MK Dons v Lincoln
LINCOLN’S Tom Pett is hoping for a double celebration this year — winning promotion and graduating from university.
The attacking midfielder will be looking to help the League Two leaders take another giant stride towards the third tier when they visit second-placed MK Dons tomorrow.
With Pett also hoping to complete the sports and exercise science degree at Middlesex University he started before getting his professional break at Stevenage aged 22, it is safe to say he is not your average footballer.
‘When I tell younger players I’m still doing my university degree, they laugh at me but you have to be ready for life after you finish,’ says the 27-year-old.
‘It would have been easy to write the degree off but my tutor, Neil Bangs, has been unbelievable with helping me to finish it.’
Not that doubling up as a student has lessened Pett’s creative impact since joining the Imps last January, with the team — and their sibling managerial duo of Danny and Nicky Cowley — having led from the front this term.
‘Danny and Nicky said at the start of the season we’d do everything in our power to be the best we can,’ Pett says.
‘They’re so enthusiastic and motivational — there is never a day when they are quiet. They live every day like it’s their last. Setting the standards so high on the training ground breeds into the team on the pitch and the way they are on the sidelines, going for every decision, is not a show.
‘They want to win. Where they want to go with this club is something I really want to be part of.’
Pett sees no reason why Lincoln, promoted from the National League in 2017, cannot continue their upward trajectory if they gain promotion.
‘No one in League Two has the fanbase we’ve got but even in League One there would be clubs coming to Sincil Bank not used to getting 10,000 fans,’ he adds. ‘Lincoln is a big club and if we do go up to League One, I don’t think we’d struggle at all.
‘The way the city gets behind their club is amazing and I believe we’ve got the individuals in the team and the staff to give it a go.’
It is all a long way from being deemed too small to be taken on by an academy, with 5ft 8in Pett recalling: ‘I had a lot of trials as a kid but every club said “you’re too small” or “too lightweight”.
‘I never took it as a bad thing. If a coach was telling you you’re not good enough technically or your passing’s not good enough, that would hurt more.I couldn’t do anything to get taller but I spent a lot of time in the gym working on my core strength.’
He was captaining his local side Potters Bar Town at the age of 17. Next was Wealdstone, where he won the Isthmian League, before Stevenage gave him his professional break in 2014. Pett recounts Teddy Sheringham’s nine-month reign with fondness.
‘His standards were probably higher than what we had in the team and injuries didn’t help but to be managed by him was incredible,’ says Pett.
‘When I got my move to Lincoln he texted to say “congratulations and hope you do well”.’ Now the Londoner is keen to pass on the knowledge he has gathered both on and off the pitch.
‘I’m not such a young pup of the team,’ says Pett, who sees teaching or coaching as potential future careers.
‘When I’m playing I’m seeing ways to improve myself but also to help others, too.’
■ 8 — points separate leaders Lincoln from nearest challengers MK Dons, who they visit tomorrow
■ 8,890 — average attendance at Sincil Bank in League Two this season, the largest in the division — more than 1,500 higher than next best Notts County