It's a funny old game but King's Lynn Town are on the right track
Stephen Cleeve has ruled out bringing in another big-name player to replace Grant Holt - insisting that it's all about the football at King's Lynn Town.
Holt’s first appearance at The Walks attracted a bumper four-figure crowd, but his time as a Linnet was short-lived, with a return to the north-west and a job at former club Barrow AFC as player-coach too good to resist.
Linnets chairman Cleeve knew there were two sides to the Holt signing in the first place: at 36, Holt still had plenty to offer on the pitch and, as a legend along the A47 at Norwich City, his club were bound to pick up some ‘new’ supporters.
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Cleeve knows the game is big business, but insist football considerations will always come first.
“To be honest, we would not just bring a big name in for the sake of bringing a big name in – it really has to be a footballing decision first and then a big name second.
“Just to go and sign another player just to put bums on seats - no, I want to concentrate on getting out of this league. It is going to be a difficult league to get out of. It is a long way until April – we have got to stay in touch up until Christmas and then go on from there.”
Manager Ian Culverhouse has led the Linnets to top spot in the Southern League, following the midweek win at Banbury United, but will he get ‘the Holt money’?
“We have never said no to Ian over a signing and Ian knows there is a budget,” said Cleeve.
“We can’t just spend silly amount of money willy nilly. We have to ensure it is put together the right way and of course if Ian decides there is another player he wants we will sit down and talk about it. And I always would do that any day, irrespective of Grant being here or not being here.
“Budgets are always hard, they are driven by crowds, driven by sponsors and driven by how much money I have got available to put in and you have to put the whole lot together and see where you are and also where you are in the league and what difference it would make. And also cup runs – we haven’t had a very good cup run this year.”
The absence of a run in knockout competition might just play into Lynn’s hands: it reduces the chances of any fixture congestion and gives the team 100pc focus on the primary objective, promotion.
Culverhouse has built a quality side, including Simon Lappin, who signed the same day as Holt but, importantly, has a contract until the end of the season.
That quality has brought in bigger crowds – half as many again are going to The Walks compared to last season. The average attendance of 798 is 46th highest in the non league pyramid – they wouldn’t be that high if the product wasn’t good.
“I think it is indicative of how the manager has performed, bringing in the right players and putting the right team together to make it attractive which has brought people in,” acknowledged Cleeve.
“It is all about balance. The reality is if the football doesn’t cut the mustard no one comes, so I am delighted the crowds are going up. I think there is a bit to go still.
“We are grateful for the support – we have a great set of fans and away from home I have noticed an upturn as well, and that is great. We have to keep doing it to keep the faith and we will grow the gates even more, but it is nice feeling you are on the right track.”
It’s a squad that is something of a work in progress and which will probably reveal its true colours over the winter, when sticky pitches are the norm, and the style of play has to be adjusted to suit.
Defender Sam Gaughran cast a wary eye over the pitch following last week’s home defeat by Chesham United: he’s been around long enough to know what happens next.
“The pitches are going to be like this now – we are not going to be able to play that pretty football,” he said. “Pitches get ruined. We haven’t got a full-time groundsman. The groundstaff do as well as they can do. The way we have won games at the start of the season is we have passed teams off the park. We won’t be able to do that as much now. Yes we will get a few pitches where we can do, but it is now going to be where we have to find a way of winning ugly.”
A home defeat, the star man’s departure, a midweek win, and, today, a rare free Saturday.
All in all it’s been a salutary reminder of the adage that football is, indeed, a funny old game, as Cleeve acknowledged: “These things happen in football and the reality is could I have done anything differently in hindsight? The answer is, probably not.
“Would I have done it the same? Probably.”