What have Norwich City’s Uefa Cup defeat of Bayern Munich and King’s Lynn Town got in common?
- Credit: Archant
King’s Lynn Town head to Port Vale for an FA Cup tie with manager Ian Culverhouse drawing on a philosophy from his playing days at Norwich City - as CHRIS LAKEY reports
Ian Culverhouse has turned the clock back almost three decades as his brings a touch of Norwich City’s glory days to his King’s Lynn Town squad.
It was 27 years ago this week that Culverhouse featured in the Canaries side which eliminated the great Bayern Munich team from the Uefa Cup, one of the greatest chapters in the club’s history.
Culverhouse has always believed teams need a core group of players – people who identify with the club and its philosophies – rather than an annual summer churn which runs the risk of eroding identity.
The City team of 1992-93 finished third in the Premier League, but when the Uefa Cup dream ended at the hands of Dennis Bergkamp and Inter Milan, manager Mike Walker left, John Deehan took over, and the team drifted to a mid-table finish.
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“John had his own ideas of how he wanted to take it forwards,” recalls Culverhouse. “I think because the group had stayed together from the previous year in the Premier League and Mike moving on as soon as we got knocked out, different ideas crept in.
“In a way I have always looked at what we did at Norwich and that core group that drove the football club on and it is something here I have tried to replicate as much as possible, because if you get that core group, they drive it, because they know the standards of the training, they know how to drive the football club because they know what we are looking for all the time, and as a group at Norwich, we had such a good tightly-knot group that when they started to take pieces out of it and bring other people in it didn’t really fit.”
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In recent summers, Culverhouse has talked of building for a new campaign with a core group: players like Rory McAuley, Ryan Jarvis, Michael Clunan, Michael Gash. Sometimes there is collateral damage – the sale of full-backs Frazer Blake-Tracy and, before him, Cameron Norman, or the surprise exit of Chris Henderson. Then there’s the footballing decisions which prompt players to move on, like keeper Alex Street has just done. But for every one that goes out, a new man comes in and, if successful, gets the core group membership badge.
Aaron Jones is a good example: the right-back berth of Norman’s was hard to fill, but Jones has stepped up to the plate: had it not been for injury he would be stepping out at Port Vale at 3pm today. It didn’t prevent him being cheerleader-in-chief from the stands as Lynn beat Woking a week ago.
“I heard it all in the stands and in the dressing room he was all over everyone,” said Culverhouse. “It’s fantastic, but that is the group, that’s how close that group is, and doing this (new training schedule) as well, even though they don’t recognise it, but coming here in the morning and being a collective again will only help on that bonding side.”
The core group is easily identifiable: “They know the football club, and they know the standards that have been set previously and the new boys come in and pick it up very quickly and they are very vocal in training sessions so if your standards do drop, someone is going to tell you.”
Culverhouse’s new training regime will see most players also attending morning sessions twice a week – a move towards one day becoming a full-time club.
“It is massive for us,” he said. “It gives us more contact time, it gives the players a lot more rest - after work they don’t have to get in their cars and travel for two hours, they will be home after 3pm, we can do more analysis and work on one-to-one stuff with them so it is massive for the development of this football club and the progression of it.
“It is something we were looking forward to trying to implement and trying to grow the football club. It’s moved on a massive pace in the last two years so it is another step towards professionalism and trying to get these players as professional as we can. I am grateful to Steve (owner, Stephen Cleeve) for letting us have a go at it because it might just give us a chance of staying in this league.”
Today’s priority is the FA Cup, when Culverhouse will be forced into a change with striker Kairo Mitchell cup-tied but is hoping his players will enjoy unfamiliar surroundings.
“It has got to get your juices flowing going to a place like that,” he said. “I know when we went to Telford last year the players looked around and thought, ‘oh yes, I fancy a bit of this’ and we turned out a massive performance on the day.”
King’s Lynn Town won 3-1 that day...