King’s return was ‘right appointment at right time’, open forum is told

STEVE KING’s return to the Dripping Pan as Lewes manager last summer was “the right appointment at the right time”, an open forum held at the club’s Rook Inn heard last Thursday.

Sport Express was unable to make the meeting but respected local writer and Lewes historian David Arscott, wrote on the unofficial fans forum that club directors had told fans at the meeting that they had “no regrets” over the hiring of King who last month left the club by mutual consent following “irreconcilable differences” with the club’s Board, but directors added that they would “learn by this experience”.

Mr Arscott said: “The first topic of conversation, not surprisingly, concerned Steve King‘s departure. [Club director marketing manager] Charlie Dobres (CD) said he well understood members’ frustration at not being given more information, especially as the board had always espoused transparency, but legal considerations simply made it impossible to say more.

“SK’s contract had been all of 20 pages long, and it had to be followed to the letter. The public statement had been agreed by both sides, both of whom had guaranteed to say nothing more. CD said it had been the right appointment at the right time, and he had no regrets about it, but the board would ‘learn by this experience’.

“Asked whether any financial surplus brought about by SK’s departure would find its way to the playing budget, [fellow club director] Eddie Ramsden (ER) said that wasn’t the priority. He thought the budget might be overspent by £5,000 at the end of the season, although he hoped it wouldn’t be as much as that.”

In two other club matters, Mr Arscott added: “The club received several thousand pounds from Staines for David Wheeler, and shareholders will soon get the chance to buy solar panels on the south stand roof.

“The money from Staines for David Wheeler wasn’t a transfer fee but a recognition of Lewes’ contribution to his progress. SK and Ibbo [Steve Ibbitson] had represented the club’s position at an FA tribunal. (One gathers that Staines weren’t too happy about the FA’s ruling.)

“On the playing front we learned that Gary Holloway is within a month of returning. Ibbo said anyone watching the warm-ups could see that he had made a lot of progress recently, and was now turning easily and kicking the ball harder.

“Holloway, we were told, was the only player on a two-year (37-week) contract. Was he being paid all this time? Yes, but ER pointed out that this didn’t include appearance money, which of course hasn’t applied.

“Ibbo was upbeat about the players. Their reaction to the SK situation has been good, although this wasn’t to say that they wanted to see him go. Most of them were on annual contracts, and they’d knuckled down well in training.

“Simon Wormull’s attitude to team selection was broadly similar to SK’s in that he wouldn’t pick youngsters who weren’t ready. Where he differed was in bringing them in on the bench to give us a full complement rather than having just two or three in reserve. If nothing else, it sent out a signal to the opposition.

“ER said one reason the players like being at Lewes was because they always got their pay straight into their bank accounts on the day it was supposed to go in – not always the case elsewhere.”

“CD spoke about ideas to increase the club’s budget. There were plans for an academy, and – although this was two years away – the board was looking at sponsorship to finance a major refurbishment of the ground.

“The solar panel scheme would involve installing 180 panels on the south stand roof at the cost of £450 each – a total of around £80,000. The club had to act quickly to get the work done in order to take advantage of cheaper panels ahead of a government move to reduce the subsidy to manufacturers.

“Members of the board were prepared to put up the money as an interim measure, but the idea was for members to buy a panel and receive a ten per cent return year on year.

Someone suggested this money could be given back to the club, but ER said the important thing was for members to feel they were getting something out of their contribution as well as helping the club. Further details would be announced shortly.”

The open forum also heard that the club was hoping to arrange some prestigious pre-season friendlies for next summer, including games against Portsmouth and Brighton.