One of three new arrivals at the start of 2021, Chris Lines joined us from League One side Northampton Town on a short-term deal. In fact, it was partly due to the midfielder’s efforts that the Cobblers were a division above us at the time; the experienced lad part of the side that won promotion from League Two via the playoffs at the end of a rather different 2019-20 season. Like others with such pedigree, we of course hoped that sort of influence could rub off on us. At the time, we didn’t half need it down the wrong end of League Two. As time would prove, it wouldn’t rub off on us either.
With the Cobblers, it was the fifth promotion of Lines’ pro career. So, he definitely knew a thing or two about heading upwards. At the age of 35-years-old, the midfielder was into the latter stages of his career when he came to us. You can’t put a price on experience, right? But it does perhaps explain why his initial deal with us only took him up to the close of the 2021-2 campaign. There were times when his experience shone through, but those times didn’t happen often enough to stop Boro’ getting tangled up in the relegation battle; chipping in with three goals from 37 outings.
As boss Steve Evans ran the rule over his squad in summer 2022, Lines was onto his third – and final – permanent manager during his time with us. We suspect the decision to let him go was also one that suited both parties well.
Chris Lines: Before Boro’
So, five promotions. For the Bristol-born Lines, it all started at Bitton; moving onto Bristol Rovers as a teenager. In all, he was with the Gas for nearly 10 years and it was here that promotion number one came; Rovers winning the 2006-7 League Two playoff final. It was a watershed campaign for the player himself too. From the 2007-8 season on, he became a first-team regular. With Rovers’ relegation in 2011, however, his time at the club neared its end.
After featuring in the 2011-2 season opener for Rovers, Lines moved north and signed for Sheffield Wednesday. In his first season there, promotion number two arrived. And he can thank Boro’ for that too; us preventing Sheffield United from securing automatic promotion and allowing the Owls to benefit. But he didn’t quite make the mark he’d have wanted to in the Championship. So, he out he went on loan for the second half of the 2012-3 season to MK Dons. On his return that summer, his contact was cancelled by mutual consent.
Next came a two-year spell at Port Vale; the first side at which he didn’t win a promotion. If it counts, however, the Valiants had just gone up to League One. With a one-year contract extended into a second, he lost his place in the side midway through the 2014-5 campaign and rejoined Bristol Rovers on loan. That was the pre-cursor to a permanent move back to his former club; a spell that yielded the next two of his promotions.