How Lynn's Road To Success Was Paved By Reconciliation

It’s November 2018, and King’s Lynn Town fans are taking an anxious look over their shoulders. The few teams below them in the Southern League Central are starting to pick up points.

Months after reaching the play-off final, their team are certainly not.

They have the players, too good surely to be playing Step 4 football next season but we all know how football can twist and how football can turn. It’s the perverse reason why we’re all actually pretty fond of it.

Just a season-and-a-half later, we were handed conclusive proof of the game’s fluctuation levels and erratic abilities.

Yes, they say never go back, but they also say you mustn’t go to sleep on an argument.

Ian Culverhouse’s decision to suck it up, sit down and sort out his differences with chairman Stephen Cleeve was the best decision either of them have ever made.

It took a team going nowhere to a double promotion. It’s handed them dates with clubs who probably didn’t know they even existed just a few Christmases ago.

King’s Lynn, by hook or by crook, are the National League North winners - remarkable for a club officially only in existence for a decade, formed when the original Linnets went to the wall in 2010.

For Culverhouse, who returned after six months away having left under a cloud when his relationship with the board broke down, it was good to be back.

“Steve and I had a disagreement, that’s why I left originally,” the open former Norwich City defender told the National League’s Oli Osborn on an end-of-season Zoom chat.

“We were both probably a little pig-headed and stubborn that we didn’t build those bridges again sooner.

“We had just lost in the play-off final to Slough. I went to Grantham and three months into the season Robbie Back got in touch and asked if I would consider returning.

“I said I would meet with Steve, so we sat down and talked for a few hours. In the end, it was a no brainer.”

He’s made worse decisions. Less than two seasons later, the club incredibly find themselves one promotion away from the Football League.

“I looked at the squad and knew that if we had a plan this could really take off,” he added.

“Luckily enough it did, they have been a pleasure to work with. After the first game, which was Alvechurch away, I knew we could do something.

“Baz (Paul Bastock, coach) came to me half way through the second half and said ‘I have never seen a team play like this, it’s unbelievable’. I told him there was more to come, I knew that if they bought into it they would kick on.

“Kettering were running away with the league but I told them we’re going for them. We nicked runners-up spot, and won the Super Play-Off having been losing in the last few minutes. It was a hell of an achievement from where we were - 16th to promotion.”

Lynn have location on their side, too.

Culverhouse’s team didn’t lose at home from September 2018 through to February 2020, an astonishing record which fueled their back-to-back promotion success.

“We’re two hours from anywhere, we’re an hour from the nearest road!” joked the 55-year-old, who spent over a decade at Carrow Road. “Our record before we finally lost to Kidderminster was fantastic - pivotal to what we are about.

“To go 17 months without losing at The Walks was a credit to the town. Yes, the players win the points, but the people of King’s Lynn are central to what we do. The fans buy into it all. They come out and support us, which really drives us on - they help make it a tough place to come to.

“It’s going to be a culture shock for some of these big clubs to come to our ground!

“We can’t wait for the fixture list to come out, that is the moment when it will all become real.”

But will they have to tackle the step up without free-scoring Adam Marriott, who managed 28 goals before the season was curtailed - that’s one every 98 minutes.

“It’s not just his goalscoring, his all-round game is fantastic,” the manager said. “We’ve had him for two years now, he is always first to mention the big man next to him who puts his body on the line.

“Maz has pulled the goals out and yes there are whispers of him moving on and back into pro football. If he does, he goes with our blessing - he has been fantastic for us.

“Don’t get me wrong, we would be a better side with him in it but if he gets his dream move, then great for him. He’s been fantastic for this club.”

So what of the imminent step up?

“I always believed that if you keep your core group together then you always have a chance,” he adds. “They know how you work, and they set the standards. They know the demands and they know what’s required.

“We’ll do that again. We have a couple of other targets, and hopefully we can get them over the line. We have seven or eight players who have been with us for a while now.

“But it’s going to be very, very hard. We are going to be a part-time club in pretty much a professional league - we’ve earned the right to have a crack at it, so we’re going to give it our best efforts.

“We really can’t wait for it all now. It’s a big league with big teams and hopefully we won’t be lambs to the slaughter. I know this group will give it their best shot. What an adventure we are going to have!”

Ian Culverhouse’s quick-fire Q&A….

Your favourite game of last season?
York at home was a massive one for us, especially with the huge crowd. We wanted to get in their face and give them a game. It was a special day and a big, big win.

Your goal of the season?
Southport away. Hell of a finish from Adam Marriott. The build-up, 20 or 30 passes, typified the way we played. They believed in how we were playing.

Pick one word to describe your team other than ‘champions’?
Together. A lot of people talk about our team spirit. It makes us stronger, there’s no individuals here.

Which is the stand out achievement of your career?
I liked 2018-19. We had to do it totally on the pitch, but this season is one of the biggest - obviously we wanted to finish it, but nobody saw these circumstances arriving.


Where next?

Halifax Have What It Takes To Apply The Perfect Finish Charlie Cooper wasn’t actually around to see all the late summer drama unfold.
LV BET Preview: The National League South And North Runners And Riders In the Vanarama National League North and South, official betting partner LV BET have York and Havant and Waterlooville favourites for promotion in each respective division.