Paddy Davitt: Back the lads. It matters to Norfolk football
PUBLISHED: 12:07 02 May 2018 | UPDATED: 12:10 02 May 2018
You never forget your first love, so they say. Mine came in the less than glamorous surroundings of Fisher Athletic, in the imposing shadow of London’s financial skyline back in May 2004.
Dale Watkins and Chrissy Bacon struck second half goals to secure King’s Lynn’s first title in 50 years, under the astute leadership of joint managers Darren ‘Biff’ Bloodworth and Kevin Boon.
That was a day to be proud of your town and your county.
A day that touched the lives of all those invested in following a local club far away from the bright lights of the Premier League or even the grind of the Championship, in Norwich City’s case right now.
The Canaries’ have taken their loyal supporters on an epic journey these past 10 years or so - as many will have savoured again over recent days as a by-product of those warm eulogies lavished on Wes Hoolahan.
The descent into League One was the sour counter-point to a thrilling ride all the way to the Premier League and back a step, before a glorious occasion at Wembley followed by another retreat.
But try being a Linnet during the same period.
The Lynn football club who marched to that rare title success in 2004 is no more. Wound up in the High Court over an unpaid tax bill in 2009 half-way through a campaign under the abrasive leadership of Carl Heggs.
The journeyman striker was a force of nature, rather than a manager, who had a novel solution to perceived criticism from the terraces which revolved around the suggestion to erect a boxing ring in the centre circle prior to a home game to air any personal grievances directly through the noble art.
All that just months after survival in their one and only season at Conference-level under former Norwich City youth coach Keith Webb was overturned, not on the pitch but in a room at the Derbyshire FA headquarters, following the club’s failure to commence maintenance work to comply with ground grading regulations.
Soap opera does not do it justice.
But the re-formed Lynn is now two home games from getting back to that same level in the non league pyramid.
This being the Linnets the latest promotion quest is unfolding against a backdrop of Ian Culverhouse’s very public announcement he intends to move on from The Walks in the summer to seek a fresh challenge.
The squad he carefully cultivated, featuring the likes of former Canaries’ Simon Lappin, Camerons King and Norman and Ryan Jarvis, finished the regular Southern Premier Division campaign in second place on a mammoth 100 points.
But beyond home advantage for the one-off semi-final visit of Weymouth on Wednesday, and potentially a Bank Holiday Monday play-off final against either Slough Town or Kettering Town, it pays to take nothing for granted when it comes to King’s Lynn Town FC.
The previous incarnation tried and failed in three previous home play-offs to seal promotion.
The first of those came just 48 hours after that league title had been lifted in a small pocket of London in 2004, when just over 2,000 fans saw Redditch triumph 1-0 at The Walks in a sudden death tie as part of the embryonic roll out of the two-tier Conference structure.
Lynn also fell short against Chippenham and Maidenhead in successive seasons two years later.
A new generation of fan will have no recollection of those contests.
But history can be made over these next few days in west Norfolk.
The county’s premier non league club deserves backing from beyond the town walls.
A flourishing local football scene operating below the Canaries’ quest to get back to the Premier League brings fringe benefits for every level of the game.
The loyalty of Norwich City’s fan base every time it comes to season ticket renewals underlines the passion that exists in these parts.
It is bordering on a travesty Nelson’s county has so far been unable to sustain a club at the sharp end of the non league structure - with aspirations to go even higher.
There is another chance over the coming days to take a significant step.
Grasp the opportunity. Good luck lads.
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