Betfred Sport

The remarkable rise of Crawley Town

From the dark, bleak days of administration, to the top of Npower League Two, the rise of Sussex-based club Crawley Town is one that all football supporters can only admire.

It was announced just five years ago that the club would have to fold due to their financial meltdown and despite the eventual rescue operation, Crawley would have to face up to a 10 point deduction during the 2006/07 season due to entering administration.

Although former manager John Hollins had stuck by the club through the days of despondency, he was relieved of his duties as the club struggled to cope with the ten point deficit and continued to spiral into the abyss with very little chance of redemption. 

That following season prompted the start of something that would shape the fortunes of the Red Devils for the foreseeable future.

Steve Evans (pictured) stepped in to take control of the club despite the never-ending financial implications. A further six points were deducted during the 2007/08 campaign but still Crawley rallied to finish a respectable 15th and prepare for another season in the Football Conference.

The new regime continued for the next couple of seasons as takeovers bids were launched and debt was continually cleared. Evans’ impact on the club had led to an increase in fans’ optimism as the dream of becoming a Football League club moved closer on the horizon.

The 2010/11 season was one that many supporters of Non League Football will struggle to forget. One million pounds worth of debt had been cleared and for the first time in the club’s history Evans had assembled a squad that was capable of challenging for promotion. How it turned out would leave a lasting impression on the history of the Football Conference.

The Manchester City of non league

Some considered the reformed Crawley were now 'The Manchester City of non league' having spent £500,000 on restructuring the team. Their astonishing FA Cup run, which brought in an estimated two million pounds, demonstrated the rapid progression of a club who had been revitalised and who were now heading in a positive direction.

Victories over Championship side Derby County and a 1-0 victory at Torquay had set up a dream tie against Manchester United at Old Trafford. In spite of the 1-0 defeat, Crawley gave their illustrious host’s countless problems, most noticeably when striker Richard Brodie headed against the cross bar to the desolation of 9,000 travelling supporters.

Their cup adventures seemed to be no distraction to Crawley’s main ambition of claiming promotion to the Football League. At one point the Red Devils had six games in hand on top of the table AFC Wimbledon, who would eventually join Crawley in the Football League via the playoffs.

A remarkable, record-breaking end to the season saw Crawley overhaul Wimbledon and in due course claim the title by a staggering 15 points - the biggest points margin in the history of the Football Conference.

The dramatic rise of Crawley Town is surely one of the many reasons why Football in this country is so diversely embraced. From the brink of liquidation, the Red Devils have clawed their way back to the lofty heights of the top of Npower League Two.

The way they have acquainted themselves so far, suggests that Crawley’s ambitious aspirations are by no means finished as they push for back to back promotions.

I certainly couldn’t bet against them not achieving it and I don’t think too many people in football could either.

By Daniel Ludlam

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