Crawley v Derby Preview
Down in deepest darkest West Sussex in an area known affectionately as “Creepy Crawley” by some (and a “shithole” by others less enamoured with the town’s offerings) the town of Crawley is gearing up for a big clash against Derby County and Robbie Savage in tonight’s FA Cup 3rd round clash at the Broadfield stadium, the second time Crawley have been shown live on ESPN in this competition.
It’s an unusual tie in many respects. Crawley, termed the Man City of the Blue Square Premier for their spending exploits are not the plucky underdogs we normally expect to see, skint, stuggling in the league, with the whole country hoping for a mighty upset. Having spent sums of money even many League One teams can only dream of, and with a manager largely hated in football, not too many neutrals will be hoping for a Crawley win tonight. With Crawley’s player wages reportedly on a par with some Championship clubs (claims refuted by those at the club), and players who chose to join Crawley ahead of League One clubs, Crawley, while not expected to win, are not ‘plucky’ underdogs. More, ‘flash’ underdogs.
Cards on the table time: I like Crawley. I actually quite like the town (well, parts of it…the exit mostly), and I like the club which I’ve been visiting on and off since I first moved to Crawley 8 years ago. So I will stand up for Crawley. They have spent large sums of money, but this money has been a massive help for teams like York (£275K for Richard Brodie) and Salisbury (£75K for top scorer Matt Tubbs). Not only that, but Crawley have insisted on paying all the money in one lump sum within seven days of the transfer to help avoid recurring debts. This has no doubt been of huge benefit for the receiving clubs.
It’s harder to stick up for Steve Evans, an outspoken manager and a gobshite who’s caused more trouble to the FA than Neil Warnock, accruing more than 20 games worth of touchline bans in his career, as well as a suspended prison sentence for fraud while manager of Boston. So, I won’t stick up for him.
Crawley Town fans must be delighted with the way things have gone, not least because it’s presumably nice to start the league on 0 points and not worry about further points deductions throughout the season. And having been hours away from doing a Chester City or Halifax and going hours out of existence, the team who have been in administration twice should feel lucky to have this injection of cash from a rich fan of the team.
And that’s another thing that’s nice about Crawley’s position. This isn’t an Arab consortium, or US business men who are ploughing money into the club, but a co-ownership made up of Crawley local man Bruce Winfield, a Crawley fan, and Sue Carter who between them have drummed up enough investment to put the club right, and none of the people who have put money in expect to see their money back, according to Winfield, so Crawley are relatively free of the fear that investors might ask for money back, plunging the club into financial peril.
Formed over 114 years ago, they had the nickname ‘The Red Devils’ before Man United adopted it, and their club badge bears more than a passing resemblance to the Old Trafford club. And the similarities don’t end there with most Man United fans coming from Sussex too. Narf.
On to the game, and incredibly bookies are offering odds as miserly as EVENS for a Derby County win. Crawley beat Swindon Town in a replay at the County Ground with many Swindon fans remarking that that was the most comprehensively they have seen their team beaten at home for a while. With a pitch battered by frost, rain, snow and non-league defenders in recent weeks, Derby might struggle to maintain their fluid passing game, but the pitch is a great leveller as they say and Crawley too will be impacted by this. A Derby win should be expected here, regardless of Crawley Town’s success in previous rounds, but they will have to be on form to achieve a win here.
Former Brighton keeper Michel Kuipers is perhaps the weak link in the side, although former Derby stalwart Pablo Mills, as good as he is, is prone to believing he is Zidane on the ball, putting his side in trouble when the intricate through-ball inevitably doesn’t come off. Scott Neilson on the right wing will be eager to show that he can cut it against higher opposition after his disappointing spell at Bradford and Sergio Torres will be a menace throughout. Expect Robbie Savage (now that he’s finally allowed in the ground) to work to nullify the threat posed by the effervescent Torres.
With this being close to a sell-out, the atmosphere should be good for the ESPN viewers watching the game, and hopefully this will lead to a good game all round. And in the build-up to the game, we’ve learned that the BBC’s Dan Walker is a Crawley Town fan, so that’s nice. I’ve got my ticket in a safe place ready for the big match: it’s Gatwick Airport v East Midlands Airport, Dan Walker v Robbie Savage, Crawley Town v Derby County, and you can catch my match report tomorrow over at the Real FA Cup site.