29
2. Matt Rhead 7.01
3. Josh Vickers 6.95
4. Michael Bostwick 6.86
5. Luke Waterfall 6.75
6. Sean Long 6.74
7. Neal Eardley 6.69
8. Alex Woodyard 6.65
9. Sean Raggett 6.58
10. Sam Habergham 6.57
11. Elliott Whitehouse 6.31
12. Ollie Palmer 6.03
13. Josh Ginnelly 5.92
14. Nathan Arnold 5.81
15. Matt Green 5.80
16. Rob Dickie 5.77
17. Billy Knott 4.91
18. Cameron Stewart 4.75

Individual ratings by match:

AFC Wimbledon: Sean Long 6.64
Notts County: Neal Eardley 8.00
Crewe: Harry Anderson 8.56
Coventry: Josh Vickers 7.92
Colchester: Josh Vickers 7.17
Port Vale: Michael Bostwick 7.75

So where does that leave us regarding the current player of the season standings?

1. Alex Woodyard 7.12
2. Sean Raggett 7.09
3. Luke Waterfall 7.03

Home player of the season:

1. Luke Waterfall 7.23
2. Alex Woodyard 7.16
3. Sean Long 7.02

Away player of the season:

1. Sean Raggett 7.28
2. Alex Woodyard 7.05
3. Harry Anderson 7.00

August Player Ratings: Why Sean Raggett Is In Serious Danger

September Player Ratings: Lincoln City Is The Perfect Antidote To The Dacia Duster

October Player Ratings: What Lincoln City Can Learn From Jack Kerouac

Average Player Ratings v AFC Wimbledon (a)

Average Player Ratings v Crewe Alexandra (a)

Average Player Ratings v Coventry City (h)

Average Player Ratings v Colchester United (a)

Average Player Ratings v Port Vale (h)

Thank you to Graham Burrell and Lincoln City FC for the photograph.