Basket-case Crawley Town in grave danger of relegation

FOOTBALL LEAGUE FOCUS: Basket-case Crawley Town are flapping against the tide and are in grave danger of sinking, no one can begrudge Gillingham some joy and Morecambe’s Derek Adams is manager of the month

  • Struggling fourth-tier side Crawley ill-equipped to stay in the Football League
  • After two decades of toil, no one could anyone begrudge Gillingham some joy
  • And Morecambe’s Derek Adams has led his side to four wins in their last five 

As the Football League returned from its World Cup hiatus last month, Sportsmail ran a feature discussing the promotion and relegation fights in each division. 

‘Unlike previous years, League Two does not have a basket-case club,’ it read. It’s time to revise that theory. Welcome to the band of basket cases, Crawley Town. 

Some more company for fans of Macclesfield, Southend, Oldham, Bury and Scunthorpe. We know the script: negligent decisions by a charlatan owner and, in course, a team ill-equipped to stay in the Football League.

Crawley Town are an absolute basket-case and they look ill-equipped to stay in League Two

Owner Preston Johnson has made some questionable decisions during his turbulent tenure

‘It’s been a challenging first year,’ says owner Preston Johnson, founder of a cryptocurrency sports company, in a revealing chat with Sportsmail. ‘We got thrown into the deep end and have been trying to learn to swim on the fly ever since.’

Sticking with the swimming theme, Crawley are flapping against the tide without a life raft and are in grave danger of sinking. The West Sussex club sit 20th in League Two and their situation could soon become perilous despite an improvement under latest boss Scott Lindsey.

Johnson’s firm WAGMI United – an acronym for ‘We’re All Gonna Make It’ – took over 10 days before manager John Yems was suspended for racial slurs he made to players. Since then the club has seen four permanent managers and Johnson himself has been on the touchline.

Former West Ham and Stoke winger Matthew Etherington was one and lasted just 32 days, while Kevin Betsy, the highly rated former Arsenal coach, was sacked after a torrid start. 

Lewis Young was sacked after ‘being out-shot 87-28 in his last five games,’ according to another WAGMI puppet, Eben Smith. Don’t worry, it doesn’t make sense to us either.

‘WAGMI have tried to do things differently,’ explains Reuben Watt, interim chair of the Crawley Town Supporters Alliance. ‘Such as allowing non-fungible token holders to vote on the starting XI, giving trials to YouTubers and Johnson sitting in the dugout during one of our games.

Under WAGMI United, the club has seen four permanent bosses, including Matty Etherington

‘They scouted for players at a celebrity match and, from the outset, the owners have said that the conventional ways of running a football club were not working and that change was needed. Crawley were losing £1 million a year which is not sustainable. 

‘WAGMI United wanted to change that and for Crawley Town to become ‘The Internet’s Team’, as their slogan goes.’

The owners have barely helped themselves – Johnson asked the fourth official how substitutions work when he was in the dugout – but, in their defence, WAGMI inherited a rotting club with practices belying its Football League status. 

Johnson cited a lack of equipment and talked of the day when a team meal was a collection of sandwiches and crisps from a local Sainsbury’s.

Their situation is not helped by the fact Gillingham, who are just below Crawley and previously looked doomed, are on an uptick in form after a fine January transfer window which included the acquisition of former Crawley talisman Tom Nichols. 

The striker’s own team-mates questioned the decision to sell him and Nichols said the decision was ‘taken out of my hands’.

The Red Devils have improved under new manager Scott Lindsey but could still be relegated

‘I know a lot of the fans aren’t happy with the performance and where the club is right now, and we feel the same way,’ adds Johnson. ‘We’ve definitely made some mistakes, and I’ll be the first one to take responsibility for those.

‘But we make every single decision with the wellbeing of the club and the Crawley community at the forefront of our minds. That’s what we care about most, and that’s what we’ll remain focused on.

‘My message to the fans who are frustrated is that we hear you and we share your frustration. This season has obviously not gone the way any of us had hoped or expected and it’s clear that we haven’t been good enough.

‘We just need a bit of a reset as a club, and that goes for both our on-the-pitch performance and our team culture. Bringing in Lindsey and empowering him to lead us to where we all want to go was a really important first step in that process.

‘We’re going to continue to work every day to turn things around, earn back the fans’ trust, and make sure this is a club they can be proud of.’

But when you are walking along a tightrope like Crawley are, it can be hard to turn around. And to quote their slogan, We’re All Gonna Make It, WAGMI are all making it hard to see Crawley avoiding relegation.

A touching video of Mark Hudson after his Cardiff sacking told a story of heartbreak and tears

A touching video emerged on social media this week after Cardiff parted company with Mark Hudson. It started with a clip of his two sons reduced to tears of pride when he informed them he had been given a job at the club. 

‘I’m going to tell all my friends,’ beamed one of the boys, hugging his father. ‘You waited so long, I knew you’d get it, you’re a legend.’

But then came the memorable part, now a few months down the line, where he informs them he is no longer in charge, now prompting tears of a different nature. ‘We will all pack up tonight and go home together, don’t worry. That’s football.’

And he’s right, that is football. Fourteen of 24 Championship clubs have changed managers mid-season this term and, for every story of human joy when appointed, there is a tale of heartbreak, tears and failure.

Nigel Clough became the latest manager to bemoan Gillingham’s big spending last week after their new owners splashed the cash.

I was at Priestfield a fortnight ago and found a club with a togetherness and community spirit that belied their league position: 92nd of 92 in the Football League, having scored just seven times all season.

Since then, they’ve doubled their goal tally with two wins and a draw and you would back them to stay up at the very least.

Meanwhile, who could begrudge Gillingham some joy after two decades of mistreatment?

The fans have a sense of optimism after American businessman Brad Galinson bought the club and that positivity is echoed by boss Neil Harris after some stellar appointments and signings.

After two decades of turbulent ownership and mistreatment by Paul Scally, how could anyone begrudge the Gills a bit of happiness?

The Football League manager of the month – apart from Vincent Kompany, because that goes without saying – is Morecambe’s Derek Adams.

The Shrimps had won just once in 13 matches between September and Boxing Day. But they have since won four of their last five, scoring 14 goals in the process.

Tyson Fury’s takeover bid might have failed but Adams has shown the resilience of The Gypsy King to get up off the canvas and deliver a flurry of knockout blows in January.

The Football League manager of the month – apart from Vincent Kompany – is Derek Adams

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