The temptation in writing this is to just republish the ‘Conference File’ I wrote about Crawley two years ago, but to be honest the club have changed so much in the last two years I’m almost tempted to start again completely from scratch. Last time I wrote this article all talk was of ongoing financial problems of a club with a track record of receiving point deductions, this time round their situation has completely reversed.
If anything, the club now have too much money, at least as far as keeping within the 55% wage expediture to turnover cap. As you would imagine among clubs still unable to forget Steve Evans antics with Boston, Crawley’s new found financial might wasn’t exactly popular news. They achieved the rare feat of ensuring Manchester United went into a cup tie as popular peoples favourites, eased to the title with plenty to spare, and now head into League Two as hot favourites to claim back to back titles…
Of course, the fun for Crawley will begin when their financial assistance dries up, whenever that may be, will growth off the field be sufficient to prevent the club slipping into financial meltdown and back down the pyramid? You get the impression that next season will be as important off the field as progression on it…
Crawley Town were formed way back in the nineteenth century, and like many clubs they pottered about in county football remaining amateur until the professional revolution that took place in the sixties saw them start paying their players and joining the Southern League back in 1962, the year a still amateur Wimbledon side were beginning a campaign that resulted in our only FA Amateur Cup triumph.
After a brief sojourn into the Premier Division in the late sixties, which lasted all of a year, Crawley remained at the lower level until they were promoted again in 1984. This time they stayed there, right up until Francis Vines guided them to promotion in 2004 (I remember Vines as a prolific goalscorer at Kingstonian during his playing days). No one can claim Crawley’s progress was spectacular, but it was at least steady to the point they slowly progressed to the Conference, mirroring the growth of Crawley as a town. Population in the 1961 census stood at approximately 25,000, growing to just shy of 100,000 at the 2001 census, meaning Crawley is a large enough town to support league football, providing the residents continue to turn out in numbers.
For all the criticism you can throw at Crawley and Steve Evans (and there is plenty), you cannot deny they spent their money very well. The rumoured large fee paid out for Richard Brodie would have been a huge blow at any other club in the division if it failed to work out, but Crawley had the power to splash out on Matt Tubbs as well, who was able to take the goal burden. As well as this, with the scarcity of goalscorers in the division, Crawley’s stockpiling of forwards had the added benefit of ensuring even if they were sat in the stands, it would be preferable to them going out and scoring for rival clubs (this was why it was so vital for the Dons to hold onto Kedwell, and why doing so provoked such joyous celebrations… how different would our season have turned had he been sold and stuck on the bench at Crawley?).
The truth is, they repeated the trick in just about every position on the field, ensuring by the time their long cup run ended it was just a matter of moping up the required points in the run in. Fortunately it had an effect on the Dons season, by pacing us to March the Dons racked up enough points to ensure an all important second place finish, which set up the playoff campaign that followed…
Broadfield features a large, slightly raised, main stand that seems to dominate the ground, and two fairly spacious end terraces which hold 1600 (one of which is given over to away supporters), Coupled with a small terrace on the remaining side is stands as a better than decent non- league ground.
However, with promotion and ambitions beyond simply standing still, the club are planning on adding a new stand to the current open terrace on the east side of the ground. This is planned to be a prefabricated structure that will literally drop onto the existing terrace, ensuring construction time should only last six days. The club currently plans to have this structure open around Christmas, ensuring there should be plenty of room for Dons fans come our second visit on 14th April.
Entry for Friday nights League Cup preliminary round, with Dons prices in brackets for reference. Dons fans will be located in the North Terrace, and a small section of seats in the West Stand.
Terrace – Adults £16 (£15), Concessions (Over 65s only for Crawley) £13 (£9), U16s (U19s for Crawley) £7 (£2)
Seats – Adults £19 (£19/£17), Concessions (Over 65s only for Crawley) £15 (£11/£10), U16s (U19s for Crawley) £10 (£7/£6)
AFCW Era – The Dons and Crawley have now met six times over the past two seasons, Crawley edging it by two wins to one with one draw in the league, with Wimbledon winning the FA Cup tie two seasons back 3-1 after a replay at Kingsmeadow.