Webb dismisses Francis transfer talk

Paddy Davitt King's Lynn boss Keith Webb dismissed speculation linking prized asset Joe Francis with a move to League One Brighton.The 21-year-old - who signed a contract extension at The Walks last season - had reportedly attracted interest from former Seagulls' boss Dean Wilkins.

Paddy Davitt

King's Lynn manager Keith Webb announced his title-winning side would be playing in the Conference North next season during a civic reception held in the team's honour last night.

Webb ended weeks of speculation about the Linnets' future opponents after accepting a certificate of appreciation from grateful West Norfolk dignitaries and senior politicians at the town hall.

He told his players he hoped to "spread the good word of King's Lynn to northern England" and said work had already begun in preparing his squad for its new challenge.

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"It is nice to know that the town have appreciated all the hard work that has gone on at the football club," he said. "But as far as I'm concerned last season was put to bed after the presentation at The Walks.

"The hard work started on the Monday to make sure we are ready for next year.

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"We have got a decent squad and it is important we add three or four players and improve what is already here.

"We are in the habit of winning and if we approach it in a positive manner who knows where it will lead?"

The reception was organised by the mayor's office to celebrate the club's first ever Southern League Premier Division crown, securing Conference football for the first time in their history with a memorable 2-0 win at Merthyr on the final day of the season.

The Linnets squad and staff were welcomed by West Norfolk mayor David Johnson as they showed off their championship shield.

He said: "You must be very proud. Your achievement is fantastic for King's Lynn and can do nothing but good for the borough."

Meanwhile, Webb yesterday dismissed speculation linking prized asset Joe Francis with a move to League One Brighton.

The 21-year-old - who signed a contract extension at The Walks last season - had reportedly attracted interest from former Seagulls' boss Dean Wilkins.

Ex-Coventry chief Micky Adams has now taken over at the Withdean after Brighton narrowly missed out on the League One play-offs.

Webb insisted no bids were on the table for his 23-goal top scorer, whose consistent displays in the club's Southern League, Premier Division title triumph attracted interest from a host of league scouts.

"It's a load of rubbish," said Webb. "I'd take it with a pinch of salt. Micky Adams has just taken over for a start. I doubt he has ever seen the lad play and I'd be very surprised if a new manager came in and started targeting the former manager's players.

"I've spoken to the chairman and it has been reiterated to me if anything does happen or clubs come in I will be the first to know."

Cambridge United boss Jimmy Quinn is also a confirmed admirer of Lynn's player-of-the-year but Webb hinted Francis will not be sold on the cheap.

Mark Paul's £60,000 transfer to Southampton in 1998 remains a club record deal.

"We have a valuation in mind and its up to other clubs to match that," said Webb. "I'll keep the figure to myself for now but we've had no offers. At the moment everything is pure rumour and speculation."

Francis is in no rush to leave the club after a stunning debut campaign following his switch from Ridgeons League Woodbridge.

"I enjoyed a really good season," he said. "It has gone better than I could have expected and I have exceeded my targets. I am really happy here at King's Lynn playing with a wonderful bunch of guys under a terrific manager and coaches. But it is everyonedream to play in the league. If it happens it would be brilliant and I really believe in myself. I have heard rumours about league sides watching me but I ignore all that and just get on with my game. I let my agent deal with anything that might come up and as I'm under contract any interested club would have to go through King's Lynn anyway."

The 21-year-old former Ipswich trialist admitted his ultimate ambition is to earn a professional contract.

"My time at Ipswich Town gave me a taste to be a professional and what I learned there has helped me step up," he said. "I always had belief in myself, but you still worry.

"It would be the same stepping up into the Football League if it happened, but I still believe I can do it. If it doesn't happen then I'm more than happy playing here."

Webb will step up his own summer recruitment drive now Lynn's place in the Blue Square North has been ratified by conference top brass.

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