After becoming the first manager in Lincoln City’s history to lead the club out at Wembley Stadium, Danny Cowley has spoken of his pride following the Imps’ victory in the Checkatrade Trophy Final.
Elliott Whitehouse’s first-half strike was enough to see Lincoln past Shrewsbury Town, making it two trophies in two seasons for the club after topping the Vanarama National League last term.
While jubilant following his side’s success, the 39-year-old also heaped praise on their opponents following the closely contested final.
“You want to give the best version of yourself at Wembley – it’s not every day you wake up and know you’re going to do something that you’ll remember for the rest of your life,” said Cowley.
“The best players, and the best teams, grab the opportunities presented to them, and we did just that. There was a period in the second half when Shrewsbury pegged us back, but we stopped them creating too many serious chances.
“Paul Hurst and Chris Doig have done an amazing job. They find their success by out-working, out-running and out-fighting the opposition, so we knew we had to match them in those areas, but it’s one thing having a plan and it’s another to execute it in front of more than 40,000 supporters, which is credit to the players.
“We’ve got a lot of players who were with us at non-league level, which in comparison feels a million miles away from what we were involved with today. Everyone kept telling me to just enjoy the occasion, but we were only going to do that if we won, so I’m really proud of everyone involved with the football club.”
Currently riding high in Sky Bet League Two, following the promotion that ensured their return to the EFL, many Lincoln supporters will have said a successful season need only consist of maintaining their divisional status, but Cowley had other ideas.
Having now been crowned Checkatrade Trophy champions, the Lincoln manager is hoping to build on today’s silverware by taking the club another step up the footballing ladder, and admitted Wembley success has been a goal from the outset.
“Following last season, when we won the league and reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, it was really hard to set objectives that were realistically achievable while still being better than what we’d already done,” Cowley explained.
“Football is about winning, so I always target something that can be won and this competition was an opportunity to do that – to change history and get Lincoln to Wembley for the first time.
“We deserved to win it, but I see it as a springboard for us to kick on in the league. Winning is great but the feeling and the adulation goes away really quickly for me, and I just want to get onto the next thing, which is Port Vale next weekend.
“Human beings are really good at putting handcuffs on themselves, but sometimes you just have to dream big. If you never believe, you’ll never achieve it. When you win something as a group, there’s a real confidence that comes with the fact you’ve been able to get over the line, so we need to use the momentum from today and try to push us forward in League Two.”