Andy Graver The Most Lethal Imp Alive
With 150 (143 League) goals from 289 appearances (274 League), legend ary figure in every sence of the word he is the undisputed King of The Imps. Andy Graver was also one that Newcastle let get away at a fraction of his true worth. Head and shoulders above the rest, he still cuts an imposing figure to this day on match days and in his heyday was a cross between Freeman, Harford and Ward. Having bumped into him on a couple of occasions he is a true gentleman with an eye for Goalscorers as opposed to goals themselves. Indeed after one particularly disappointing spell last season he observed that we were indeed lacking in that department and that it was a shame we would not let him return for a fourth time.
The original Lord of The Imps Bill Anderson spotted Andy Graver in Newcastle reserves in 1950 and immediately wrestled the record sum of £5,000 from the board. Born in Lanchester, Co. Durham on September 12th 1927 Andy got a dream move from working in the Craghead Pit to rubbing shoulders with the great Jackie Milburn. With no subs and greats like Roy Bentley and George Robledo ahead in the pecking order he made one appearance against Manchester City in his 3 years at the club.
That would all change at Lincoln. Scoring a screamer on his debut against Halifax on opening day 23/9/50 in front of 11,538 expectant Imps in Division 3 North. Andy quickly established a telepathic understanding with the electric Johnny Garvie and bagged 20 goals (19 League) from 39 appearances in his first season. The all action giant had the power, presence and passion to take the Imps back to the promised land if we could keep him. A procession of clubs asked for his services including Norwich with a double your money and some £12,500 bid. Though Andy would leave Lincoln twice and in so doing enjoy 3 spells at his beloved Imps he was a loyal chap. Anderson talked the board out of making a fortune at the time and the stage was set. Andy would bag his first Hatrick for us on 3/3/51 and enjoy braces against Shrewsbury, Oldham and Crewe. That season our highest home gate would be 14,714 (V Rotherham) with 10,500 the norm.
He played a key role in City's record-breaking 1951/52 campaign scoring 39 goals (36 League) in 38 games despite a cartilage injury cutting the season short. The injury cost Andy a place in the England B team V Holland and the chance to overturn Allan Halls record 41 goal seasonal haul. The season would be a record breaker (121 goals for, 6 points dropped at home 19 home wins, overall 30 wins 9 draws 7 defeats) with the Imps beating Stockport County and Grimsby Town to win the Division Three North title. A 3-1 FA Cup win over Grimsby saw a record crowd to date with 21,757 seeing Andy score two as the Imps triumphed 3-1. He would also score 6 at home to Crewe, hatricks against Darlo & Crewe and 7 braces. The six in the 11-1 trouncing of Crewe illustrated gravers versatility with two with his left , two with his right and two with his head. The highest home League gate that season saw 21,501 (V Stockport 2-1). The typical attendance rose to 12-13,000 but 19,522 saw us lose 2-0 at home to the Cods with another 4 games over 15,000.
Division two would be no picnic with the Imps having to compete with sides enjoying 25-30,000 crowds and Graver being almost marked out of every game. However cometh the hour cometh the Lincolnshire Poacher, albeit it with a North East tweek. Our first four home games saw, 20,21,21 and 22,000 as Graver grabbed braces against Blackburn and Huddersfield and 1 against Donny and Forest. He would score in 6 of our first 7 games, with a return of 8. His only other brace that season would be against Bury finishing the season on 18 goals as the Imps regularly played to over 17,000
A tough start to the season saw Andy suddenly turn our season with 4 in an 8-0 win over mighty Blackburn in front of a seasonal low 12,000. The fans were soon back as he shot 25 goals against 20 opponents. Notts County and Plymouth were his only braces. The Imps made it to the fourth round of the FA Cup and 61,231 saw the Imps play Everton at Goodison Park, the highest ever crowd to see the Imps in action
Andy continued to be a regular transfer target of the bigger clubs and in December 1954 the inevitable happened when he was sold to First Division Leicester City for a record fee of £27,500 plus Eric Littler (valued at £600). With 9 goals from the opening 18 games Santa`s stockings along the Sincil Bank felt pretty empty that Christmas. Andy did not want to go either but to the Imps it was all the money in the world.
The Chronicle and the Echo were awash with the News, Graver the Great was coming back to the Bank for £14,000. Four goals in the opening 6 games including one on his debut set the City alight, however he became unsettled failing to score, as Stoke City would just not go away. Though undisclosed another 27,000 plus fee was gleefully accepted as the Crown jewels left the Bank again after a blighted 2 months stay of just 15 appearances. Stoke gambled that Graver could fire them back into Division One, it didn`t work with the Imps finishing 8th and the Potters 13th that season. They would finish 5th the following season compared to our 18th with Graver falling down the pecking order. He would play 37 games and bag 12 goals for Stoke in 18 months who then allowed him to leave. Another return to Sincil Bank was on the cards until Midland League Boston United came in with a better contract.
After the great escape of 1957/58 Andy was signed from Boston for the start of the 58/59 season. He duly obliged scoring a goal in each of his first two games. He scored 13 goals in 29 appearances that season, including a hat trick against Scunthorpe and a goal in a famous 2-1 win over Liverpool the following day. Sheffield Wednesday and the Iron aside the crowds were down to sub 10,000 and both the Imps and Graver were struggling to maintain their status however.
Andy bagged 12 goals in 31 appearances with a hatrick against Charlton and braces against Swansea, Middlesborough and the famous 4-2 win at Liverpool. We tore them apart that day in front of just 10,799. Crowds were as low as 6,000 against Swansea and the derbies excepted, 8,000 became the norm. We would enjoy one more season in Division two before the inevitable landslide commenced. We did however finish a creditable 13th.
Our final season in the second flight saw Graver return 10 goals from 33 appearances in a relegation-haunted team as we finished bottom and 9 points adrift of Portsmouth. Just 5115 would watch our greatest players final Home appearance, a 5-2 win over Middlesborough on April Fools day. Indeed such was the state of things that no one would effectively replace him and we would drop straight though to Division 4 after an abysmal season in Division 3.
Beyond The Imps.
Andy played part-time with Skegness Town and then Ilkeston Town before a broken ankle brought his playing career to an end and for a spell in the 1960s he coached the Imps' youth team. On leaving football he worked for 30 years for a local finance company and now lives in retirement on the edge of the city.
In 1996, along with his former team mate Tony Emery, Andy was chosen to become an inaugural member of the Lincoln City 'Hall of Fame' whilst three years later he was named as Lincoln's 'local hero' in a poll organised by the Football League. Andy still attends most home games and is always happy to chat hospitality commitments aside.
1 Andy Graver (50/51-54/55,55/56,58/59-60/61) Aps 274 (0) Goals 143
2 Johnny Campbell (33/34-38/39) Aps 184(0) Goals 104
3 Gordon Hobson (77/78-84/85,88/89-89/90 Aps 321 (12) Goals 96
4 John Ward (70/71-78/79,81/82) Aps 224 (17) Goals 90
5 Billy Dinsdale (26/27-30,30/31) Aps 126 Goals 89
6 Johnny Garvie (50/51-55/56) Aps 184 (0) Goals 78
7 Johnny Garvie (50/51-55/56) Aps 184(0) Goals 78
8 Roy Chapman (57/58-60/61, 64/65-66/67) Aps 174 (1) Goals 77
9 Allan Hall (1931/32-1932/33) Aps 72 (0) Goals 64
10 Percy Freeman (70/71-72/73, 74/75-76/77 Aps 138 (14) Goals 64
11 Earny Whittle also worth a mention 1949/50-1953/54 145 aps 62 goals