Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughThe Crawley Town rise continues - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough The Crawley Town rise continues - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

The Crawley Town rise continues


Few football clubs divide opinion as much as Crawley Town, the Sussex team bankrolled into the Football League where their ascent rolls on with hasten speed; following a storming 105-point promotion from the Blue Square Premier League and a third place promotion in their debut year in League Two, the Red Devils, replicating the successful trend of the Premier League behemoth that carry the same nickname, have continued in a similar vein in League One, sitting promisingly in second after fifteen games.

It has been a sharp elevation from the financial troubles that hovered over the Broadfield Stadium for two years following a close scrape with liquidation in 2006. Crawley were forced to start their next two Conference campaigns with point deductions, 10 and then 6, as they battled for safety and, at times, existence. Lifted out of the financial gloom thanks to the purchase of the club by a property firm in 2009, a major investment was attracted by majority shareholders a year later forming the springboard for this relentless elevation through the lower leagues.

Manager Steve Evans was given licence for a massive overhaul of the squad to the tune of 23 players through the door in 6 months, Matt Tubbs’s 107 goal in eight years haul for Salisbury City earned him a £70,000 move, Sergio Torres was plucked from his troubles with Peterborough for £100,000 while Richard Brodie, boasting 53 goals in 3 years at York City, was brought in for a Conference record fee of £250,000. The club duly stormed into the Football League as Champions while a brave FA Cup run, where they eventually fell to Manchester United in the 5th round, managed to raise the profile of the non-league outfit.

A lot of ill-will and jealousy was aimed the way of the club that had triumphed over the scarce resources of the Blue Square Premier, while in Steve Evans, a confrontational manager who had picked up notoriety for a tax-evasion charge during his time at Boston, they had a figurehead who formed an easy target for contempt. There was no doubting the success of Evans however, playing a huge role in guiding Crawley to successive promotions despite his departure at the beginning of April to take charge at Rotherham.

Evans had guided his team through the January sales of Tubbs and Tyrone Barnett, a striker they had acquired from Macclesfield in the summer of 2011, as they tried to ease a burgeoning wage bill. Such upheaval provided the fuse for a dip in form of just two wins in fourteen games whilst frustrations boiled over in an away game at Bradford in March, Pablo Mills and Claude Davis received bans, with fellow defender Kyle MacFadzean receiving a ban following an FA inquiry. Just two weeks later, Evans had left the club and with it, he took a large chunk of the feeling of malice and distaste that aired over him. A belated suspension for indecent exposure to a female steward during the brawl at Bradford indicative of the ridicule the 49 year old attracts.

Life after Evans hasn’t been exactly easy in West Sussex however as his proposed successor, former Doncaster boss Sean O’Driscoll, left for Nottingham Forest just days after landing the post, leaving Richie Barker, just a year into his managerial career with Bury, to take the reigns. Despite the managerial unrest, with Barker taking over just a week before the season started, the 37 year old has hinted at a bright future in the dugout as building on a promising start with Bury, he has won ten of the opening 15 fixtures with Crawley.

Gone also has the scattergun approach to transfers, not one of Crawley’s nine summer arrivals demanded a fee as the likes of Mat Sadler, goalkeeper Paul Jones, Shaun Cooper and Joe Walsh have come in to bolster the defence, while Nicky Ajose and Jonathon Forte have arrived to add firepower to an attack that is now without Tubbs and Barnett. That attack has not seen a goal-scorer in the last eight games, but Nicky Adams, the 26 year old midfielder taken from relegated Rochdale in the summer, has contributed with five goals in the last four games to fire Crawley to second place, 2 points behind Tranmere.

“I have had that confidence since I came here” effused Adams, speaking highly of his new manager, who is continuing results, yet altering perceptions down in West Sussex. After emerging from possible extinction and embarking on an upward curve, the good times are alive at Crawley and they don’t have anybody, in huge part owing to the departure of Evans, to dim the lights.


Adam Gray