It’s two years to the day since Stephen Cleeve took over at King’s Lynn Town. We take a look at where the club is now, 730 days after his arrival at The Walks and look ahead to see what the future holds for the Linnets
Some people were desperate for Stephen Cleeve to fail.
There are probably people who still are. Because there’s a section of Linnets fans – if you can call them that – who seem to thrive off negativity, often online. However, they haven’t had anything to celebrate yet because despite the twists and turns and highs and lows since his arrival in May 2016, Cleeve has actually taken King’s Lynn Town forward.
While there’s always all sorts of rumours circulating about what’s going on behind the scenes at a football club that could be the main feature of a soap opera, let’s just focus on what’s happened on it. Lynn, plying their trade at Step Three of the non-League ladder, had gone a bit stale under the stewardship of Buster Chapman. Cleeve came riding in on a wave of optimism and a desire to shake off a past that didn’t all make for great reading.
His charm offensive paid off initially for many but the sceptics could not be kept quiet as Town scrapped around in mid-table. The decision to sack long-serving boss Gary Setchell was met with shock but showed Cleeve meant business – as did enticing Ian Culverhouse to step into the hot-seat.
The Lynn owner knew he had to get it right after making such a bold decision and you can argue he got it spot on because while Setchell has achieved amazing things at Wisbech, so has Culverhouse at The Walks.
‘He’s too outspoken to be loved by all but many applaud his honesty. It’s a difficult balance to find and he needs to work hard to discover a middle ground to keep more people on side’
A Norfolk Senior Cup final success was followed up by reaching the Southern League Premier play-offs, thus securing the reformed club’s highest league position yet. Some bumper gates and amazing football were other signs of progress that only fell one victory short of achieving a move up the pyramid.
But the hard work really starts now as he begins life with Simon Clark at the helm as Lynn try to match or better last term’s amazing exploits – a massive challenge.
Cleeve needs to learn from whatever caused his relationship with Culverhouse to break down and ensure it doesn’t happen again. He’s already begun sorting the much-criticised pitch and if he can keep learning from his mistakes, Cleeve will continue to become a better chairman. He’s too outspoken to be loved by all but many applaud his honesty. It’s a difficult balance to find and he needs to work hard to discover a middle ground to keep more people on side.
Yet most importantly, if the results and quality of play on show continue, people will get behind Cleeve and his promotion dream – which could become a reality next campaign.
Cleeve at The Walks factfile
- Businessman Stephen Cleeve takes over King’s Lynn Town Football Club on May 25, 2016, ending Buster Chapman’s six-year reign.
- The Lamas, near Aylsham, based supremo is thought to have paid around £250,000 to buy the club.
- The first competitive game under the Chelsea fan’s chairmanship ends in a 1-1 draw at home to Merthyr Town.
- Cleeve has to wait until his fifth match, at home to Redditch United, to pick up a victory as the Linnets’ season gets off to a slow start.
- Cleeve decides to wield the axe in February 2017 when he sacks long-serving manager Gary Setchell with the club sitting 13th in the table.
- Former Norwich City star Ian Culverhouse is appointed and guides Lynn to a Norfolk Senior Cup final success and a 13th-placed finish.
- The signings of Grant Holt and Simon Lappin create a huge blaze of publicity, even if the former’s stay didn’t last long.
- Despite Culverhouse announcing his impending exit, Town finish second and reach the play-off final where they suffer a heartbreaking 2-1 home defeat to Slough.