Cleeve and Culverhouse - the final days

Ian Culverhouse is the new manager of King's Lynn Town FC. With chairman Stephen Cleeve

Stephen Cleeve with Ian Culverhouse after he was unveiled as the new manager, back in 2017 - Credit: Ian Burt

Stephen Cleeve has spoken of the final days of the Ian Culverhouse era – and how an amicable handshake ended a sometimes strained relationship between the two - Chris Lakey reports 


The writing was on the wall for Ian Culverhouse before King's Lynn Town's home defeat by Aldershot - a result that was more about when than if the manager would leave the club. 

Manager and owner Stephen Cleeve had spent around two and a half hours the previous evening discussing the next move. Much of it would be about the pay-off, the need for which was effectively confirmed on Saturday afternoon just before 5pm. The issue was resolved over a couple of phone conversations and a few emails. 

Cleeve offered to delay the inevitable by a day so that Culverhouse could gather his players together to say his goodbyes. He declined. Instead, training on Monday was cancelled and the announcement of his departure was made early in the afternoon. 

The Ian Culverhouse era was over. 

Ian Culverhouse is the new manager of King's Lynn Town FC. Picture: Ian Burt

Ian Culverhouse - all smiles on his first day at work, in 2017 - Credit: Ian Burt

Was it really amicable at the end?

“In the end it was a very good relationship, we didn’t shout and swear at each other," said Cleeve. "We had a meeting on Friday night which lasted around two and a half hours. Ian actually continued it, we could have finished it a lot earlier. We were in one place and we had to end it there and he said, ‘let’s go to another place’, and we sat down and carried on talking 

“It was a great chat really and I think he just felt he had gone on and tried and it hadn’t worked out for a number of different reasons, it just needed a new voice and the club was in a situation where it couldn’t continue, and that was it really, so there were no hard feelings.  

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"On the Friday night nothing was decided, we just went into the game on Saturday and after that result I think both of us knew in our hearts that was it. 

“It couldn’t go on and I understand that Ian didn’t want to change his style. And his argument to that, and I get it, is that apart from Wrexham where there were individual errors, apart from Stockport, who are obviously a class apart from any team we have played, and apart from possibly the second half at Altrincham, although we did have a sending off in that game, we weren’t completely smashed to bits, we held our own. It was the odd mistake that was killing us. So I do get that, I respect it and I can see it and I said to him it is not about ‘he’s right and I’m wrong or I’m right and he’s wrong’ it is just we are where we are, the stats don’t lie – we are the second worst team in the league. We don’t necessarily have the worst players, but we’re the second worst team so we need to change that and find solution 

“So that was it. Obviously we had to agree a settlement side of things and everything was sorted out over a few emails and a couple of calls and I found a way where the club could afford to let him go, well maybe not afford, but for something to happen anyway, otherwise we would have been in real trouble. He would have been and we would have been, so we found a way and that was it. 

"So it was fine at the end – it was just where it was and we couldn’t do anything about it. Obviously we had different views on how to recruit and perhaps the style and the way we were playing at the moment given what was available to him. Those were the two things, and his problem was the table and where we were. Obviously I want us to give everything we have got so we don’t go down, I want to stay in this league so if we stay in this league this season and the fans get behind us we have a hell of a chance of building something. But if we don’t then a lot of hard work has gone to waste. He understood that, he is not an idiot, he has been around the game long enough. 

“It was all very amicable.” 

Stephen Cleeve watching on

Stephen Cleeve has no plans to give up as owner of King's Lynn Town - Credit: Ian Burt

What about that Tweet? 

Cleeve suggested, on social media, on Saturday night, that his own position was ‘up for review’. 

He wrote: “Some fans feel that I should step down as the performances are on my watch and maybe they are right. All I can say tonight if that I feel your pain.” 

However, he hasn’t decided to give up. 

“No. I haven’t but I felt as down as anyone one else after the game on Saturday. Obviously it is difficult – the budget isn’t a bad budget and I have never prevented a signing, so when you read stuff from people saying he has only got what he works with, well what he got was what he brought in, what he decided to buy. 

“You think to yourself, people don’t know half the story, half the facts and you think, ‘do I want to keep pushing water uphill?’ The reality is I have done everything I could possibly do.  

“Let’s look at it another way around - I could have said to Ian at the end of last season, ‘look this isn’t going to work next year, we need to call it a day’. If I had done that the fans would have been on my back. I don’t want to be smart but you could see what was going to happen and you can’t do anything about it and the reality is maybe I should have said to Ian at that point, but there would have been a huge backlash. 

“I haven’t had enough because I want to make it work. I want to do what I set out to do and it is hard to do it, but we will try our hardest and put the right building blocks in place, but it is relentless. "

On flying solo

“You have got to remember where I am, there is no one to turn to, no support next to you. Everyone says ‘you need three or four people with you’ and that is all very well and good until you say. would you like to come on board and write a cheque out every month? Why would you? You’re not going to get it back. Last week the earliest I got in the house was 10.30 each night, one night it was 2am. I have the fans saying I am not doing a good job and you’re writing cheques out and you think ‘what the hell is the point?’  

“It is full time all day every day.”

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