Interview: Terry Fleming

When you see Terry Fleming galloping around the football pitch, you could be forgiven for thinking the Marston Green-born right-back is a fresh-faced 21-year-old, keen to make his mark on the game. In reality the enthusiastic Lincoln United player-manager’s career is now into its third decade. At 38-years-old, he is now in the twilight of his playing days.

Terry Fleming

Fleming was appointed Lincoln United player-manager in February this year. Photo: Tom Farmery

“My legs were saying, “Fleming, you’ve got to stop!”” he says half-jokingly after a midweek training session.

“Obviously I like playing football and as long as I feel fit enough then I will continue to do that. But, if my body tells me so, I’ll stop.”

And Fleming has other responsibilities now. He took over the reigns at Ashby Avenue from John Wilkinson, who moved up to the boardroom in February.

Fleming holds Wilkinson, who has been involved at the club for nearly 20 years, in the highest of regards.

“[I was] flattered, but it came as a shock,” explains Fleming, on being offered the United job.

“John says he wants to stay on at the club in some capacity which is fantastic for me, because I know I can trust him.

“Hopefully we can work as a team, with him off the field and me obviously producing a team to give performances on the field.”

Fleming’s career dates back to the early nineties when he played in the inaugural season of the Premier League for a Coventry City side which included the likes of Kenny Sansom, Steve Ogrizovic and Peter Ndlovu.

He spent two seasons at Highfield Road before forging a career in the fourth tier with Northampton Town and then Preston North End.

Struggling Third Division club Lincoln City were the next team to call on Fleming’s services and he is still nostalgic about the club he played over 200 times for.

“The last game of the season we had to beat Brighton and hope Leyton Orient could beat Torquay, which happened and we got promoted into [what is] now League One.

“We had some fantastic games down at Lincoln in the FA Cup runs and League Cup runs. We had Man City and Southampton—some fond, fond memories.”

Fleming went on to Plymouth Argyle and Cambridge United before ending up at the Imps’ bitter rivals Grimsby Town, where became something of a cult figure amongst supporters, despite only staying for one season.

A group of fans set up ‘The Black Zidane Appreciation Society’ to pay homage to Fleming’s ability—something which he admits is humbling.

“It’s really good to know that fans do appreciate the player I am.

“Wherever I have gone, I have given 110% and I give that on and off the field.

“The fans do see that and they’ve had appreciation boards and websites set up in my name, which is fantastic and I just thank them very much for doing that.”

After leaving the Mariners, Fleming had spells at several non-league clubs before John Wilkinson took him to Grantham Town, where he was made captain.

When Wilkinson left the Gingerbreads for Lincoln United in 2008, he took Fleming with him and last year told The Linc how he saw managerial potential in the veteran.

Despite having landed the top job at the Whites, Fleming doesn’t think it is necessary for rookie managers to begin their apprenticeship at non-league level.

“If you’re lucky enough to start at league level then brilliant.

“You’ve got a good foundation, you’ve got a good base and you’ve got everything in place already.

“Starting here, you haven’t got a silver spoon in your mouth.

“You’ve got to be able to adapt because most players have another job outside of football.

“But it’s good schooling for me. We’re playing in a competitive league and I’m just happy to be given the opportunity to start here.”

Ex-Lincoln City boss Chris Sutton also led the Imps in a competitive division in League Two—but ultimately failed to bring success to Sincil Bank.

“You can’t just go in and wave a wand and think that because you’re a big name in the Premiership you’re going to do the business,” explains Fleming.

“The players that he had to deal with probably didn’t meet up to his expectations, but it’s a hard league.

“He [Sutton] probably underestimated the challenge he had, I don’t know, I can’t speak for him.”

Fleming’s attentions though are fixed firmly on his own club but he admits that changes need to be made above his head if Lincoln United are to progress.

“It hasn’t been brilliant this season to say the least.

“We’re trying to get executives into the club to help us off the field and hopefully that can be sorted out for the start of next season.”

Fleming will be entering his 40th year next year but, even if his legs do stop working, his thirst for success will continue to grow as he attempts to take Lincoln United up the football pyramid.

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