Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughBright future ahead for big bad Crawley - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Bright future ahead for big bad Crawley - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Bright future ahead for big bad Crawley

Back in August 2006, a small West Sussex non-league football club was on the verge of going out of business after racking up debts of nearly £1.4million.

They had been deducted a series of league points and were languishing at the foot of the Conference table. It looked like the end of the road for Crawley Town Football Club.

But fast forward five years from those dark days, and the Red Devils are no longer in financial meltdown. They are also no longer a non-league club, having this year secured a place in the Football League for the first time in their history.

The club has passed hands several times since 2006, when it was owned by brothers Chas and Mohammed Azwar Majeed, the latter a now-convicted fraudster. Vic Marley now stands as chairman and he, along with Bruce Winfield and Susan Carter, led the club out of the red to make it debt free.

Lifelong fan Winfield sadly passed away towards the end of the season, but this inspired the Town even more as they romped home to win the Blue Square Bet Premier Division title by 15 points.

Success at the Broadfield Stadium hasn’t come cheap, however, and the West Sussex team have been labelled by many as ‘the Manchester City of non league’. Before passing, Winfield stated that much of Crawley’s wealth had come from a Far-East consortium, like that of Manchester City’s.

Nobody knows exactly where or who their money comes from. Nobody even knows why they want to remain anonymous, but the club are certainly reaping the benefits.

The Red Devils broke non-league spending records during last year’s pre-season, recruiting Matt Tubbs, Sergio Torres and Richard Brodie for a combined total of around £500,000. They also acquired players with Football League experience in Pablo Mills, David Hunt, Scott Shearer and Dean Howell.

Crawley may have had the money to win the league, but they still had to actually win it; 31 wins, 93 goals, 105 points – job done.

On top of winning the league, they also beat a host of Football League sides to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup, where they played Manchester United. A close-fought game at Old Trafford saw the then-Blue Square Premier side lose 1-0, a result that proved Crawley Town really were going places.

Another pre-season has recently begun in West Sussex and again the cash is being flashed. Manager Steve Evans wasted no time in signing young striker Jon Akinde and Rushden & Diamonds winger Jamie Day in his bid to thrive in League Two, with midfielders Scott Davies and Hope Akpan also joining following their releases from Reading and Everton respectively.

The most impressive signing so far, though, has to be that of Wes Thomas. The hit man bagged 19 goals last season for an under-par Cheltenham Town side, making him extremely hot property for any lower-league side this term. Crawley fought off a number of clubs to win his signature, with Cheltenham chairman Paul Baker describing the deal as a “staggering” amount of money.

With all the money floating around the Broadfield Stadium, the pressure will be on to bring home a second successive league trophy. Incredibly they are the bookies favourite at 3/1, but League Two is unpredictable.

As we saw last season, teams with tighter budgets seem to prosper – take Stevenage, Torquay and Accrington Stanley for example.  The last club to play in the basement division with significant financial backing was Notts County, who eventually won promotion to League One.

But the Magpies’ funds proved to be unsustainable and the club went into turmoil, something which Crawley Town and their fans must be wary about. Rushden & Diamonds’ recent collapse proves that fairytales can come crashing down, and stable funding is paramount.

The Red Devils certainly have the players capable of winning League Two – and probably the finances of winning the Championship – but eventually it all comes down to whether the whole set-up is sustainable.

If it is, Crawley Town Football Club has a very bright future ahead.

Ryan Percival

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *