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King's Lynn Town chairman reflects on historic promotion



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When Stephen Cleeve bought King's Lynn Town Football Club four years ago, many thought his dream of leading them towards the Football League was somewhat ambitious.

The club was out of the play-off picture in the Evo-Stik League Southern Premier Division and it seemed more a case of consolidating their place in the league rather than achieving promotion from it.

Fast forward four years and back-to-back promotions has catapulted the Linnets into the big time with a place in the National League for the first time in the club's history.

King's Lynn Town's director of football Rob Back and (R) chairman Stephen Cleeve celebrating the club's promotion.. (36853254)
King's Lynn Town's director of football Rob Back and (R) chairman Stephen Cleeve celebrating the club's promotion.. (36853254)

The Coronavirus pandemic made sure that promotion wasn't quite achieved in the same manner of last season, but nothing can be taken from the little old Linnets who upset the National League North's big boys for much of last season.

It took three months for an outcome to be reached and Cleeve is relieved that it has finally been concluded.

Cleeve said: "I was always quietly positive that we'd go up but thank goodness it's all over.

"I'm absolutely exhausted after the last few months but now it has been confirmed I'm so pleased for everyone.

"It's a great time to be a King's Lynn Town supporter. Personally, I think we played the best football in the league and we've been rewarded for it.

Lynn have realised a long-held ambition to reach the fifth tier of English football and the achievement is one that their chairman rates as one of his finest ever.

Mark Mortimer breaks open the champagne, as Lynn fans celebrated the club's promotion to The National League.. (36977115)
Mark Mortimer breaks open the champagne, as Lynn fans celebrated the club's promotion to The National League.. (36977115)

Yet, for Cleeve, the most satisfying aspect of helping guide the Linnets to promotion isn’t to be found in the glory of what has been done on the pitch during another memorable campaign.

"The supporters have been absolutely fantastic," admitted Cleeve.

"Seeing the town come together and the club grow has given me the greatest satisfaction but we need those supporters more than ever now as we prepare for our next challenge.

"I'm not going to come out and say we're going to win the league next season, but when you stop trying to achieve something then you might as well give up.

"Our first aim has got to be to consolidate and stay in the league and then try to push on from there.

"We've got to be realistic as we're going to be up against a lot of big, full-time clubs."

"We can't go full time," he revealed. "Many of the players have other full-time jobs and we don't have a proper training facility to be able to do that.

"We need our own training centre and, if we were to get that, it would be of a huge benefit to the football club and West Norfolk as a whole.

"Several of the players would be happy to go full-time now but until we get the facilities that just isn't going to happen.

Lynn fans had a party in The Walks on Saturday afternoon, to celebrate the club's promotion to The National League.. (36977154)
Lynn fans had a party in The Walks on Saturday afternoon, to celebrate the club's promotion to The National League.. (36977154)

"The decision will ultimately rest with the manager. I will leave that to Ian (Culverhouse), that's his call, but I think we're going to be looking at more of a hybrid model of training two or three times a week."

Although rightly proud of what has been achieved to date, Cleeve and the club’s attentions have already turned to the future and ensuring that their upward trajectory continues.

Less than 24 hours after having their promotion confirmed, planning was already underway for life in the National League.

Success comes at a price and Cleeve wants the supporters to buy into making sure the club continues its success.

"It's inevitable that there are going to be price rises, it's the only we are going to survive, said Cleeve.

Lynn fans had a party in The Walks on Saturday afternoon, to celebrate the club's promotion to The National League.. (36977155)
Lynn fans had a party in The Walks on Saturday afternoon, to celebrate the club's promotion to The National League.. (36977155)

"There are a lot of unknowns in football at the moment. The corporate world is very, very difficult and is going to be for some time after the pandemic.

"We won't be any more expensive than other teams in the league and we are going to try to put together some attractive packages together for the fans.

"Would fans rather see the team struggle and keep £3 or £4 in their pocket, or pay a little bit more and see a side giving it a real go and putting smiles on people's faces?

"If we could say get 700 fans to give the club £20 a month by standing order every month it would make a huge difference and also make us hugely competitive on the pitch."

A small group of the club's loyal fan base gathered in The Walks this afternoon to celebrate Lynn's latest promotion.



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