The death of Bruce Winfield on Monday at the age of sixty-one marks the end of a short spell as the co-owner of Crawley Town, but supporters of the club are paying lavish tribute to a man that reinvented the club in the last months of his life. After several years of seemingly perpetual financial crisis, Winfield’s revolution began at the start of July. Since then, few of the club’s supporters could have even dreamed of the way that this season would pan out. The first non-league club to reach the Fifth Round of the FA Cup since 1994 and all but promoted into the Football League, this has been a dream season for Crawley Town.
There has, at times, been criticism of the way that the club has gone about things since its new-found largesse has arrived, but it is worth remembering that none of this criticism could be levelled at Winfield himself. He was a supporter of the club for half a century, the club’s old Town Mead ground as well as their new Broadfield Stadium, and his interpretation of how he and his wife could best help his club was to clear its debts and bring in investment that was the envy of most lower division Football League clubs and almost all non-league clubs. Their success this season on its own has on its own underwritten the losses that they may have incurred in building their formidable squad and, with the fortune made from their FA Cup match at Old Trafford, talk of them “being in administration by the spring” has dissipated.
As such, the future of Crawley Town seems secure for the first time in what seems like forever, and the club seems almost certain to be joining the Football League at the end of this season. The team itself paid its own tribute this evening with a 2-1 win at Eastbourne Borough, a result that puts them twelve points clear of Wimbledon at the top of the Blue Square Premier. It would take something extraordinary to see them not getting promoted at the end of this season, and there is an element of sadness to the fact that Winfield will not be there to see his team lift the trophy at the end of the season, or that he will not get to see them fulfil his ambition of playing in the Football League. Our condolences go to his family and everybody at Crawley Town Football Club.