‘Meeting the opposition’ – Crawley Town F.C
This weekend, Tranmere will host Crawley Town at Prenton Park in League Two action. Rovers go into this game on great form and will look to add another home victory to the one which they played out in midweek as they beat Newport County. Crawley, on the other hand, come into this game with a very mixed spirit as they have lost three and won two of their last five. However, The Reds will certainly be able to pose a threat to the hosts. With this in mind, I placed questions towards a supporter of the visitors to get his thoughts about the Devils’ on and off pitch positions going into the game whilst also getting his pre-match predictions and thoughts.
How long have you been a fan of Crawley and how did you first hear about the club?
I first heard about them, funnily enough, when I was around 8 and my mum suggested my dad and I go and watch the team after driving past the ground once whilst we were on a shopping trip. We went and soon afterwards, in what was the first time I’d ever been to a football game (which was a 2-1 loss to Aldershot) and I have been keeping an eye on how the team has done ever since. However, I was a Manchester United fan when I was younger. I have however been attending matches on a much more regular basis since 2017-18, and as a result have been a big fan of the club ever since.
What moments stand out during your time supporting The Reds?
I’d say since I started following the club the greatest highs were the FA Cup run in 2010-11, when we became the first non-league club in 16 years to reach the fifth round of the competition and came really close to taking Man United to a replay. Other highs I’ve experienced include beating Norwich and Stoke in the League Cup last season, the atmosphere after we won the penalty shootout against the Potters was special. Beating Leeds would have been up there too if spectators were allowed at the time.
There have, of course, been times when it wasn’t so great. I wasn’t old enough to remember the serious financial issues the club experienced in the mid to late 2000s my time supporting the club I’d say the worst period was definitely 2014-16 when we were relegated to League 2 and then had a dreadful first campaign back mainly as a result of signing journeymen and loanees on the cheap as well as poor managers. Thankfully, the club have made more sensible signings since and we have made progress in the last year and a half.
Random fact about Crawley Town?
Crawley are one of only two current Football League clubs to have never played a game at either the old or new Wembley (the other is Accrington Stanley).
What were your expectations going into the season and have they changed much now the campaign’s drawing to a close?
I feel the season has definitely had clear highs, such as the rollercoaster of emotions I experienced when watching the 6-5 win vs Torquay as well as the way we beat Leeds quite easily in the cup. As for the league, it was going reasonably well until a COVID 19 outbreak caused a couple of games to be postponed and we haven’t been quite the same since. However, I am not ruling out a late playoff charge if we can be a bit more consistent and improve our away form (which has been dreadful for years now).
John Yems is gaffer at the People’s Pension Stadium and has been since December 2019, thoughts on him?
Yems has been in charge since December 2019 and this is his second spell in charge, having previously served as joint caretaker manager in 2006. Before rejoining us, he was football operations manager at Bournemouth from 2012-2018 and has also had roles with clubs such as Fulham, Newcastle United, Gillingham and Exeter. If I am to be honest, he isn’t a brilliant manager but he has definitely been the best one we have had in recent years, which isn’t difficult as we have had some truly dreadful ones since getting promoted to League One. He is obviously excellent at being able to find hidden gems, such as Max Watters, and has put together what I feel is our best squad since we were relegated back to League 2 in 2015. However he has occasionally made questionable decisions in regards to team selection and his media handling skills have sometimes left a lot to be desired.
Who owns Crawley Town Football Club and what are your thoughts on them?
The club has been owned by Turkish businessman Ziya Eren since 2016 and I think he, as well as technical director Erdem Konyar, have been good. They have been good at communicating with the supporters, supporting the club financially throughout the pandemic and have really worked well with the community aspect of it (which was rewarded when we won EFL community club of the year for South East England). My only criticisms are that we do have a tendency to sell our best players and all of the managerial appointments before John Yems were very poor (which probably explained why 2020 was the first calendar year since 2011 where we didn’t change managers at least once). However, I feel with their support, as well as being able to put together a good team, there is no reason we can’t be back in League One within the next three years.
This weekend, The Reds will travel to Prenton Park and they will come with a game plan in mind to combat the quality that they will be up against. Who are your danger men and how do you see the encounter panning out?
I’d say probably our best players are goalkeeper Glenn Morris (who I think is the best in League 2 and without him we would have come close to going down a few seasons) and attacker Tom Nichols (who signed on a free in the summer and who I met at my local pub a few months ago) as when he is played as a support striker he is very effective. I also have a soft spot for Ashley Nadesan as he comes from the same area as me and played for one of my local non-league clubs Horley Town before he moved into league football, he has been in decent form lately. However, due to our poor away record I think Tranmere will win comfortably 3-1. Of course, I hope I’m proved wrong.
How do you think the visiting starting eleven will look on the weekend?
What is your opinion on Tranmere, the club as a whole?
I feel that Tranmere is a club that should really be in a higher division than they currently are due to the large fanbase they have (considering Liverpool and Everton are just over the other side of the Mersey) but I do think they will take one of the three automatic slots at the end of the season. They have a very solid manager in ex-Bolton and Rochdale boss Keith Hill and I feel if last season hadn’t been called off early they could have stayed up, as they were putting together a good run of form before the COVID situation got very serious.
I also had a very positive experience at Prenton Park myself as I went up there to watch Chichester (who have links to my old university) play them in the FA Cup. It was fantastic for everyone at that club even though they went on to lose the game 5-1, as getting far enough to play a club as big as Tranmere was an incredible achievement (and didn’t concede for the first 60 minutes too). Also, I’ve got to say I enjoyed the fact that the prices of the cider at the pub next to the ground were a lot cheaper than what I normally see back at home which was really nice indeed!
What are your thoughts on The Reds’ winter transfer business? That period of recruitment is, more often than not, pivotal to a club’s season in any division.
Unfortunately our best striker, Max Watters, was sold to Cardiff City. However we were offered over £1m for him which for a club our size is a lot of money, especially during the difficult times we are in with the financial effects of the pandemic. As for players brought in, we signed midfielders Jordan Maguire-Drew and Josh Wright from Leyton Orient, forward James Tilley from Grimsby and Swiss-Italian striker Davide Rodari from non-league Hastings. I’d say Maguire-Drew has looked the most promising so far, although Tilley recently scored an important winner vs Colchester.
One final question, which adds on to the recruitment process seen at the West Sussex club. Mark Wright was recruited and that sparked a lot of controversy and media attention. What are your thoughts on that?
If the aim was to get more people interested in Crawley, I feel the signing would have worked better if spectators were allowed into games as it could have helped fill the ground and generate more money from ticket sales and matchday income. I am of the opinion it was done as a publicity stunt, as the one game he played vs Harrogate he certainly didn’t look up to the standard of League Two football and was taken off at half time. I have also had a few of my pals really tease me for us signing him too, and think we’re an embarrassing club just because of it!
‘I think the signing of Mark Wright was done as a publicity stunt. It’s one that has seemed to backfire as he doesn’t look set for League Two football and my pals think we’re an embarrassing club just because of it!’
I would like to thank @stephen_dimmock for his time answering the questions that I placed towards him. This league encounter should be exciting and one to certainly look forward to. I hope that readers enjoyed this Q+A.
Thank you very much for reading,