18 November ~ I know how a Manchester City fan feels. Well, to some extent. While they're buying some of the best players in the world – and Roque Santa Cruz – in their quest for glory at the top of English football, my team, Crawley Town, have been buying the cream of the crop of non-League talent, as well as a couple from higher up the divisions, in an attempt to reach the Football League.
Confidence is high around Broadfield Stadium with "Project Promotion", as it's been named, fully underway. In a recent 4-1 away win against Mansfield the team's strong performance showed the type of professionalism that has sometimes been lacking. For Crawley fans, this is a completely new experience. We're more used to starting the season on minus points and concentrating on avoiding relegation than looking down on the rest of the league. The main reason behind this switch is, of course, money. Crawley are spending like there's no tomorrow which, given that we were about an hour away from liquidation four years ago, is quite a dangerous tactic.
But it seems to be paying off. While the ticket prices are still fairly high, the ground has been around half full for most of the season (with a bit of crowd trouble thrown in after some Newport County fans entered the home end in their 3-2 win), and Crawley have come a long way.
Manager Steve Evans has courted controversy in the past, with prosecutions over unpaid tax and the like, and he seems to be an unpopular figure everywhere but Crawley following his time at Boston United. His premature fist-pumping at half-time when we were 1-0 up at promotion rivals AFC Wimbledon certainly didn't show his best side. This was followed by Wimbledon's inevitable comeback and the bitter cry of "We are top of the league!" from the home fans, repeating the refrain Crawley supporters had been singing only minutes before.
But with the new regime and almost completely new first team, Crawley are an exciting prospect. While you could brand their football as "no nonsense", they have also added some flair to the side, in the shape of Sergio Torres. The Argentine midfielder signed from Peterborough and has put in impressive displays since joining, mixing style with a good positional sense. It's been a big transition for the team. We've gone from being the penniless pretenders to the top of the money tree in a little over two years. Promotion at the end of the season would cap the transformation. Joe Doyle