Difficult Second Season Syndrome

A new season is almost upon us, and I don’t feel ready for it. It has been a short off season, and the first league game of the season is this coming Saturday, and we will still be in July. Furthermore, we are on holiday this week, and we haven’t been able to pick our season tickets up yet (if they are ready). It’s probably a good job the first game is away (Carlisle this year, they managed to find somewhere even further away than Hartlepool for the first away game this year).

And although the off season has been a short one, there has been a lot packed in. We have a new manager – Kevin Betsy – who came from coaching one of the Arsenal youth sides, and a new assistant manager.

There have been signings. Dom Telford from Newport County, last season’s League Two top scorer. Dion Conroy, the Swindon Town captain for the last couple of seasons. Travis Johnson from Crewe, Corey Addai from Esbjerg, Tobi Omole from Spurs, Jayden Davis from Millwall, Brandon Mason from the MK Dons, a couple from non-league clubs and James Balagizi on loan from Liverpool). And we’ve lost a similar number of players as well, but only Jordan Tunnicliffe was really a regular first team player last season. And that is as I write, there may well be more incoming as I speak.

The new owners haven’t been wasting time. As well as being busy in the transfer market they have been trying to build good relations with he fans, and went as far as holding a poll on which position the next signing should play in.

They deal in crypto. A lot of which, to be fair, goes over my head. I’ve heard of bitcoin, and NFTs, but that’s probably the limit of my knowledge. It was a surprise to me to find out that when clicking on an article on the BBC sport website entitled “Welcome to the internet’s team,” it was about Crawley.

When the article was published (twelve days ago now), we had already sold ten thousand virtual season tickets for the forthcoming season. It is likely to be a fair few more since then as well. The virtual season ticket cost 0.52 ethers (a crypto currency I’d never even dreamt of hearing about). Which, at the time of the article was the equivalent of £350. Three point five million pounds in virtual season tickets. The full ins and outs of which I don’t fully understand but think they can be traded, and the value goes up or down, or they can be converted for Crawley Town content.

These ten thousand virtual season tickets were an incredible number for me to see. Last year there were seven hundred season ticket holders, and the average home crowd (not included the away support at games at the People’s Pension Stadium) was around two thousand.

As with most clubs at our level we were losing money, and now, within the space of two months we’ve probably got as much money to spend as any club in the league.

The owners are ambitious. They want promotion by the end of next season at the latest and have vowed to put themselves up for election for the chairman if that isn’t achieved. They have also been mentioning the Premier League as a mid-term ambition.

Crawley finished last season at a bit of a limp, and we just about stayed in the top half of the table, finishing twelfth for the second season on the spin. With the signings made and the backing we now have it isn’t a stretch to say we should be doing a lot better than that this season.

The pre-season has gone well. There have been plenty of goals, and plenty of spirit in coming back from deficits to draw against Championship side QPR, and last season’s third placed team in the Scottish Premiership, Hearts. Yes, they are only preseason friendlies, but there are good signs.

I would say that automatic promotion should be achievable. At the very least we should be looking at a play off place. Imagine clinching promotion at Wembley. But money doesn’t always make it up out of this division easily. For several years Mansfield Town, and now Salford City have had big budgets and bigger expectations and have struggled. Other teams up their game against them trying to prove it isn’t all about the money. And I think we can expect the same this season when teams come up against us.

In the pre-season reviews in the football magazines, Bradford City (who our owners WAGMI tried to take over before moving on to us), AFC Wimbledon, Crewe Alexandra, Sutton United, and Stockport County fans have all specifically mentioned Crawley Town in a none too friendly manner. And the magazines haven’t rated our chances in the league very highly either. Four Four Two have us to finish fourteenth, whereas When Saturday Comes have us at a quite frankly insulting twentieth.

Hopefully, our style of play will be better on the eye than some of it was last season. And an improvement in home form would be a much-needed boost and should help us make that leap up the table into the playoff positions, which is where I realistically see us finishing. From there, in the lottery of the playoffs, anything is possible.

We were dreadful in the cup competitions last season, going out as early as possible in all three. I’d be happy with any improvement. But we should be able to get out of our group in the Papa Johns’ Trophy and negotiate the first round of the Carabao Cup. Much depends on the draws from there. The third round in both Carabao and FA cups would be a good haul, and a proper run at the Papa Johns Trophy could see us get to the final.

And for the first time, this season will see us head to some away games. We’ve already booked travel and hotels for the Harrogate game. Barrow away on Easter Monday is also a strong possibility as it can be worked in with a visit to relations in Morecambe. Sutton, Wimbledon, Gillingham, and Stevenage are all easy travel days as well as we look to extend our support as we move into our second season.

Come on you reds.

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