The trials and tribulations of a lower league football club
As a fan of Crawley Town FC, it has been an up and down season to say the least. Yet another tumultuous season supporting a club that never ceases to amaze, even if watching us does make me want to pull my own teeth out at times.
Yet again there has been some excellent recruitment from all those involved behind the scenes of the club. With our scouting network, technical director and manager all pulling their weight to put together a team which, for a while, looked like challenging for promotion.
The main highlight being the acquisition of Max Watters. Watters had just recently been released from Doncaster Rovers and had been on trial with Maidstone when Crawley faces them in a friendly. Our staff were so impressed that they snapped him up not long after. He went on to score 16 goals in 19 games before being sold to Cardiff for £1 million, fantastic recruitment for a lowly league 2 club hampered by the financial burden of Coronavirus.
At this time of the season, everything was looking particularly rosy, with a thrilling cup run being the real talk of the town. Having been faced with a tricky draw in round 1 of the FA cup – drawn away to National League highfliers Torquay United – we delivered one of the greatest, most exciting games of football I have ever seen. After being 2-0 down after 24 minutes it had all the makings of another FA cup nightmare. But we didn’t let that happen. After an 18-minute delay following our goalkeeper being knocked unconscious, the game sprung into life. There were a further nine goals in the game, including us again coming from two goals behind, resulting in us winning the game 6-5 following a winner in the 118th minute. What a game of football.
We followed this up with a 2-1 victory over one of our rivals – AFC Wimbledon – in which we again came from behind.
We were then drawn to Premier League side Leeds, back in the topflight after almost 20 years of misery. I expected us to put in a solid performance and try our best against a side that were clearly far superior to us in every way. What I did not expect was for us to come out and play like footballing titans and pull of a 3-0 win, in which Mark Wright, famous for his time on TOWIE, would come off the bench having attempted to restart his footballing career. I was in dreamland; the celebrations were good and long and were very much not expected at the start of the day.
After that we were faced with Bournemouth who had just been relegated from the Premier League. Still living on a high from our victory over Leeds, I perhaps set my expectations a little too high. We succumbed to a 2-1 defeat which was disappointing, but not as disappointing as our capitulation over the course of the rest of the season.
We went on to win just 2 of our final 13 league games including 4-1 home defeats to both Oldham and Bolton – our final game of the season which was embarrassingly broadcast on Sky for the whole world to see. Our playoff aspirations, realistic for such a long time, faded and we were left with another disappointing mid table performance 12 points off a potential shot at Wembley.
It is also a sad end to the season for me due to the inevitable retirement of real club legend, Dannie Bulman. Having played a total of 394 games for us in all competitions over 3 spells it is incredibly likely that Bulman, frequently the engine of our midfield, will finally hang up his boots at the ripe old age of 42, the oldest player currently in the football league.
Overall though, it has been a season to remember, a nice cup run ( a rarity for us) and some good recruitment should stand us in good stead for the future and hopefully the next season, our 11th in the football league will be even more fruitful, and little old Crawley will go one step further