So, a new season preview, and one that is very different to those that have gone before. I’m going to try not to be as pessimistic as I have been for Spurs seasons (although last year wasn’t pessimistic enough by half). Just in case anyone has been hibernating in a cave for the last six months or so, I need to point out I no longer support Spurs. I came to the end of my very long tether with the greedy money grabbing bastards and dumped them, binning or sending to the charity shop all items I owned connected with them after they announce they were joining the European Super League.
I was in limbo for the latter part of the season, and then just about watched the Euros (well had them on as I rocked gently in my seat like an inmate without their straitjacket). In the meantime, I bought season tickets for Helen and myself to Crawley Town as our local team. (When the wind blows in the right direction, we have been able to hear cheering when goals go in at the ground just before they appear on the vidiprinter as we sit in the living room watching soccer Saturday.)
And I have been to a handful of games at Crawley before. One back in 2006 when they were still in the Conference, when a mate from Manchester I used to work with came down to support Southport and I stood in the away end with about thirty others. Then there was a pre-season game where they were playing Spurs’ B side (or maybe C or D side) and Crawley whipped them 6-1. There was a Carabao (or previous sponsor) cup game against Ipswich Town where all you could hear was Mick McCarthy chuntering all game as Crawley won. There was another midweek evening game the same season, which was so memorable that I couldn’t tell you who it was against. Both of these were freebies courtesy of being work mates with the referee. Finally, there was the last home game of the 2018-19 season, where we sat in glorious sunshine as Crawley played the soon to be relegated Notts County with Crawley’s former manager Harry Kewell at the helm.
Over the last few years, I haven’t been as avid a follower of football as I used to be. My knowledge of lower leagues has ebbed away and so it’s going to be a steep learning curve this season. I know Crawley finished 12th last season after flirting with the playoffs at one point, and they did manage to beat Leeds United comprehensively in the FA Cup in a televised match.
Since then, their top scorer last season has moved on, as has z-lister celebrity irritant Mark Wright who had somehow wangled a professional contract with the club last season as some part of some televised tomfoolery. Although he’s moved on, he seems to have left his even less talented brother behind.
The new season starts today with a nice away trip to Hartlepool. No, I’m not going. First, let’s walk before trying to run. I have a season ticket to a club for the first time in my life, which is a big-time commitment, so let’s see how that goes before schlepping all around the country. It’s a big step when I don’t even know most of the player’s names yet. Secondly, I only got back home yesterday from two weeks away, during which there was 1338 miles driving, 103.7 miles of walking, and at least 120 miles of journeys on steam trains, and the drive home from Morecambe yesterday took eight and a half hours. A round trip of 603 miles with an advertised driving time of eleven and a half hours might be pushing it. And half a dozen trains isn’t going to be any better. Plus no one wants to stay overnight in Hartlepool.
I’ve been there. I’ve seen the Victoria Ground, and I made the assumption it was so called as she still would have been queen when their facilities were last considered modern. I’ve had dinner on the Trincomalee and been a bad influence on work colleagues when it came to passing the port. Plus, I have stayed overnight in Hartlepool (it was a work thing, and we were going to the official opening of an offshore wind farm) at the Best Western hotel there. All I can say about that is if that is the best western, I’d hate to see what the worst western was like.
Thirdly, most away games are a trek this season, besides Hartlepool, there are Barrow and Carlisle in Cumbria, Exeter, and Newport in other countries (yes, I know Exeter isn’t in another country, it just feels like it), and Bradford, Harrogate, Mansfield, Oldham, Port Vale, Rochdale, Salford, Scunthorpe, Tranmere, and Walsall all north of the Watford Gap. There is only Sutton, newcomers to the Football League, that is within an hour’s journey of Crawley (direct bus as well), and then Stevenage that is on a direct train service (well, depending on how Thamestink are performing that day).
Anyway, back to the task in hand, how do I think Crawley will get on this season? (I had started to write how will we do this season, only to find that doesn’t quite sound natural yet when referring to Crawley, perhaps that will come in time.) I don’t know really; I think I’ll have a much better idea when getting around to writing this next season. I have to admit I’ve had to cram to get some kind of idea of the teams in the same division and have resorted to checking out in detail the League Two parts of the season previews in both Four Four Two and When Saturday Comes (the only time I tend to buy issues of either of them anyway).
Both have Crawley as struggling in the lower half of the table (18th in FFT and 19th in WSC), but both of those sound too pessimistic even for me, with all my experience of writing pessimistic reviews and following Spurs for forty-plus years. Plus, neither are particularly accurate with their predictions.
The local papers and the club website are very upbeat (as you’d expect) and are talking about playoffs. I do think that might be a tad optimistic, but another top half finish shouldn’t be out of reach. If they could win a Carabao Cup game for the first time in a few seasons it would be a bonus, another FA Cup run to the fourth round would be good, as would getting out of their EFL Trophy group into the knockout stages. That would be a great season.
But what would really be the best thing for the season would be if we can get to see all the games the season ticket covers without Covid interfering.