THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

13 January ~ Crawley Town made headlines on Monday evening for knocking Championship giants Derby County out of the FA Cup. Yet anyone with knowledge of Conference football will know why there has been a far more muted reaction to the result among fans at that level. Just as Chelsea and Manchester City are widely despised by football fans nationwide for spending their way to the top of the league, so it is with the Sussex side.

Twice in administration in recent times and once on the brink of folding completely, Crawley have received massive investment from fan Bruce Winfield and a collection of businessmen since last summer.

After wiping out the club’s debts, believed to be in the region of a £1 million, money has been provided to buy players for fees that are enormous for the lower leagues. As was pointed out on ESPN during their coverage of Monday’s game, manager Steve Evans spent more money last summer than all of the League Two clubs combined.

Among the 18 summer signings, Matt Tubbs arrived from demoted Salisbury for an estimated £70,000 before being followed by Monday’s matchwinner Sergio Torres from Peterborough and Richard Brodie from York. Both fees were six figures with Brodie’s being a record between clubs outside the Football League.

Broadly speaking, fans of fellow Conference clubs will have wished York City well ahead of their trip to Bolton at the Reebok at the weekend. Likewise for Conference South Dover at Huddersfield. Not so Crawley. Even before the injection of cash Evans was already disliked by many given his colourful history with Boston United’s “contract irregularities” in 2002 and his abrasive way of voicing his opinion on the touchline or to the media.

The recent investment has allowed players to be brought in that can play the attractive passing football seen against Nigel Clough’s Derby but this has not always been the case. Many saw Evans’s past sides as ugly and physical, though still able to gain respectable league finishes.

Crawley currently sit four points behind leaders AFC Wimbledon with four games in hand heading into the final four months of the campaign. It goes without saying that a large proportion of Crawley’s challengers are jealous that it isn’t them who have struck the jackpot. Yet if they achieve their ambitions in May and are promoted to the Football League for the first time in their history there are few at Conference level who would miss them. Matt Ramsay 

Comments (20)
Comment by prowland30657 2011-01-13 13:05:46

I live just down the road from the Broadfield Stadium, and I am vaguely aware that Crawley Town has a new owner and that he is shovelling cash into the club, and that as a consequence they are doing quite well this season. Which is nice.

The thing is - have I been inspired to go down there and take a closer look? Nah. Did I go to the game on Monday night, seduced by the prospect of a "cup shock" featuring a local team? Again, the answer is - Nah.

As a non-partisan un-attached local football fan, the whole thing has pretty well passed me by. To tell the truth, I am not that excited by Crawley's cash-fuelled transformation. Mind you, on the up side - neither am I bitter angry frustrated or jealous. Basically I couldn't give two flying fornications.

Sorry Mr Winfield - that's just how it is. If I were you, I wouldn't bother organising an open-top bus tour of the town or anything like that. I reckon an end-of-season barbecue in your back yard will comfortably accommodate all those who want to celebrate your forthcoming inevitable success.

Comment by BedfordHatter 2011-01-13 13:17:16

A decent article, but I must disagree with your assertion that rival clubs are jealous. I am a Luton fan, and I can tell you that any short term glory means nothing in comparison to the pain of financial meltdown and points deductions. We have got our house in order now and I would rather see us build a team we can afford than go on a ridiculous spending spree. The Crawley 'project' stinks. In a recent article, Crawley claimed they offered modest wages but tempted players to the club with their vision. Anyone who isn't suspicious of this must be very gullible, especially when you consider the 'official' and 'unofficial' wages that Boston players were earning under Steve Evans before the scandal was exposed. The FA should investigate where this money is coming from and how much is really being paid to Crawley's mercenaries.
I bear no ill-will towards Crawley fans, it will be they who form AFC Crawley in three or four years time. If they win the league, we'll just have to win the playoffs, but even if we don't I would still prefer to be in Luton's situation as our long term future is secure.

Comment by steve leake 2011-01-13 13:20:44

Your article is a prime example of lazy journalism and does not reflect the messages of support I have witnessed from other clubs. What are we supposed to do? Not spend the money which Bruce has found for us just so the anoraks of non league football can feel good about themselves? And as for the previous posting from prowland , we shall see at the end of the season what the town's reaction will be but you seriously underestimate our fan base by your comments.

Comment by stevegrant 2011-01-13 13:40:32

"And as for the previous posting from prowland , we shall see at the end of the season what the town's reaction will be but you seriously underestimate our fan base by your comments."

As demonstrated by the 1000 tickets that went unsold for Monday's game...

Comment by El_Guapo 2011-01-13 13:46:25

@BedfordHatter, you have exactly the right outlook.

As an Exeter City supporter, I do not envy Crawley one little bit. Fleeting success that will probably, in the long term, leave them right in the shit. Better to have a secure, if relatively unsuccessful (on the pitch) club than no club at all - which they may well end up with at this rate...

Comment by trashcan 2011-01-13 13:59:54

Good luck to Crawley if someone has pumped some money into the club. However, they need to:

a) be aware of clubs like Rushden & Diamonds and Gretna who had a similar windfall but came crashing down when the revenue dried up. (should Chelsea and Man City take note too?)

b) behave with some dignity. Banning everyones favourite pantomime villian Robbie Savage from their ground whilst filming for Football Focus last week was at best petty. The arrogance and lack of humility after their previous round's victory at Swindon ('we played them off the park') when they scraped home with a late late winner in extra time showed a distinct lack of class. I for one will be cheering Torquay on next time round.

Comment by Red Adder 2011-01-13 16:59:36

For all the carping, if the figures stated in the article are anything like correct then at least some previous debts have been paid off and over 1/4 million has been pumped in to the coffers of other NL clubs to purchase their players - at the end of the day that is extra cash for the NL community.

Comment by madmickyf 2011-01-14 03:20:17

I'm also a Luton fan and we know that Crawley are our biggest rivals for the title this season. However it's hard to see how they will be a sustainable club long term with crowds averaging around 1,500 and little prospect that they're going to increase massively once they reach the 'promised land' of League 2.

The comparison to Gretna seems quite apt as I can see them going the same way if Mr Winfield decides to turn off the cash. This kind of crazy spending does nothing to improve the image of English football but it seems the football authorities are completely uninterested in trying to stop it despite the recent spate of clubs going into Administration.

Comment by eighteen85 2011-01-14 12:05:26

"Crawley have received massive investment from fan Bruce Winfield and a collection of businessmen since last summer."

These businessmen - anyone know who they are, or where the money's from?

Put that together with a convicted tax-dodger (and all-round odious tosser) as manager - who also has a track record of winning promotion by dubious means - and a group of players who aren't happy unless they have a three-man advantage on the pitch, then what's not to like?

Still, the few Crawley fans seem blissfully unaware of what the future holds, so it's impossible to feel any sympathy for them when the whole deck of cards collapses as it surely will. The sympathy should lie with the clubs who might miss out on promotion due to this collection of conmen.

Comment by eighteen85 2011-01-14 12:13:28

This wouldn't be complete without reference to this article:

http://bit.ly/gGjso3 (ADMIN EDIT - PLEASE USE A URL SHORTENER)

Needless to say, negative comments on the article or suggesting that it might in some way be slightly less than adjacent to the truth aren't welcome.

Comment by pottspans 2011-01-14 16:28:38

The comment re the wages that Crawley claim not to be paying? My brother is Matt Lawrence (The ex Palace defenders) agent. Last August 2010, Crawley offered him 35% of what he was on at Palace. He was on £7k per week there so do the maths. That's not including the bonuses and expenses he was guaranteed too.

To me it's a hollow victory when you buy success. Crawley are despised not because of the money they now have but because they are spending this money right in the faces of those who would have received just £0.10p in the pound from the debts accumulated which forced Crawley into administration TWICE before.

Maybe if Crawley were to go to those people and re-pay the full debt then they may well find a few more friends along the way.

Comment by Ratman 2011-01-14 17:00:55

I'm no lover of project promotion and Evans (although good luck to the genuine Crawley fans) but in reponse to P Rowland you could'nt give a monkeys about Crawley Town, the whole things passed you by etc...

Fair enough but you feel obliged to write a lengthy comment on an article about them?

Comment by eighteen85 2011-01-14 17:14:36

Pottspans - interesting - your brother made a wise choice.

I really don't know who they're trying to convince with this PR offensive led by the execrable and presumably utterly shameless Ivan Speck in the Daily Mail, and Steve Evans' other cronies at the Non-League Paper (aka the Evans Weekly). Anyone who knows the first thing about the convicted tax-dodger knows not to believe a single word that comes out of his mouth and so is going to automatically distrust anything associated with him, but you would though have thought that they'd at least go through the pretence of making it in some way believable - they might as well have said that they're paying players National Minimum Wage.

Comment by MoeTheBarman 2011-01-15 11:43:48

As much as I'd like to believe Crawley are destined for collapse again (preferably BEFORE they overtake us at the top of the conference!), until I see some evidence of wrongdoing and shennanigans then I think rumour, allegation and presumptions of guilt are pretty unfair. Wow, it hurts to say that... ;)

Comment by eighteen85 2011-01-15 17:03:17

Anyone know where Crawley's 2,000 loyal diehards that, for some reason, DIDN'T make it today are?

Comment by eighteen85 2011-01-15 17:08:40

Moe - do you think someone as experienced in fiddling and dishonesty as Steve Evans is going to leave an obvious trail behind? It's all timed to go off shortly after he leaves.

Comment by Isaac Hunt 2011-01-16 03:06:28

While it's easy to understand hating clubs for investing heavily in comparison to other clubs in the same division, it's also something that I feel people get incredibly selective over in terms of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Wigan are a prime example of a club that goes unscathed,yet are in the premiership solely because of whelans investment. Manchester utd have generated vast sums of money more than other clubs - does this mean they have a divine right to choose the best players/build the biggest stadium and grow the club more? It's not feasible for every club to transform itself into a huge club, and in an age where money rules football so heavily,external cash being pumped into smaller clubs is vital to avoid the same 3 teams winning everything.

Unfortunately football and indeed life is full if deplorable as well as admirable characters - some owners are going to be more ethically minded than others,all that can be hoped for is karma catches up with them. The whole 'hating the rich clubs' is getting more and more boring with every petulant article written about it. Why not try to extract some of the positives of heavy investment in football....

Comment by madmickyf 2011-01-17 02:55:37

Isaac Hunt, is that your real name or rhyming slang?

"Unfortunately football and indeed life is full if deplorable as well as admirable characters - some owners are going to be more ethically minded than others,all that can be hoped for is karma catches up with them" Do you work for the FA by any chance because hoping for Karma to dispense justice seems to be their main tactic for dealing with the asset-strippers and shady characters that go around wrecking clubs?

"The whole 'hating the rich clubs' is getting more and more boring with every petulant article written about it. Why not try to extract some of the positives of heavy investment in football" - exactly. How about the same 3 clubs winning the EPL all the time, this means glory hunters only have to buy 3 replica shirts to ensure they're supporting the winning team? Imagine how many they'd have to buy if every team had an equal chance of winning!

Comment by eighteen85 2011-01-17 09:37:48

Isaac - at least with Wigan and other funded clubs like Chelski, Fulham and Man City, it was clear who was providing the funding, and therefore what the source of that money was/is.

The issue with Crawley is that, to say the least, it's vague as to where this funding is coming from - the front man may have some wealth but not enough to sustain the extravagant wages that they're paying, despite what the Daily Mail would have you believe. The fact that they're claiming to be paying cash upfront for everything must surely ring even more alarm bells.

Comment by observer1889 2011-01-17 22:40:55

Assuming the money is all genuine and legal, which we must, then why shouldn't they spend it how they want? Yes the real fans know it will all come to an end in a couple of years or so but why not enjoy along the way.

Canvey Island fans will tell you their trip to the Conference was worth the pain afterwards. Even AFC Coldseal fans will probably tell you the journey was worth the price.

OK, so they'll probably be in the Southern League again in a few years, they'll have good memories.

All of this is dependent on one thing though. The ground isn't owned by the club and when things go wrong it will still be there for the re-birth. The time Crawley fans should start to get really frightened is when noises are made about buying the ground from a council that will be cash-strapped for the next few years. Just say NO and make sure your councillors do.

Related articles

Declining Crawley need open and inspiring new owners
Fans disenchanted by poor performances and sceptical of shady benefactors 8 February ~ Over the last decade supporters of Crawley Town have lived in...
Journeyman
One man’s odyssey through the lower reaches of English footballby Ben SmithBiteback Publishing, £12.99Reviewed by Tim SpringettFrom WSC 342 August...
Grimsby approach Eastleigh play-off semi with caution
Mariners have been far stronger away from home this season 30 April ~ Like any other form of loss, the end of Grimsby Town's Football League...

Sign up for the WSC Weekly Howl

A small portion of despair and enlightenment delivered to your inbox every Friday

Email address