Counting the cost of a season best forgotten

Jak Hickman was replaced in the first half due to injury - Credit: Ian Burt

Jak Hickman was one of many players brought in to plug gaps ... but his King's Lynn Town career lasted just 36 minutes when he was injured at Wealdstone - Credit: Ian Burt

There have been some great days at The Walks, celebrating the success of recent seasons, so it does seem a little odd to suggest that today’s events are worthy of equal treatment. 

It has been a dreadful season. Not because Lynn have struggled to win football matches, but because of circumstances off the field. 

It’s a little superficial to talk of the Covid pandemic in terms of its effect on a game of football, but we must. Every aspect of life has been affected, so football – the greatest communal sport of them all – need not be left out. 

But it isn’t quite the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel that needs celebrating today, but the optimism created: that next football season will be something like the old normal. Fans, noise, atmosphere – the 600-odd fans at The Walks on Tuesday missed the football. Those of us ‘lucky’ it hit home what we’d missed. It was a little emotional, I have to admit. One or two regulars were a little quieter than usual. It was strange. Like so much of the past year. 

With public inquiries all the rage, it might be wise for the National League to take a long, hard look at itself. Just over a year ago, it allowed games to be played a week after everyone else had stopped.  

Then it took a ridiculously long time to work out how to settle the final tables and, therefore, the promotion and relegation issues. Lynn benefited from what should have been the most obvious decision from the start - a points per game calculation. 

But it was when the new season finally got underway that came the biggest clanger of them all. Teams agreed to play on because there was government funding, via the National Lottery. Halfway through the season, that plug was pulled. The government said that was always the plan, the National League claimed otherwise. But neither side had any proof. 

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It was an utter, utter shambles, and it drove a wedge between the clubs which had cash available and those who didn’t. 

Dover were a club which didn’t and they called a halt. Lynn wanted to follow suit. Then Dover were charged, so Lynn had to play on until they knew Dover’s fate. And it wasn’t good – a £40,000 fine and a 12-point deduction at the start of next season. 

Lynn's owner Stephen Cleeve watching on - Credit: Ian Burt

King's Lynn Town owner Stephen Cleeve - Credit: Ian Burt

Had Lynn stopped playing, they would have received similar treatment. So they played on, with players furloughed and ‘freebies’ coming in from here, there and everywhere just to ensure the season finished. They had to – a 12-point deduction would have made them odds on favourites to go down, all the way back to square one. 

It was scandalously haphazard disregard for its member clubs - certainly those considered to be less well off. Their culpability in the financial burden left behind has been somewhat lost amid the excitement of fans returning. 

So the end of season 2020-2021 is a reason to celebrate. 

The other reasons are closer to home: a thankyou to the stop-gap players who have performed cartwheels to see it through, the management team who have worked with a blank canvas on a near-weekly basis, and an owner who found a way through. Like it or not. 

And then there are the ones we won’t see again in a Linnets shirt: Michael Gash and Ryan Jarvis are the first two. There will be more, but they are two players who reflect the recent glory years, two players who made major contributions to the success story. 

Magnificent on and off the field – and guaranteed to have plenty of other offers on the table that perhaps suit their personal requirements more than King’s Lynn Town can. 

It deserves to be a back-slapping, and emotional, afternoon at The Walks. Getting through this season has been almost as remarkable as what went immediately before.