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Crawley Town Football club were formed in 1896 and started to play
competitive football from that date, they started playing friendlies some
six years earlier in 1890. The first game to be played by the Crawley
Football club was on Saturday 22 November 1890 at home to Lingfield FC.
Shields was the first player to score for Crawley in a 4-2 win.
playing friendlies against teams from across Surrey and West Sussex for
six years (including several games against themselves), the club were
officially formed at the Railway pub (at the Brighton Road level crossing)
in 1896. They had previously played games on fields in and around Crawley
including Jordans farm (which later hosted the APV Social club and is now
a popular Toby Carvery and a housing estate). They however settled playing
on a field in Malthouse Farm which was owned by the Longley family who had
a long association with the club.
started their competitive life in the West Sussex Junior league where they
remained until 1901. They then moved to the Mid Sussex league and won
their first league title in 1903. However, the cost of running the club
proved difficult and the club were re-formed in 1905. Various incarnations
of the club including Crawley Rangers and Crawley Athletic played on
Malthouse Farm field.
1938, the club were re-formed again. The clubs base continued to be at the
Railway pub and the team played on the now renamed Malthouse Meadow.
years passed until 1948 when a proposal was made to move to a field in
West Green known as Town Meadow (later shortened to Town
years passed before the club decided to enter the Sussex County League in
1951 before changing leagues again in 1956 to the Metropolitan league. The
league was a competition for both professional and amateur sides. Crawley
retained their amateur status and went on to reach the Sussex Senior Cup
final in 1959 losing to Worthing 2-1. The club did however win the
Metropolitan League Challenge Cup, two weeks previously. Back
turned semi-professional in 1962 and the following year they joined the
Southern League First Division. They were promoted to Premier Division of
the Southern League for the 1969/70 season, but the joy was short lived as
this particular stint at the top level of the Non-league game lasted just
the one season and they were relegated back to Division One.
1969/70 season also saw a run to the 4th Qualifying round of
the FA Cup where the Reds lost 2-0 to Wimbledon in a 2nd
replay. The 1st replay, at Town
Mead, was witnessed by an
official record crowd of 3,256 (though those in attendance estimate it was
more like 6,000) – a record that stood for 22 years! The club did take
home one bit of silverware that season – the Sussex Professional Cup.
proved a stepping stone to FA Cup success as the following season they
reached the first round proper for the first time in their history, losing
6-1 in a replay at Chelmsford City after the first match at Town
Mead ended in a 1-1 draw. The Reds again reached the 1st round the
following year, this time bowing out with 2-0 defeat at the hands of
Exeter City in a replay after the first match at Town
Mead ended goalless.
A Barren spell followed and Crawley Town remained in Division One South of the Southern league (and without any notable cup success, aside from the minor Gilbert Rice Floodlight Cup in 1980) until promotion back to the Premier Division (now the 2nd tier of the Non league game following the formation of the Alliance Premier League for the start of the 1979/80 season) was attained in the 1983/84 season as runners up to RS Southampton, under the guidance of John Maggs. This season also saw the Reds win the Gilbert Rice Floodlight Cup for the 2nd time.
first season back in the Premier was a successful one as the Reds finished
the season in third position, just three points behind the Champions,
Cheltenham Town, who won 5-1 at Town
Mead towards the end of March.
A few more uneventful seasons followed, with a 3rd victory in the now renamed Southern Counties Combination Floodlight Cup in 1986 being the only silverware. Back to top
1990 a memorable 5 years started with the club winning the Sussex Senior
Cup for the first time, and this feat was repeated again the following
season, forming a County cup double as the Sussex Floodlight Cup was also
brought home (the first of three consecutive victories). However, the Reds
should have been relegated at the end of the 1990/91 season, having
finished in the final relegation spot, but were reprieved when 14th placed
Rushden Town, as they were then known, were relegated instead due to
ground grading issues.
1990/91 season, having finished in the final relegation spot, but were reprieved when 14th placed Rushden Town, as they were then known, were relegated instead due to ground grading issues.
1991/92 season started without fanfare and with normal FA Cup
expectations. Long-time Reds fans were used to the crushing disappointment
of FA Cup exits to supposedly inferior teams, so after 1st and
2nd qualifying round victories against Molesey and Sheppey
respectively, most expected the worst from a tricky trip to Erith &
Belvedere in the 3rd qualifying round, but the Reds left with a
2-1 victory and a 4th qualifying round draw away to local
2,000 fans saw the teams battle out a 0-0 draw at Queen Street in the 1st
match so it was back to a very wet Town
Mead the following Tuesday where a
record 3,427 saw Crawley take an early lead before eventually running out
3-0 winners to set up a first round tie at home to 4th Division
incidents at the Horsham game, Town
Mead had a new look for the big match,
with crush barriers and new fencing installed. An all ticket crowd of over
3,000 squeezed in to watch Crawley complete a famous 4-2 victory and put
the club into the 2nd Round for the first time in their
those hoping to draw a big Football League club the draw wasn’t kind,
but for those hoping to progress further the away tie at Isthmian Premier
Division Hayes presented ample opportunity.
Reds fans jumped into cars, coaches and minibuses and made the short trip
round the M25 and were handsomely rewarded as Tim Hulmes double secured a
2-0 victory, despite a penalty miss from Damien Webber. The day wasn’t
over yet though, as the packed pubs of Crawley then witnessed the Saturday
night 3rd round draw which pitted their local Non League side
against 2nd Division Brighton & Hove Albion at the
Goldstone Ground in another Sussex Derby. 6 Months previously Brighton
were 90 minutes away from what is now the Premier league, following a play
off final defeat at Wembley to Notts County.
for the estimated 7,000 travelling Crawley fans in a gate of over 18,000
(which generated unbeaten record receipts for the Goldstone Ground) the
match didn’t live up to all that had come before it as the Reds never
really got going against the team from 4 divisions above them, eventually
bowing out 5-0.
This record breaking run had given the club and the fans alike a taster for FA Cup success. After defeat to Yeovil at the 4th Qualifying round stage in 1992/93 the team again reached the 2nd round in 1993/94, losing 2-1 to Barnet, then in the third tier of English football, at Town Mead with Carl Hoddle (brother of Glenn) scoring a beauty in front of a record attendance of 4,104. The Reds were also in contention for the league title for much of the season, but fell away and eventually finished in 5th position, 9 points behind the champions, Farnborough.
The following season Crawley again
reached the 1st round proper, losing 1-0 away to Exeter City
following a 4th qualifying round replay victory against local
FA Cup success, and indeed league success, eluded the Reds and in 1997 the
club left Town
Mead to move to a purpose built £5 million stadium in
Broadfield where they remain to this day.
continued to elude the club, the Sussex Floodlight Cup of 1998/99 being
the only silverware collected for several years.
1999, with the novelty of a new stadium having worn off, but the high
costs of it remaining, Crawley Town entered administration. Reds legend
Cliff Cant was installed as manager and on a shoestring budget the team
found themselves bottom of the league and facing relegation for the first
time in 30 years. The club was rescued by local businessman John Duly and
the team responded by hauling themselves into mid table.
arrival of John Duly heralded the start of a new golden age for the club.
In 2002/3, following an absence of eight years, the first round proper of the
FA Cup was reached. Once again a trip to the West Country beckoned, as the
Reds travelled to League rivals Tiverton, returning with a 1-1 draw.
replay saw a record Broadfield stadium crowd of 3,907 cause the kick off
to be delayed for 15 minutes as they filed into the ground, but it looked
like they would go home disappointed as Tiverton took a 2 goal lead just
after the hour mark. Within 2 minutes though, Nic McDonnell had reduced
the deficit and when McDonnell added a second, it was all to play for and
play for it they did as Warren Bagnall completed the turn around with just
3 minutes remaining to put Crawley through to the 2nd round for
only the third time in their history.
home tie with Conference side Dagenham And Redbridge awaited and when Nic
McDonnell gave the home side an early lead in front of a new club record
attendance of 4,516, Reds fans were once again dreaming of the third
round, but Ellis Hoopers sending off left the reds clinging on and
following a Dagenham equaliser there was once again a late Broadfield
Stadium winner, but this time in favour of the visitors.
January 2003 Francis Vines was appointed as caretaker manager, before
being appointed on a permanent basis in February, and the season ended
with Reds being crowned Southern League Cup and Sussex Senior Cup winners,
laying the foundations for further success…
2003/04 season, Crawley’s 20th consecutive season in the
Southern Premier League (and the last season before the regionalised
Conference divisions were formed), started poorly as the team crashed to a
2-1 home defeat to Merthyr Tydfil, but the teams form picked up and by
November the team were well placed in the League and into the 1st
Round of the FA Cup again where an away trip to Telford saw the reds race
into a 2 goal lead before half time, only to be pegged back and lose the
match in the 6th minute of 3 added on… Reds fans didn’t
realise it at the time, but this seasons 4th qualifying round
victory at Cirencester would be the last time their team won an FA Cup
match for 7 years.
the new year broke, the title race seemed to be just a two horse race
between the Reds and Weymouth, who were ‘living the dream’ under the
management of Steve Claridge and the chairmanship of Ian Ridley. The two
teams met at the Wessex Stadium 3 days into the new year and things looked
like they were going to go wrong when goalkeeper Andy Little was sent off.
With no goalkeeper on the bench, left back Ian Payne went between the
sticks, with his first job to be facing a penalty from Steve Claridge. Ian
saved the penalty and Crawley went on to win the game 1-0.
two sides remained neck and neck going into March and on the 6th of the
month Weymouth were in Town. Another record crowd of 4,522 packed into the
Broadfield, 800 of whom had travelled from Dorset, and they saw a classic
match as two goals in the space of three minutes shortly after half time
from Paul Armstrong
and Kevin Hemsley
saw the Reds looking comfortable, but Weymouth pulled one back and late on
Steve Claridge was allowed a free header from 8 yards, but he failed to
hit the target and Crawley were top of the League.
Reds never looked back and, as Weymouth collapsed, went from strength to
strength. Easter Monday saw a trip to Park View Road, home of old rivals
Welling United. Over 500 Reds fans made the short trip to South East
London and saw their team record a comfortable 3-0
win. As the final
whistle went, fans poured onto the pitch. Weymouth were drawing at home to
Tiverton with 5
minutes still to play and if things stayed like that, then Crawley Town
were Southern League Champions. When the news came through that the final
whistle had gone in Dorset and Crawley Town were Southern League Champions
the celebrations started - Celebrations that would last long into the
clubs first season in the Conference was an unqualified success. From the
opening day victory at Leigh RMI, beating relegated York and Carlisle at home to a victory against
Morecambe in the snow in February as Crawley made their live TV debut on
Sky Sports. A very respectable finish of 12th position was achieved, having been as high as second during
the course of the season. The club also won the Sussex Senior Cup for the
2nd time in 3 years.
good times were not to last though. As the season drew to a close, the
ever popular John Duly announced that the club had been sold to two local
entrepreneurs, the Majeed brothers, who arrived at the club announcing
investment of £1.8m to take the club to the next level.
the investment never materialised and the team did not perform at previous
high levels. Vines was sacked and in March 2006, the club announced that
the entire squad was up for sale and that players and staff had seen their
salaries cut in half. In June 2006, the club entered administration and
shortly after it emerged that Chas Majeed was an undischarged bankrupt who
should not have been running a Football Club.
series of points deductions followed and the club hovered around the lower
half of the Conference. Shortly after the end of the 2006/7 season, former
Boston manager and convicted fraudster Steve Evans was appointed as
manager. The following April, a consortium by the name of Prospect Estates
led by Evans and including former owner John Duly, who was still owed
money from the sale of the club in 2006, took over the club from the
Majeeds, but the future still appeared uncertain until it emerged that
lifelong fan Bruce Winfield and local businesswoman Susan Carter were also
shareholders and by the end of the 2009/10 season, a season in which the
reds finished in an incredible 7th position, despite a
shoestring budget that saw players driving themselves to away games, the
club were finally debt free.
July 2010 Winfield and Carter announced that they had bought out Prospect
and the Reds embarked on a remarkable journey.
new players arrived at the club during the summer months, including the
joint leading Conference scorers from the previous season (Matt Tubbs from
Salisbury and Richard Brodie from York City, for a combined fee reported
to be in excess of £300,000), but just like the Southern league winning
season 7 years beforehand, the opening day was something of a
disappointment as the new team went down 1-0 at home to newly relegated
club would go on to lose just two more league games that season, away to
AFC Wimbledon in September and at home to Newport County in October,
before embarking on a record breaking 30 match unbeaten run whilst racking
up a Conference record haul of 105 points. The league was won at Tamworth
on 9 April 2011, with 5 games to spare, eventually finishing 15 points
ahead of 2nd place AFC Wimbledon.
it was once again the FA Cup which would give Crawley national headlines.
club attained their first cup victory for 7 years with a 1-0 victory away
to Newport County (the week after the same team inflicted the final league
defeat of the season) and followed this up with a comfortable 5-0 win away
to Conference North side Guiseley.
2nd round draw saw a home tie against League One Swindon Town
which was selected for a Friday night live TV slot by ESPN. A Matt Tubbs
equaliser earned the Reds a replay in Wiltshire and a place in third round
draw for the first time in 19 years.
the replay, the Reds started brightly on a bitterly cold night and were
rewarded when Ben Smith gave them the lead after only 14 minutes. The lead
was short lived though and by half time Swindon led
2-1, though the Reds
fans were warmed when the hosts had a man sent off just before Half time.
dominated the 2nd half and were rewarded after 70 minutes with
an equaliser, officially credited as an own goal by Swindon goalkeeper and
former Reds player Phil Smith. Despite continued domination, the game went
into extra time and looked to be heading for penalties until Ben Smith
popped up in the dying minutes of extra time with a well deserved winner
to send Crawley into the 3rd round proper (for only the 2nd
time in their history) and a home tie with Championship Derby County.
again saw fit to televise and the Monday night scheduling meant that the
club entered the 4th round draw for the first time ever and
knew that a trip to League Two Torquay awaited the winners.
started badly as Derby were (wrongly) awarded a penalty, but Michel
Kuipers saved the spot kick and shortly afterwards Craig McAllister gave
the hosts the lead, but Derby County equalised on the hour. As the clock
ticked into injury time and Reds fans were planning their route to Derby,
a Dean Howell corner found Sergio Torres on the edge of the box and he
unleashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner to send the Broadfield
crowd into raptures and write himself into club history.
club were allocated 1,100 tickets for the trip to Torquay and all were
sold within hours of going on general sale as hotels were booked and
transport planned. Crawley turned the Devon resort red for a weekend that
will live long in the memory of all who attended.
Tubbs gave Crawley the lead shortly before half time and in the 2nd
half blew a great chance to ensure his teams progress as his spot kick was
well saved by Torquay goalkeeper Scott Bevan. When a 2nd
penalty was awarded, Craig McAllister wrestled the ball from Jamie Cook,
only to see Bevan save his penalty too. The late sending off of Dean
Howell made for a nervy final few minutes but the Reds held out for a
famous victory and progress into the 5th round for the first
time ever and became only the 6th Non-League side to reach that
stage since the 2nd World War. The celebrations went on into
the early hours and the pubs, clubs and streets of Torquay echoed to the
sound of Crawley Town all night.
Sunday came, hangovers and journeys home. The draw for the 5th
round took place in the middle of the afternoon. 8 ties in all and 6 had
been drawn already. 4 balls were left – those representing Crawley Town,
Manchester United, Fulham and Bolton or Wigan. The 4th to last
ball was drawn. “Manchester United. Will play… Number one, CRAWLEY
club went into overdrive. Season ticket and merchandise sales went through
the roof and on the day of the game, 11,000 Crawley fans travelled to
Manchester by train, by plane, by car and by coach to out sing the most
famous Red Army of all on their own patch.
Wes Brown gave Manchester United the lead in the 28th minute of
a first half dominated by the hosts it seemed only a matter of time before
the floodgates opened, but Crawley emerged for the 2nd half a
fired up and motivated team and dominated possession without really
creating any clear cut chances, but in the 93rd minute 74,778
fans inside Old Trafford and the millions watching around the world on
prime time Saturday evening TV held their breath as Richard Brodie’s
header looped over the goalkeeper and clipped the top of the crossbar.
Crawley were out, but they were by no means disgraced.
a sad note Bruce Winfield, the clubs saviour and a lifelong fan passed
away shortly after watching the team beat nearest rivals AFC Wimbledon in
March. Gone, but never forgotten by the Reds faithful.
club adapted well to life in the Football League and finished 2011 top of
the table. The clubs League Cup debut saw a pre season Preliminary round
match against AFC Wimbledon, caused by Birmingham City’s victory and
subsequent Europa League qualification and bye to the third round. A 3-2
home win presented the club with a chance of another Championship scalp in
the form of a trip up the road to Crystal
Palace, but following a weeks
delay due to the summer riots and a dominant first half display, the Reds
were unable to press home the advantage, eventually bowing out 2-0 in
front of 1,900 travelling fans.
1st and 2nd round victories away to League One Bury
and at home to Ryman League Redbridge respectively, January was broken up
by another FA cup run as Championship side Bristol City, complete with
former England goalkeeper David James, visited the Broadfield. They were
no match for Crawley, who duly dispatched them thanks to a 2nd
half goal from Matt Tubbs.
disappointing 4th round draw saw almost 2,000 fans travel to the North
East for a match with Hull City at the KC stadium and a brilliant team
performance saw Matt Tubbs once again see off a Championship side with a 2nd
half goal. A world class save from Scott Shearer near the end saw Crawley
into the 5th round for the 2nd season running.
Sunday lunchtime home tie with the previous seasons Runners up, Stoke
City, once again in front of the ESPN cameras, was the reward and the
early sending off of Rory Delap had the home fans dreaming of a first ever
top flight scalp, but a soft penalty award and a Peter Crouch header saw
the Premier League opposition ease through.
season wasn’t over though and, despite a drop in form, a second
successive promotion was still very much on the cards.
the pitch, significant development was taking place to ensure that the
club could retain its Football league status and on 6th April
the new 2,200 seater East Stand was opened for the visit of Crewe,
attracting a new record attendance of 4,723.
9th April, a year to the day after the Conference was won,
Steve Evans announced his resignation to take up a role at Rotherham and
first team coach Craig Brewster was installed as caretaker manager with
Steve Coppell helping out.
remained patchy and a 3-0 defeat to Hereford in the penultimate match of
the season looked to have ended hopes of automatic promotion, but a late
goal for Crewe against Torquay meant that the clubs fate was still in its
own hands on the final day of the season when they would travel to
700 reds fans made their way to Lancashire and were rewarded when Scott
Neilson scored the only goal of the game to take the team into League One.
team started their debut League One season well with a 3-0 thumping of
Scunthorpe, and by the end of October found themselves in 2nd
place. In September, recent Premier League side Portsmouth were the first
big name visitors of the season, though in a match ruined by the referee,
Darren Deadman, the visitors ran out 3-0 winners in front of another
record crowd of 5,058.
cup success was enjoyed in the League Cup as the Reds beat Championship
Millwall at the Den on penalties following a 2-2 draw and then beat
another Championship side in Bolton Wanderers 2-1 at the Broadfield
Stadium. Premier League side and eventual winners Swansea City were the
visitors in the 3rd round and they triumphed by 3 goals to 2,
scoring their winner just as the clock ticked over to 90 minutes.
the end of November, Crawley were out of the Play Off places and didn’t
return to them.
club enjoyed another FA Cup run and after victories against Ryman League
Metropolitan Police and Conference South side Chelmsford City, Reading
became the clubs 4th top flight opposition within the space of
two years when they visited the Broadfield in the 3rd round.
Yet another record crowd of 5,880 saw Nicky Adams give the home side the
lead after just 14 seconds, but the Premier League side turned the screw
and, with the help of a very soft penalty, ran out 3-1 winners.
clubs first season in League One can be seen as a success, though having
been so high for much of the first half of the season many fans were
disappointed with the final position of 10th. For those of us
who were watching the Reds in front of crowds of 300 in the lower reaches
of the Southern league at Town
Mead, victories against teams such as
Sheffield United, Portsmouth, Coventry & Preston North End in the 3rd
tier of English football were certainly not disappointments.
To be continued… Back to top