Spot the difference - not a game Culverhouse was expecting to play
- Credit: Ian Burt
Ahead of King's Lynn Town's home game against Eastleigh, Chris Lakey looks at the enforced turnover of players at The Walks this season
Street, Jones, Brown, Smith, McAuley, Richards, Jarvis, King, Kelly, Southwell, Power, Carey, Marriott, Hawkins, Mair, Barrows.
It’s the team sheet for Lynn’s historic first National League game, against Yeovil Town, at The Walks.
Smith, Richards, Carey.
They’re the players from that team who featured in the latest match, Tuesday’s trip to Altrincham.
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Manager Ian Culverhouse has used 34 players this season - it could be 35 this weekend after the signing of former Reading midfielder Ethan Coleman, 21, who has joined, until the end of the season, from Brackley Town.
A sign of the times as Lynn battle to see out the season. For a few months, government aid via National Lottery funding, made it playing each week viable. But a shocking realisation mid-winter when government and league argued over the very different terms of the second help package – more grants, thought the league; no way - it’s strictly loans, said the government – caused major problems. Because the government won.
With no gate income, Lynn have had to take drastic measures that no one ever contemplated on that joyous August day last year.
That it has come to this, with owner Stephen Cleeve having to furlough his highest paid – and by definition best – players and bring in ‘strangers’, is atrocious.
We are now in a situation where Lynn can’t be relegated – although the rubber-stamping of that by the FA is, again, taking a ridiculously long. It doesn’t make it any easier – it just means the long haul to Altrincham was what sport refers to as a dead rubber. When Lynn, in the space of a week, played Sutton United, Hartlepool, and Torquay, it meant nothing, except to their promotion-chasing opponents.
One would imagine Lynn players feel a little like cannon fodder at times - like Richard Pryor’s character in The Toy, when he was paid to look after the spoilt son of a rich publisher.
But the remarkable thing is, they seem to be playing their best, bravest, most entertaining football of the season - hardly believable considering the changes that Ian Culverhouse has had to oversee.
The Lynn manager has always spoken of his squad’s togetherness and how it has contributed towards the success of consecutive promotions to the National League.
But that camaraderie has been put under severe strain: the spine-of-the-team players have been furloughed, they’re not allowed to take part on training sessions. Big voices have gone from the dressing room. And the nature of the furlough beast means you lose your best paid players, who also tend to be those most influential off the pitch as well as on it.
In have come players, some of them with characters unknown, to fill the gaps.
Whilst a scouting report will tell you what type of player you have, it won’t provide a character reference.
If that squad unity gets broken up, how long will it take to mend?
It’s tough on the man who holds the purse strings: he has to have a business head on or we will have no club at all.
But for the manager, what are the consequences? How will furloughed players feel if they are brought back into the fold? Has any of that loyalty dissipated? And how will they feel towards the club on future?
And these dead rubber games? How do you incentivise players? Culverhouse is, somehow, finding a way, which probably speaks volumes for the man’s abilities.
The fact is, he has used 34 different players in the league this season. Last season it was 22, the season before that 27 and before that, in 2017-18, his first full season in charge, it was 24.
Lynn’s 2020-21 players
Elkan Baggott: Central defender on loan from Ipswich Town.
Kyle Barker: Came in on loan from Peterborough but Lynn got their timing wrong and all parties agreed it was best he went back.
Ross Barrows: Injured and, consequently, furloughed.
Alex Brown: Injured – also furloughed
Sonny Carey: In brilliant form, still playing – and on big clubs’ radars. Eligible for furlough.
Michael Clunan: Inspired captain’s role of late. Eligible for furlough.
Jordan Davies: New face
Tyler Denton: Left back signed in January – quality. Not eligible for furlough.
Tai Fleming: Young lad plugging right-back gap. Eligible for furlough.
Michael Gash: Talisman. Can’t be furloughed.
Michael Gyasi: Not eligible for furlough.
Ryan Hawkins: Left in October, joined Lowestoft and because their league was suspended, has hardly kicked ball in anger.
Jak Hickman: Joined on loan from Bolton, suffered hamstring injury 36 minutes into his debut.
Rob Howard: Defender/midfielder on loan from Southend
Simeon Jackson: Norwich City legend signed in crisis time – costing peanuts, comparatively.
Ryan Jarvis: Experienced midfielder on furlough. Huge miss.
Aaron Jones: Bang in form then suffered Achilles injury – furloughed
Sam Kelly: One of the first players furloughed.
Cameron King: Hit top form, suffered an injury – and that means furlough.
Alex Kiwomya: Injured – not eligible for furlough
Jamar Loza: Quality winger returned to Woking in December.
Danny Lupano: Centre-half who had a shot loan spell from Hull in October when funding wasn’t as much of an issue.
Archie Mair: Keeper on loan from Norwich City – currently injured, but furlough doesn’t apply.
Adam Marriott: Golden boot winner, leading scorer this season - on furlough.
Rory McAuley: Centre-half is injured and on furlough.
Kyle Callan-McFadden: Another who can’t be furloughed – a constant in the back line.
Kairo Mitchell: Striker stepping up to the plate. Eligible for furlough.
Alfie Payne: Another free helping hand – been at Lynn before so knows the ropes.
Simon Power: Winger did well on loan from Norwich City but they sold him to Harrogate on January.
Jordan Richards: Excellent in midfield. But another who is eligible for furlough.
Theo Richardson: Goalkeeper brought in hastily on loan when Mair became injured.
Chris Smith: Centre-half. Eligible for furlough.
Dayle Southwell: On furlough.
Alex Street: Popular keeper started season but left when Mair took over. Joined Bedford Town, but another whose season has been ruined.