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Tranmere Rovers & Cheltenham Town Stare Into The Abyss
When the full-time whistle blew at Broadfield Stadium this evening with Steve Evans gesticulating at the referee in the background over the amount of time added on at the end of the match, there was an outpouring of joy and delight that the stadium has probably never seen before. It would probably not, however, be overstating things to say that this joy was only scantly mirrored in the outside world. Non-league football probably hasn’t ever seen a less popular set of “giant-killers” (if, considering everything, that is how this match can really be framed) and, for those of us that love non-league football, the feeling of ambivalence towards Crawley Town on an evening such as this has felt odd, almost unnatural. We’re supposed to love our giant-killers. Instead, tonight felt lop-sided, as if the planets had slipped out of alignment.
The Daily Mail chimed in this morning with a hagiography of the club that contained some surprising assertions. It claimed, for example, that “Crawley’s home gate has doubled to around 1,200″ this season, which is just plain wrong – their average home crowd this season is 1,694, up from 913 last season but almost identical to their average home attendance – 1,682 – of two seasons ago. In addition to this, it would appear that, according to this report, the selection of lower division footballers that have pitched up in West Sussex over the last few months or so have done so out of the goodness of their hearts rather than for financial consideration and that all of the the money spent on them was not only all paid up front, but was considerably less than was reported anywhere at the time that the transfers were going through, when they were never denied by the club. Eyebrows have been raised nationwide at such claims.
Perhaps Crawley Town’s new owners have found a form of something approaching football alchemy, or perhaps there is an attempt going in some quarters to try and whitewash their recent history, painting them as the plucky underdogs that the press loves to talk up so much on the day of their big FA Cup match. On the pitch, though, such concerns don’t amount to a great deal and Crawley outplayed a Derby County team that are three divisions above them and who, after a bright start, looked lethargic for much of the match. Within nine minutes, the Crawley goalkeeper Michel Kuipers had mistimed a race against Derby’s Chris Porter to get to the ball first and gave the forward the opportunity to look for a penalty kick. Kris Commons’ penalty, however, was weak and Kuipers blocked the ball.
An early opening goal may have settled Derby nerves, but the penalty miss seemed to have the polar opposite effect upon them. They soon found themselves pegged back by an effervescent Crawley midfield and after half an hour Crawley took the lead, when Matt Tubbs’ shot was charged down into the path of Craig McAllister, who finished into the corner of the net. Within minutes, Crawley nearly doubled their lead, but McAllister’s shot was well blocked by Rob Pringle. The half ended, however, on something of a sour note when Tubbs crashed into Robbie Savage with a tackle that should have earnt him a red card, but didn’t. Savage, who is starting to look more and more like a pantomime dame as he heads towards middle-age, protested loudly but his appeals, which seemed to follow the referee up the tunnel at half-time, fell upon deaf ears.
It had been a tepid first forty-five minutes from Derby County but they improved in the second half, despite increasinglty monsoon-like conditions and with eighteen minutes of the second half played drew level when Commons atoned for his earlier penalty miss by sending over a perfect cross from the right-hand side which Miles Addison met with a powerful header past Kuipers. This should have been the turning point of the evening, the moment at which the natural order was reinstated, but Derby, having brought themselves level, took their collective foot off the pedal. The Crawley players didn’t tire, though, and, with the match thirty seconds into stoppage time, the winning goal came when a shot from the edge of the penalty area from Sergio Torres fizzed through a crowd of players and into the corner of the Derby net.
In a moment of candour, ESPN’s Jon Champion noted that Crawley Town had spent more on players last summer than every club in League Two put together, and this gives us some insight into the fact that, whilst this evening’s result was a very good day at the office for Crawley and a very bad one for Derby County, it was not the seismic tremor that the traditional narrative of the FA Cup, which the mainstream media may choose to run with over the next couple of weeks, demands. The continuing presence of Steve Evans also remains a pock mark on the face of Crawley Town Football Club, and that the supporters of his club seem relatively ambivalent towards him even at a time of unprecedented success says a lot about how he carries himself now as well as the murkier aspects of his past.
Crawley’s supporters may feel that, after all that they have been through over the last few years of mismanagement, they deserve an evening like this. Time will tell on whether this particular “project” ends in yet more tears, though, and the cost for their supporters is that many people will not give the team as much credit as it might deserve for its win tonight, even though the players deserve full credit for their performances. Regardless of any other considerations, they earned the right to their celebrations. That the goodwill shown towards the club has been so muted certainly seems to be more a reflection on their manager than either of these two groups.
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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
Evans is still nothing more than a crook. He ruined Boston United. How he can be celebrated is beyond me
Great article and it’s particularly pleasing that you’ve seperated Steve Evans from Crawley Town. You won’t find many Conference managers that take their team to second in the table and the fourth round of the FA Cup and still don’t have the backing of the fans.
Crawley fans do recognise what an odious toad Evans is. He constantly embarasses the club with his comments and statements, which resulted in the club having to issue a grovelling apology to Man City earlier in the year.
In general, you won’t find Steve Evans celebrated by many Crawley fans.
I’ve read some shit journalism in my time, but that piece in the Daily Mail has to be the absolute nadir – it’s about as well acquainted with the truth as the man that wrote it, dear old “Honest” Steve himself. It’s no wonder the Daily Mail don’t seem very keen to publish any comments on that piece.
And, Half-time Whistle, it’s nice to know that Evans is reviled at Crawley – does the other fan think the same as you?
Don’t know much about this manager but if he is the toad a lot of people are claiming he is, wouldn’t he be barred by the FA themselves. Some non-league fans I sense are jealous of what Crawley have done. I’m sure every other manager is a saint & only Evans is a toad. Dream on. Well done Crawley Town FC for standing up too Derby County, a team well above them & on a full time “professional” basis. The players did their job and the Derby players did not. As for the foul on Savvage, if it wasn’t on Savvage but another player maybe he would have got that Red card.
I thought we were class and deserved it. Give Stevie-boy a rest – he’s done good. Though he could do with losing some weight lol.
@quacking striker, @yiannakis
Firstly, Crawley Town are very much a professional side and I’d be amazed if their wage budget is far off most League 1 sides.
Secondly, Evans is a criminal. He was convicted of tax evasion and funneled the profits of his crime into a bent promotion campaign. It took Dagenham and Redbridge several years to win the promotion that was rightfully theirs.
Although the courts handed Evans a £1000 fine and suspended sentence and the FA handed Boston a 4-point penalty, both reaped the benefits of their crime since the deduction took effect the following season in League 2.
Evans isn’t just one of those combative, unpleasant managers who divide opinion so (see Neil Warnock, Alex Ferguson, etc). He’s personally profited from breaking the law and the spirit of the game. To see him once again receiving plaudits from spending someone else’s money is a disgrace. The man should be banned from football.
Yiannakis – that’s the best laugh I’ve had all season. Evans is total and utter scum but you think because the FA haven’t banned him he’s OK?
You should be keeping everything crossed that the FA don’t look too closely at how your club is financed, but no doubt Fatty’s made sure that the time bombs don’t go off until he’s done the double of fiddling a second club into the league.
By the way – does the three Crawley supporters on here constitute their best away support of the season?
O’Dreary – two dreary snipes at Crawley Town’s fan base. Just wanted to point out that for their entire history, Crawley have been a non-league club. If you expect them to have thousands upon thousands of fans overnight, just because some money’s pumped in, then that says more about you then anything.
Building up a big fan base takes time, and those clubs with recent Football League history (York, Luton, even AFC Wimbledon if you consider want to consider them as an ex-football league club) they rightly have bigger crowds. It’s natural that the more successful the club, the more fans turn up and this is true of ALL football clubs. Crawley haven’t won anything yet, so don’t expect all these fans to come out of the woodwork just yet.
I don’t know who you support, but if you think your club doesn’t attract more fans to the big games, and won’t get more fans if/when you go up and fewer fans if/when you go down, then you’re kidding yourself.
I see 1,002 or 1,003 per game as Crawley Town’s average attendance last season. The first figure is from ESPN Soccernet and the second figure is from Mike Avery.co.uk. What source are you using for those 09/10 figures for Crawley Town? Because 913 per game vewrsu 1,003 per game is a significant, almost 10% difference. Ever since Tony Kempster passed away, it has been difficult getting accurate attendance figures for Non-League clubs.
Given McFraud’s alleged record of posting on Boston discussion boards whilst at our place, those last two Crawley fans are probably just his aliases…
Bill, I’m taking the figure from Mike Avery, which I would assume as the more reliable of the two sites (though I haven’t particularly looked into how this discrepancy came about). Average league crowds shouldn’t be difficult to work out, so how they have come out with such different figures may be something that I have to look at in closer detail.
It could be that some sources are not counting give-away/free tickets distributed. This is a thing that crops up when one looks at gate figures in Brazil, among other countries. The 1-person-per-game difference between ESPN’s and Mike Avery’s 2009-10 Crawley Town figures is because I have noticed that Mike Avery does not round up fractional numbers up when an average has a .5 to .99 number at the end of it, so if the avg. were, say, 1,002.6 or so, ESPN rounds it up. This season I have had to use ESPN figures for Non-League clubs when I listed current gate figures for my FA Cup maps, because Mike Avery has not updated past 4th September, 2010. Every time I have checked, the two sites have similar numbers (besides the aforementioned 1 digit differences).
At any rate, European-Football-Statistics.co.uk seems to be very accurate, but unfortunately does not list Non-League figures.
Oops, I meant to say ESPN does not round up figures such as 1,002.5 or so, and Mike Avery does.
Johnny C – did he ever call himself Ivan Speck and pass himself off as a journalist? Looks like he’s doing that now too.
Half-time whistle – glad you it, it was intended as a cheap shot, but none the less well deserved for the arrogant way the few Crawley fans are behaving.
I wouldn’t mind, but when “Project Promotion” becomes “Project Oblivion” you and the tens of other die-hards will be expecting sympathy from the same people you’re (metaphorically at least) waving your wads of cash at now.
Meant to say:
Glad you liked it ….