'It is a special place to play' - Lynn boss on The Walks
- Credit: Archant
It was back in January 2020 that Ian Culverhouse saw the potential that is harnessed inside the four walls of The Walks.
His King’s Lynn Town side were entertaining closest rivals York City. Lynn had had big matches under Culverhouse before – the play-off final defeat to Slough Town, the super final play-off final win at Warrington 12 months later which secured promotion to the National League North. But York City at home was huge.
A crowd of 4,109 crammed into the ground, which shook to its foundations when Adam Marriott fired in the only goal of the game.
Lynn were four points ahead in the table, with two games in hand – the impossible suddenly became possible. And then along came Covid... to cut a long and well-known story short, the season was ended prematurely, Lynn were promoted on a points per game basis and York are still in National League North.
Culverhouse is no stranger to red-hot match-day atmospheres as a veteran of Premier League games and tense derby clashes as a player and assistant manager a Norwich City.
But at this level in the pyramid, he knows a good thing when he sees – and hears – one. And those fans can help him and his players immensely this coming season which, after last season’s series of dead-rubber games, is by no means another free hit – Covid permitting.
"They are massive to us and what we have achieved because they have been the driving force behind the XI that goes out there,” he said.
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“They make really good noise, they really do, they are close on to the pitch as well and for the last two or three years they have been the main influence for where we have got because they have driven the team deep into games as well and carried us through and it is a special place to play, it really is.... when this place is full and the noise that it generates, and the players love that, they feed off the supporters.
“We are close to the supporters as well because we try and make it a close community football club, and it is going to be massive to us this year when the fans are back in.”
The onset of the pandemic meant the last time The Walks saw unrestricted access was in March last year against Guiseley. Until then crowds had increased as Lynn became more successful... although the turnaround in fortunes has perhaps taken even Culverhouse by surprise.
“It has been quite rapid,” he said.
“The club has grown and got to a level that probably we didn’t expect really.
“When I first came back a couple of years ago and took over again I knew coming back we had the nucleus of a really good squad and I knew they were just under-performing a little bit and we had to get them on the right track.
“Then it was all about creating momentum. We quickly got that. Kettering were out of sight at the time in the Southern Prem but we caught Stourbridge on the last day and got into the play-offs and then of course there was a super play-off, so we had an extra game, but the group really responded to us coming in and got a promotion we thoroughly deserved, and this club thoroughly deserved, and going into Conference North we knew it was going to be hard and I never forget that first away game at Guiseley - we went there and we got beat severely that day, and it was like, this is a different kettle of fish this one.
“But again the players responded. We kept the same squad as well, so we gave them a chance and again momentum carried on and carried on and we found ourselves adapting really, really quickly and things really progressed from there.
“We had York here in front of 4,000 fans and it was fantastic for the football club and obviously with the pandemic coming in it got cut short and then we had an anxious wait. I think the National League were waiting to see what the EFL were doing at the time and where they were going to fall and the points per game fell into place and we got another promotion where we didn’t really think we were going to get one – we were looking to stabilise ourselves in that North, but to go through back-to-back promotions that quickly it was a hell of a jump.”
With relegation off the table last season, it was a case of ticking off games before Lynn could start to rebuild – a process that continues with the visit of Darren Ferguson’s Peterborough United, recently promoted to the Championship, on Tuesday … another step on a quite amazing journey.
Ian Culverhouse was talking to the club’s official Youtube channel.