Stephen Cleeve: 'Without fans it is a different game'

Fans were allowed back into The Walks for the first time since March

Fans were allowed back into The Walks for the game against Torquay in December. They will be back for the game against Aldershot at the end of this month - Credit: Ian Burt

The Walks hosts our penultimate game of the season today with the visit of Solihull Moors.

The last game of the season on May 29 against Aldershot will finally see fans allowed in to watch live football. Indeed, it will be the only place in Norfolk where you can watch a live game on that date!

Next Thursday we have a Zoom call with the SAG (Safety Advisory Group) who will set our capacity for the Aldershot game. The government are suggesting that 2,000 fans will be allowed in, but the noises behind the scenes are that this figure is only achievable if your Covid capacity is at least 2,000 - ours currently is around 1,500.

Player recruitment for next season is now in overdrive and while we cannot sign anyone until June we are determined to put together a proper footballing team that can compete in the National League. 

The FA have ratified that there will be no relegation from the National League this season. Many supporters might feel that this makes the job an easy one from the manager’s perspective, but personally, I feel for the manager. Many players have been furloughed due to a mixture of injury and expense, training has been reduced from three times a week to just once and several players are literally playing for expenses only. 

While the season does feel slightly artificial for all of the obvious reasons, Ian Culverhouse still has to muster his troops for every game and motivate them to play in the way that the game should be played. The players themselves have their own futures to play for: there are rumours that over 2,000 players will be released from the professional game and they at least have the chance to be in the spotlight while they are still playing.

To take advantage of this situation we have bolstered our recruitment team with a new addition and increased our number of scouts so that we can cover the country in a more focused manner.

Expenses keep coming thick and fast - this month week we will have two overnight stays, at Yeovil and then Wrexham, and a coach trip to Chesterfield between the two. New crush barriers have been added to the Tennyson Road End and beneath the main stand which will increase the stadium capacity and ensure a more pleasant viewing experience for our fans.  

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Now that we are in the National League fans are not able to drink alcohol and see the pitch at the same time, so we have extended a fence from our main bar which will allow fans to have a drink before the game al fresco-style and it will be a pleasant place to relax before the game rather than rushing last minute to the stadium.

Two pre-season matches have been arranged with league teams with another hopefully due to follow soon.  The search has started to rent or purchase two three-bedroom houses in King’s Lynn to accommodate some of our summer signings. The club itself became a photographic studio this week, when a local business took family portraits in numerous settings, but switched on Thursday to a polling station for the local elections. Pleasingly, bookings for events have been coming in for late summer, mainly for weddings and parties. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake that they take place.

On the pitch a very entertaining 0-0 draw was achieved against Maidenhead last Saturday. On another day we could have bagged all three points, but the result was probably a fair reflection of the game. Forty eight hours later we suffered a heavy 5-1 defeat away at Boreham Wood, even though we took the lead after four minutes with a great Michael Gash strike. Four of Boreham Wood’s five goals came in the second half and while they are a very strong team it must be remembered that we had played twice in 48 hours and they had not played for nine days.

Fans were allowed back into The Walks for the first time since March

The presence of fans at The Walks ha been sorely missed - Credit: Ian Burt

This season will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. As a club we have learned the lessons that needed to be learned and I am looking forward to celebrating the last game of the season with fans in two weeks’ time. The biggest lesson that football should have learned over the last few months is that without fans it is a different game. Fans are undoubtedly the 12th man and the sooner they are back in the stadiums up and down the country the better the game will be for it.