Stephen Cleeve: Lynn's youth structure is vitally important

Joe Gascoigne impressed on his debut for King's Lynn Town

Teenager Joe Gascoigne has come through the ranks to make his first league start for King's Lynn Town - Credit: Ian Burt

It has been a huge positive for King’s Lynn Town to gain back-to-back promotions, but it has put the youth structure and the pathway for young players into the first team under the spotlight.

On Bank Holiday Monday, Joe Gasgoine made his debut for the first team at 18 years old; he has played for our reserves and our Under 21s and I was delighted that he had the chance to step up to the plate. 

His grandparents are familiar faces at The Walks, helping out wherever they can, and I am sure they were as pleased as punch with their grandson’s elevation.  On the day, Joe gave his all and was a credit to the football club.

Next season our Under 18s will no longer compete in the Thurlow Nunn Youth League; instead our Under 19s will compete in the FA Youth Cup. At present they compete in the National League Youth Alliance, which is run as an education programme with King Edward VII School in King’s Lynn,

That leaves our reserves side, which this season housed our Under 21s and competed at Step 6 of the non-league pyramid in the Thurlow Nunn (once known as the Eastern Counties League). 

It is a league full of history with A teams from clubs such as Chelsea and Spurs playing there during the 1950s. Leaving the romance of the competition to one side, we need to give some serious thought on how to develop our budding future stars.

One way would be to put together an Under 23s team that consists of the best players from our Under 19s, younger players from our first team who have not featured in the first XI during the week and trialists who we could look at for the future. This team would play friendlies against Football League sides at clubs as high up as the Championship. 

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Over the next few weeks, we will come up with a blueprint so that the club can continue to grow and players can fulfil their ambitions of playing for our first team.

Last week and this week we are holding trials at The Walks for players from all age categories, from Under 16s to Under 6s and the response has been phenomenal, not least because the players can continue playing for their local village teams but also benefit from an extra day’s coaching at King’s Lynn. That way local football is the winner with the standard hopefully rising across the county.

The news this week is that the chairman of the National League, Brian Barwick, announced his resignation, we have bought in a new player Alex Babos and two players have moved on to other clubs. 

There have also been ground improvements, including two new gantries that have been built on to the roof where yours truly now sits on match-day to co-commentate on home fixtures. 

We will be there as normal for the visit of another ex-league club, Chesterfield, and the view is so much better than our old vantage point which had no elevation at all.  The only downside is it can be pretty exposed and cold on the roof, which is why the likes of John Motson are often seen in sheepskin.  I think Mark Hearle and I are some way off being at his level so sheepskin coats may be a little premature for us both.