Stephen Cleeve: Victory over 'Hollywood' visitors is written in the stars

Flags at The Walks. Picture: Ian Burt

The Walks may be a far cry from Wrexham's home ground, but it's home - Credit: Ian Burt

King's Lynn Town owner Stephen Cleeve with his exclusive column - ahead of a home game against Wrexham that is a 'crunch' encounter for many reasons ...


This weekend sees the club that I nearly bought play the club that I did buy. 

It is a mouth-watering contest at home to Wrexham and the fixture that I have most looked forward to since they were published in the summer.

It really is a battle between the haves and the have nots, Wrexham, who are bankrolled by Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, and King’s Lynn, who have to rely on the far lesser persona of myself to get them through the season.

In the 1970’s, Wrexham played in the European Cup Winners' Cup on four occasions, battling against teams such as Anderlecht and indeed in that same 75-76 season they were knocked out in the quarter-final by the Belgium team Rensenbrink who went on to beat West Ham in the Heysel Stadium and win the trophy.  In the 84/85 season Wrexham played Porto (they won) and Roma on legendary nights and they sporadically played in Europe until the 95/96 season when the Romanian outfit Petrolul Ploesti knocked them out of the Cup Winners' Cup for the last time.

A general view of of Racecourse Stadium, Wrexham, Wales.

Wrexham's Racecourse Ground has hosted some famous nights of football - Credit: PA

The Racecourse ground is the oldest international stadium that is still in use; the first international match it hosted saw Wales lose to Scotland in 1877. Then we have the famous FA Cup win against Arsenal in 1992, with legendary players such as Mickey Thomas - who when I last visited could still be seen on a matchday at the club, although now without those flowing locks of dark hair - and managers such as the great John Neal, who was at the helm for those early European journeys before departing for Middlesbrough and then Chelsea.

All of that, of course, is great, but it counts for nothing when they arrive at The Walks on Saturday with their four-man TV crew to film their Netflix style documentary, and Humphrey Kerr, the old Etonian comedian keeping the seat warm for the incoming A Listers. In their path will be a resilient King’s Lynn Town, who know what this victory will mean for the club. 

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The points probably will not matter as I doubt there will be any relegation from the National League this season, if, as expected, the National League North and South draw down the shutters in the coming days. But it's days like this that live long in the memory in King’s Lynn as a town, days like this when we rise to the occasion and days like this when crowds should be in The Walks packing the place to the rafters. 

Instead, the game will be streamed, I will, as usual, be a co-commentator and the ground will be eerily silent other than the players and management encouraging each other - but at least with Mark (Hearle) and I commentating we will still have a connection with our fans.

Stephen Cleeve watches on. Picture: Ian Burt

Stephen Cleeve and Marl Hearle will be on commentary duties - Credit: Ian Burt

There is no question in my mind that King’s Lynn will win this game, it is written in the stars.

Wrexham, after the takeover was announced, picked up form, but in their last nine fixtures they have managed just two wins (both against sides in the bottom three – Weymouth and Dover). The manager seems to be a dead man walking and half the team know that they are probably surplus to requirements with new transfers on their way in. 

You can understand why they would be struggling for motivation, especially as the result may well not mean anything anyway if the season closes after next week’s vote; but for our team, it is a chance to put down a marker, to produce the kind of performance that we know we have in us, be bold and fearless. The lads have earned the right to play Wrexham, now they must enjoy playing them. We may not have quite the glamorous past that Wrexham have but we have grit and determination in spades, we have played in little more than cow fields with fences around them, felt the pain of going broke and slowly clawed our way back up the pyramid and so this game means something to us. We have worked hard to get there so we must enjoy being here.

A view of the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, USA.

You can keep your Hollywood glamour - Credit: PA

I believe that if we can sort out the training ground issue we have a real chance as a club to rival the likes of Wrexham. We have no competition in terms of other local clubs, we have passionate fans, a stadium that has a touch of the old school about it, but is in a unique glorious setting and with our new charity Linnets in the Community, we will be in the centre of the community for all things going forward. 

I believe the club could be bigger than Burton, Accrington, Forest Green, Harrowgate, Stevenage and Salford and they have all forged a life for themselves in the football league. And so can we.

At the moment there is so much confusion off the pitch. Life is as hard as it has ever been, but that will have to sort itself out one way or the other over the next month or so. All problems have solutions and something will happen, it always does. After next week’s vote, if the season continues, we have to hope that Sport England give us a grant. If they don’t then we will have some very big decisions to make to ensure the club’s survival.

The game against Wrexham gives us a break from all that and a chance to enjoy a game of football. Whilst we cannot compete with Wrexham’s history, we will create our own history if we win, and that alone makes it worth competing for.