‘On current figures I need to put in another £100,000’ - Linnets owner

Joy for King's Lynn's Rory McAuley, left, and Aaron Jones as they celebrate clinching promotion last

Joy for King's Lynn's Rory McAuley, left, and Aaron Jones as they celebrate clinching promotion last season Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant

Ian Culverhouse won't talk promotion - it's not in his football manager's DNA to tempt fate.

King's Lynn Town boss Ian Culverhouse Picture: Ian Burt

King's Lynn Town boss Ian Culverhouse Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant

A lifetime in the game has taught him to be careful - hollow promises and idle banter today could come back to bite him at the end of the season.

A sneak peak at the table when the winter recedes and the leaves begin to turn green again might just prompt him to discuss it, but frankly, it isn't worth the effort until then.

Survival is all that matters to the Linnets boss and frankly, considering they are newcomers to the National League North and were tipped to struggle, that would have been perfectly satisfactory. Until Lynn defied the odds to get where they are today - second in the table, one point behind York City and four ahead of Chester.

Now people are talking. Prematurely, maybe - but try and stop them.

Ian Culverhouse, right, and Stephen Cleeve - the odd couple? Picture: Ian Burt

Ian Culverhouse, right, and Stephen Cleeve - the odd couple? Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

The problem Lynn have is that they are poor relations. Owner Stephen Cleeve has pumped an awful lot of money into the club, make no mistake. But financially he can't compete with some of the bigger clubs, some of which are full-time operations.

So the logic is, if it is a struggle financially in this league, what would it be like if Lynn did the unspeakable and went up again, to within one more brilliant season of the Football League?

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The answer: almost impossible, certainly in the current way of operating.

Let's take the test case that came up recently. Lynn had a problem in central defence, with Chris Smith and Ryan Fryatt injured and out for weeks, not days. Culverhouse wanted a replacement brought in, rather than putting square pegs into round holes to cover. One signing wasn't sanctioned, but the return of Tom Ward from Grantham was.

It is the period before Ward's signing that has led to a clear disruption behind the scenes, reminiscent of the fall-out between owner and manager which led to the latter's exit at the end of the 2017-18 season.

No one at The Walks wants it, but it appears to be there. You have a manager who wants the best thing for his team and an owner who has to watch the pennies. Both admirable traits, both bound to meet head to head at some stage.

Cleeve used his programme notes for Tuesday night's home game against Leamington to put his side of the story. It's a money thing.

"Whilst crowds are up hugely on last season (I understand about 56 per cent) that was from a low mark and sadly some fans just multiply the gate by £15 and assume that is what the club is banking...

"There are some costs that you have to pay cash on a match day, such as referees, but most does get banked so let us take the Altrincham game as an example. Zoe, our Box Office Manager, took £1,600 on credit cards, £3,600 cash, and online sales totalled another £3,000 giving a grand total including VAT of £8,200.

"Remember that our crowd figure (888) that day included season ticket holders, more than 100 children, players' guests, carers and sponsors and a few service personnel who we let in free for Remembrance Day."

Up to the midweek game, Cleeve saw around £75,000 come in through commercial sales, £25,000 in FA Cup money. But electricity and water was £20,000, the pitch £20,000, coaches and hotels more than £25,000, pitch hire for training £5,000 plus £20,000 sundries. Feeding players, officials and visiting directors is £15,000. With players wages more than 150pc of total gate receipts and the money from the sale of Frazer Blake-Tracy to Peterborough United, Cleeve calculates he needs £16,000 from every home game to break even.

"The accountant suggests that on current figures I need to put in another £100,000 in addition to the £30,000 needed for ground improvements and in addition to the £30,000 that I put in over the summer to keep the club going.

"So when I read comments from fans along the lines of 'Cleeve needs to put his hands in his pocket', well I would wager that I put more into the club every week than most fans put in every decade."

And there you have it: Cleeve is spending a small fortune keeping the club going, the manager is jumping through hoops to take the team into a superb position. For the fans' sake, you hope they are aware of each other's ambitions for the club and can work towards a mutually agreed goal.

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