So after discussing the plight of Crawley Town and their battle to stay in League 1 this season in one of my first blog posts – see here http://realfootballman.com/2015/04/20/crawley-down/ it’s now time to ask what now for Crawley Town?.
Now as someone who was born in Crawley and a keen follower of their results (although I admittedly don’t get to as many games as I’d like to these days) I don’t necessarily take pride from my prediction a few months back and am not one to say “I told you so” but now the season has ended then now seems to be as good a time as any to look at where the club goes not just over the summer but over the next few seasons.
Crawley were relegated on the final day of the season after losing 2-1 at home to Coventry in pretty much a winner takes all clash, but the game which really did for them was the week before when they were 3-2 up at London Road against Peterborough but then conceded two goals in the last few minutes of the game to lose 4-3 and throw away a huge chance of survival. That’s a swing of giving away 6 points from leading positions in the last two matches, 6 points which would have easily see them stay in League 1 for at least another season. With that interim Manager Dean Saunders has suffered the ignominy of being relegated 3 times in the last 4 season (Doncaster, Wolves and now Crawley), I said in my first article that he wouldn’t be the right man to keep Crawley up, it turned out he wasn’t.
Where Crawley go from here is a huge question. But simply not just one that needs to be answered on the pitch it also needs to be answered on the touchlines due to the fact that they now are currently without a manager as John Gregory decided not to return after 5 months out after recuperating from Heart surgery. The interim manager Dean Saunders’ spell has also ended so until the Crawley Town board make their decision this week then the club currently don’t have anyone at the helm of the club – although admittedly at this time of the Footballing Calendar this isn’t the biggest crisis. The question that the board and fans alike will ask is “Is Dean Saunders the man for the permanent job?”. In my opinion I would say no, 2 wins out of 6 for the Red Devils simply wasn’t good enough to stay out of the drop zone and as I alluded to earlier this is Saunders’ 3rd relegation in 4 years, so this is a perfect opportunity to get a new man in and start afresh. Fans of Dean Saunders may say that he did a good job under the circumstances but he didn’t reach the main objective in making sure Crawley Town stay up so for that I think the board should thank Dean for his work and start looking for a new man to takeover.
As for who, well right now it could be anyone. I suppose we will have a better idea once the Crawley Town board make up their minds as to whether or not Dean Saunders is appointed as Full Time manager, he didn’t say in so many words that he wants the job full time but I get the feeling that was more in respect to John Gregory who hadn’t at the time clarified his intentions. But for me I think this is probably going to be Crawley’s most important managerial appointment since they have been a Football League Club. They simply have to make the right decision this time around otherwise the repercussions could be felt for years, the only issue is how attractive is the Crawley Town job?, could it be Dean Saunders gets the job simply by default.
The reason the job might not be as attractive as one might think is the fact the funds are drying up at the Sussex Club and you have to wonder if they are going to struggle to retain league status next season. The asset stripping of the last couple of seasons has now got to the point where there aren’t any assets left to sell and only Josh Simpson is left of the squad that got promotion to League One back in 2012. On the one hand any new man who takes over here will have a difficult task but on the other hand he will have a clean slate as to try and start afresh and build something with a sensible and more importantly sustainable plan for the next few seasons. I think relegation may not necessarily be the worst thing in the world for the club as I think League Two is more of a natural level for them for a club their size and they almost grew too quick for their own good. While double promotions (including getting into the Football League) and living the dream so to speak is what all non-league clubs would no doubt aspire to have, there is always the either side of the coin when the success stops, as when the success stops the struggles begin to start.
What hasn’t helped is the fact that they were getting only 3,000 fans or so at home for League 1 matches so the club were nowhere near recouping any costs through gate receipts. Crawley is similar to Milton Keynes in that they are both “New Towns” therefore a lot of people in these towns support Arsenal, Chelsea, Man United and don’t refer to Crawley as “us or we” – it’s going to take a good generational shift for that to happen whereas Milton Keynes Dons are hitting their stride with promotion to the Championship and the larger fan base that will come with it, I feel it could be a lost opportunity for Crawley to really develop their own fan base now that the club seem could be on a start of a slide back down the pyramid.
People will say that if Crawley are only getting an average attendance of 3,000 or so in League 1 then “they don’t deserve to have a Football League team” I don’t think that’s necessarily a fair comment but you do have to ask yourself why hasn’t the potential fan base not been tapped into the club is situated in a perfect catchment area with only Brighton to the South and the London clubs to the North but in the era of the armchair fan and with Premier League games available so easily through either legal or illegal means getting people to engage with the club can be easier said than done. As I alluded to above a large percentage of Crawley Town “fans” will only ever see them as their second club and if that second team isn’t pushing for promotion or on another glorious cup run like they one that took them to Old Trafford in 2011 then there is very little chance of people parting with their hard earned cash and visiting the Checkatrade.com Stadium.
The main issue at Crawley regardless of who the players and staff will be next season is will there be a new owner in time for the start of the 2015/16 campaign. As mentioned previous no additional funds are currently being put into the club as the current owners are currently looking to sell the club, the only problem being that the club has been “FOR SALE” for quite a while and what with just being relegated it becomes a slightly less valuable proposition. If the club is going to continue to be in a state of managed decline next season and there is no reason not to think that there feat of back to back promotions could be backed by back to back relegations. These are going to be a crucial few months for Crawley Town