Webb used setback to launch Lynn to the title
Paddy Davitt King's Lynn's title winning manager Keith Webb gives Paddy Davitt his verdict on the club's Southern League, Premier Division championship season in the first of an exclusive three part interview.
King's Lynn's title winning manager Keith Webb gives Paddy Davitt his verdict on the club's Southern League, Premier Division championship season in the first of an exclusive three part interview.
The foundations for Lynn's historic title success emerged from the rubble of the club's delayed Main Stand summer facelift.
Webb's squad faced a gruelling six week tour of duty on the road before a triumphant homecoming against Gloucester at the revamped Walks in September.
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“We had to look at it from a positive perspective,” said Webb. “It was a case of saying to ourselves, 'we've got our backs to the wall here, so let's make sure we go out and do the business.'
“It's one of those things as a manager that you must use to your advantage. We told the players we had to get through the first seven or eight games knowing it would turn around in our favour later on in the season. What it did was brought the boys closer together even quicker. The club were good as gold, letting us stay overnight at games. That helped foster team spirit which carried right through the rest of the season.”
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Only Rugby's stoppage time penalty winner punctured the club's impressive early momentum.
“That was a game we totally dominated,” said Webb. “We'd had a lot of half chances, not taken any, and unfortunately Wazza gave away a pen in the last minute. It was sickening for us to lose a game like that but we took it on the chin. I think we went to Tiverton next, which is never an easy place to go, and we got a result to help us kick on again. Everytime we got ourselves in those type of situations, where perhaps we hadn't done well in a game and questions were being asked, the players always came back with answers.”
Webb revealed finally returning to the creature comforts of home posed a new set of problems.
“Although we had some momentum early doors we weren't playing good football,” said Webb. “I'd be the first to admit that. We were still in an away game frame of mind. You don't get anything easy in the Southern Premier. Teams want to batter you so you have to go and scrap. There was a pressure and expectation around the place and you could feel it with the players. We'd had that on the road as well but it started to increase back at home because I think the feeling was we'd steamroller sides. When that didn't happen the criticism started.
“There is always pressure to win games especially at a club like ours. When I first took the job back in December 2006 my remit was to get us in the conference. After that terrible night in the play offs against Maidenhead it was imperative to hit the ground running and we did that by grafting out results when it mattered.”
Corby smuggled a 1-0 win out of Norfolk in November but the Steelmen became members of an exclusive club - the only side to lower Lynn's colours in the league at home.
The Linnets crushed Merthyr 5-1 at the start of December to hit top spot for the first time before scaling the summit again just before Christmas for an unbroken near two month stint.
“I think the vast majority of the time the boys gave a decent account of themselves at home,” said Webb. “I don't know the last time a King's Lynn side scored so many and conceded so few. Hopefully that is something people will take on board when they look back at the season. I remember the Corby game we gave them a goal and then went on and pummelled them. It just wouldn't go in for us on the night, but every team is going to have an off day.”
Lynn stood firm as the New Year sparring gathered pace and the lopsided league gradually took shape with title rivals Team Bath playing catch up and Halesowen racing through their fixture list.
“With Team Bath it was important for me they didn't get too many games in hand on us,” said Webb. “We had a similar problem last year when we do well in the cups and you have seven or eight games to play on some sides. It's always better to have the points on the board although I knew even when Halesowen were two or three points clear we had the advantage of games in hand on them.
“The problem with that of course is you have to win games. While the gap stayed around three or four points I was confident we were still in with a shout. If it had gone up to five or six points then we really didn't have any room for error. It was important just to keep going and in the end I think we hit the front at just the right time.”
Lynn crushed Bashley in their final home fixture to take an iron grip on the league less than a fortnight from the finish line.
But Webb concedes his men struck the decisive blow in the title race with a 4-0 February romp at chief rivals Team Bath.
“Yes, that was huge, probably the defining game of the season,” he said. “That and the one against Bashley at home. What pleased me about the Team Bath game was the club really pushed the boat out for us. We all travelled down, met up in the hotel the night before, and it gave me and Lee (Glover) an opportunity to work with the players on the morning of the match.
“We went through the shape, the way we wanted to play and I was always confident going into that one we would win. We had height, we had power, we had pace, we had ability.
“For me, I look at that game and the team we put out and feel if we could get something near that I expect us to hit the ground running again next season.”
t Tomorrow: Webb unveils his conference blueprint