A relatively new side to the Football League, Crawley Town are enjoying their time in the third tier of English football.Despite being formed 118 years ago, they made their first appearance in the Conference in 2004 and they entered the Football League, for the first time in their history, as recently as 2011.
An investment injected into the club in 2010 saw Crawley outspend the rest of the Conference sides, by purchasing the likes of Sergio Torres and Matt Tubbs, to win the 2010/11 title and break into the FL system under the guidance of Steve Evans.
The West Sussex club didn’t stop there, immediately showing their ambition by finishing in the last automatic promotion place in League Two, in their debut season in the division.
Evans departed towards the end of their League Two promotion season, leaving them to be elevated to League One to mark the highest position in Crawley’s history, to take up the vacant post at Rotherham.
The Red Devils play their home games at the 17-year old Checkatrade.com Stadium and they averaged nearly 3500 fans in 2013/14.
This will be Crawley’s third season in this division, which shows they are now an established League One side and who knows how much higher they can go?
Manager: John Gregory
Born in Scunthorpe, Gregory has never been associated with the club, but we’re sure he will look forward to visiting his hometown in the 2014/15 season.
He has over 600 professional appearances, and six England caps, to his name, and, despite being Lincolnshire-born, he came through the youth system at Northampton Town, where the midfielder enjoyed his best spell.
He went on to play for Aston Villa, Brighton and Hove Albion, Queens Park Rangers, Derby County, Plymouth and Bolton, in a career which lasted 18 years.
Gregory’s managerial career began during the back end of his playing career, as he stepped in for a short spell at Portsmouth. He has since managed Plymouth (as a caretaker), Wycombe Wanderers, Aston Villa (where he reached the FA Cup final), Derby, QPR, clubs in Israel and Kazakhstan, before making his return to the British Isles as manager in 2013.
After Town sacked Richie Barker in December, Gregory was handed an 18-month deal with the Reds. Crawley appointed a manager who has a wealth of experience in the game, with over 500 matches in-charge, and his Villa spell shows what he is capable of, as Crawley look to go to the next level under their ambitious hierarchy.
Key Player: Josh Simpson
Crawley captain Josh Simpson was their fantastic ever-present midfield dynamo, as he appeared 41 times for the Reds in 2013/14.
He joined the Broadfield side in 2011 and he has since experienced more ups than downs with the club, as he’s won back-to-back promotions up the Football League.
He has gone from strength to strength since joining and he has since been rewarded with a new contract before flourishing further under Gregory.
In March, the captain hailed his new manager, talking to BBC Sussex: “"He has done so well since he’s come in and he is very enthusiastic. He has lifted everyone and I think that is what we needed. I can only speak highly of him."
Simpson came through the system at Cambridge City before moving onto local, city rivals Cambridge United.
Peterborough loaned the then-22 year old before making his deal permanent. He made a total of 18 appearances for the Posh since his move was made permanent, ten from the bench, and he struggled to break into the side. A short loan spell with Southend followed, before Crawley secured his signature in the 2011 January transfer window.
At 27, Crawley’s ‘captain fantastic’ is coming into his prime, with a good blend of experience and energy to endear him further to the Crawley faithful, and he will definitely want a third promotion with Crawley to add to his CV.
Despite changing managers midway through the season, Crawley finished 14th in League One, ten points above the drop zone.
They had a good start to the season under Richie Barker, losing just two of their first ten League One fixtures. They went the whole of November without a league win and scored just one goal in seven, drawing often, and that ultimately led to Barker’s dismissal.
Under Gregory, the football improved and they started to get results again, but Crawley’s problem was that they couldn’t string a consistent run together- they kept dropping points and losing cheaply. Consistency is key in any league and they failed to provide this, as they won 14 times, drew 15 and lost 17.
They missed a prolific goalscorer, like former forward Matt Tubbs, who provided lots of goals in his time with the Red Devils. Jamie Proctor was their top scorer with seven goals in 49 appearances, with midfielder Andy Drury and defender Joe Walsh close behind him, as they found the back of the net on five occasions.
Finishing 14th shows their stability in this division, although it’s a decline on the previous year’s tenth-placed finish and under the guidance of Gregory, he can recruit his own players and show the Reds’ supporters what he is capable of in 2014/15.