'By 2.30am all was agreed' - the story behind Lynn manager's appointment

King's Lynn Town's new manager Tommy Widdrington, with the club's owner Stephen Cleeve

King's Lynn Town's new manager Tommy Widdrington, with the club's owner Stephen Cleeve, left - Credit: Ian Burt

Looking for a new manager is not something that I look forward to as it usually means one of two things; either the previous manager has shot the lights out and a bigger, more carnivorous rival has snapped him up or results have been awful, and a change must be made.

Clearly, in King’s Lynn Town’s case it was the latter.  

The previous manager, Ian Culverhouse, had excelled at steps 2 and 3 but step 1 seemed just a step too far for his playing philosophy. Whilst I cannot speak about how other clubs pull the trigger; at King’s Lynn it was not a reaction to one poor result but rather the culmination of several days’ worth of conversations between chairman and manager.

From my side it was important to take any pain and emotion that I was feeling out of the process and simply focus on the facts. At the time we had taken one point at home out of a possible 27 and something had to give. The previous manager refused to change his style and he felt the time had come for a new voice in the dressing room.

I have always tried to be practical and realistic. Ian Culverhouse knew that he could not just quit as he would lose his pay-off, so after dancing around the subject a figure was agreed the day after the defeat to Aldershot and I was tasked with finding a new manager who could take the club onto the next level.

The new man had to be aware that we need to develop players every season to keep the lights on; this also attracts players to the club as there are plenty of clubs that make it very difficult for a player to leave and some of these clubs are far smaller than we are.

We needed someone positive, with charisma, who could galvanise the squad, someone that would not be paralysed by fear but would see our league position as a challenge to be overcome.

The manager had to have faith in his own abilities, as some managers are worried about how a relegation would look on their CV and, in my opinion, those are the types of manager that will ensure relegation.

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The new man (before I am shot down in flames, I say man as not one woman applied for the role) would need to have connections in the game, know players and be able to work with our scouting departments.

He would need to be able to work with our academy at KES, ensuring a true pathway from school to first team. Finally, not being blessed with cash, he would need to be able to work with what we have and ensure that we get a terrific bang for our buck.

We had many applications, including some former big-name players, ex-league managers, managers from lower levels who had been performing well, two ex-managers from the National League itself and even some international managers. There was even an 18-year-old, who fancied the job and promised to give it his “best shot”.

I quickly got down to a short list of eight and interviewed away from King’s Lynn to keep the rumour mill noise down. Most were interviewed in London and the more I met the harder to differentiate between them it became.

Whilst many of the applicants knew the teams in our league well and some of them had detailed knowledge of our own players, I needed to feel the appointment in my gut as well as my head. Your gut reaction is essentially your experience gained over the years, it is in effect your intuition and is one of the most valuable senses you can have.

Whilst I was in the middle of deliberating, a trusted agent called me and mentioned that Tommy Widdrington just happened to be attending an event in Norwich and he was very keen to chat. Some will call this a coincidence, but in my view these coincidences which I have experienced many times in life are not random acts, they occur when you put the work in and maybe one could argue that they come from a power greater than us – could they even be God-given? My job is not to worry about where they came from, but to act when they turn up.

An hour or so later and Tommy was in my dining room talking football. Here was a man who had seen the game from various vantage points and “coincidentally” I had met some months previously when he came to watch Zain Walker, who was on loan from Bristol Rovers (Tommy’s previous employer). Tommy clearly knew football and knew that if we recruited well that our club could certainly progress. He also felt that there was no reason why we needed to finish in the relegation positions if we put the effort in now.

After a couple of hours, we finished the conversation with a promise from my side that I would give Tommy a decision within 24 hours.

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I drove my eldest boy (all nine years of him) to football training and reflected on our meeting and once the kids were home and in bed I decided to act. I called Tommy’s agent, told him that he was our man and by 2.30am all was agreed. Just four hours later and Tommy was driving to King’s Lynn to take his first training session.

Tommy’s debut was a terrific win last Saturday against Dover with two wonder goals from Josh Barrett (who 'coincidentally' Tommy had signed for both Coventry and Bristol Rovers) and it saw us pick up our first three points at home all season and even though we looked resolute and strong at Halifax on Tuesday night we did not have quite enough in the locker to take any points, but those present would have seen the improvement.

We have reduced the prices for Saturday’s FA Trophy game against Nantwich Town to just £10 for adults and £1 for kids (seat or terrace) and now we need the fans to come and do their bit for the club. The price is of course totally unsustainable, but we want to do what we can, when we can, as a football club, and I do hope that you will also be able to come down and support Tommy and the lads.