Spread the love

In preparation for hanging out in a small town in Gatwick this weekend, BillytheBee catches up with Crawley fan Perry Watts about punching AFC Kingston fans, Gary Alexander’s miraculous recovery from illness the moment he signed for them and spotting both Timmy Mallett and Chewbacca on the Crawley terraces

So tell me what was your first match?

I’d been to a few matches over the years as a fairweather fan but always supported from afar but my first proper match was Altrincham away in 2010, it was my first away game as well as my first non pre season Crawley match, it was also my birthday so I was hungover, had no idea where Altrincham was or how long it took to get there…I soon learned!

We won 1-0 with a Steve Masterson free kick, straight through the wall! The thing I remember the most was at half time we changed ends. It was strange as I didn’t even know you could do that but was told in non-league it was the norm. It’s the one thing I miss about being a non-league team. There were a lot less rules for fans! Now in the league stewards get upset if you stand in a seated area!

Crawley have had a steady start to the season winning 5 games, losing 5 games and drawing 4 seeing you in 12th place – 3 points off the playoffs. Saying that, you haven’t really had a results against any of the top 10 sides bar Bradford and (if you take into account points deducted) Coventry. How do you think your season is panning out?

I think most fans would be happy We know we are a small club punching well above our weight and for me not getting relegated is a good season. Saying that, I think we can make the playoffs. We’ve put in some brilliant performances against Peterborough and Wolves away and some bad ones against Port Vale.

Overall I think its been a good start, 12th is a good place to be. Not too far off the playoffs points-wise and with a belief that on our day we can beat anyone in the league. If we finished 12th I’d have no complaints. Were realistic of what we can achieve but Yeovil did it so why can we! (BillytheBee – don’t remind us)

Did you lose any players over the last few months?

At the end of last season we lost Muzzy Dumbaya and Brentford old boy David Hunt, both right backs. Muzzy I think wanted to go to a bigger club, which is fair but Notts County have spent most of the season at the bottom so its not all rosy. Hunty’s not doing too bad being top with Oxford though.

Did you pick any players up?

We signed Andy Drury on a free from Ipswich who we had on loan a couple of season ago and just paid £100,000 for Emile Sinclair from Peterborough…Hopefully it’s a good investment. We also replaced our departed right backs with James Hurst from West Brom.

Torres. Like his namesake, a big-money purchase at £100k – particularly for a non-league side (as you were at the time). Like his namesake, a misfiring waste of money? Or a huge asset to the Gatwick region?

For most fans hes a hero, and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet but this, his 4th season with us has seen him fall down the pecking order and limited to a few 5 minute cameo appearances. There is always the one fan who demands Richie Barker bring him on whenever he sees him warming up but most fans now realise that he won’t be first choice on the team sheet.

He’s been an asset to us – most of all for his goal against Derby which took us into the 4th round of the FA Cup and ultimately to the dream game of Manchester United at Old Trafford!

Who is the player or players who is likely to tear us apart or keep us at bay?

To tear you apart…Gary Alexander just to stick it to you lot! Seriously though Nicky Adams is a main source of our attacking play.

Mike Jones can pull out something special, such as his half way line goal against Newport a few games ago.

But the player to beware who can help tear you apart AND keep you at bay is Dannie Bulman! Told by Chris Wilder at Oxford he wasn’t good enough for league 2 football he joined us in the conference and has proved how wrong Chris Wilder was. Now 35 years old but has energy of a 20 year old and always puts in the effort needed in midfield to cause problems for opposition teams.

You may or may not know Gary Alexander isn’t particularly popular down at a Griffin Park. We have it on good authority he in effect ‘blackmailed’ the management into transferring him by claiming mid-season if Crawley’s closed-window ‘unofficial offer’ wasn’t matched or accepted, he “would not be fit to play in the next game against a Sheffield Utd” and would turn the dressing room against the manager. Has he been worth the hassle of Crawley’s non-ethical approach do you think?

He was signed to get us promoted to league 1. His goals did that so from our point of view we were happy! Whatever he did or said to help him move to a better club doesn’t bother me (BillytheBee. Steady) That’s football.

Was it worth the hassle? … well we got promoted so I’ll say yes…not his best season last year though as he was on loan at AFC but he’s come back this season and scored a Van Basten-esq wonder goal against Peterborough. Let hope he can do it again Saturday! (BillytheBee – let’s hope not)

Ironically Charlie McDonald also played for you guys. He also left Brentford months after Alexander in less than amicable circumstances – also demanding a transfer suddenly leaving us short up front. Was he a decent player for you guys?

Again another player who’s goals helped Crawley get promoted. This time to the conference in 2004. I don’t really know what it is making strikers want to leave Brentford in unsavoury circumstances but I don’t really think you’ve missed him or Gary Alexander have you? Will always be remembered fondly by our fans though

And manager Steve Evans. Didn’t exactly endear himself to people did he? Illegal payments. Syphoning money from clubs. Constantly moaning, fighting and being banned from the dug out. Do you forgive his faults bearing in mind the success he gave you?

He helped get the club where we are today so yes I forgive all of his failings for that! He got us into the football league which is what we all wanted so while some still hate him, for us he did a good job. He was constantly portrayed as a villan in the dug out and whilst he was “Overly passionate” on the pitch, off the pitch he was a great laugh!

We were at a Sussex Senior Cup game and our youth team didn’t have enough players so Paul Raynor, Mark Stein and Craig Brewster played in that match. Steve Evans watched from the side berating Paul Raynor and just ripping him to shreds every time he touched the ball!

What’s your style of playing and how will you line up against the Bees?

We like to keep the ball on the floor. Richie Barker is a big advocate of playing proper football. We’ve been exposed against physical sides though. Key players against Brentford would have to be Kyle McFadzean (the best defender in League 1) and Joe Walsh, a solid centre back pairing who’ll need to play well to keep out a potent Brentford strike-force.

We seem to favour a 4-4-1-1 formation but up who’ll play up top is anyones guess as it changes game by game.

You must have had some good years in the non leagues rising up the ranks

Yes we did. The conference promotion season was a great season all around with particular high points the game away at Tamworth when we sealed promotion. Winning away at Luton is always a pleasure (BillytheBee – you’re not wrong) and the historic FA Cup run was quality ending in a magical day at Old Trafford.

An older friend often reminisces over Merthyr Tydfil away in the rain…I don’t know why and you’ll get a lot of fond memories of the game that got us promoted to the conference against Weymouth.

But for me, my best memory was Fleetwood away in the conference promotion season. We stayed in Blackpool for the weekend for 2 nights about 40 of us. A few of us went to a strip club on the Friday night and a couple of the older guys who we were with us heard us talking about it at the hotel and were curious so decided to go not knowing it was a strip club.

Upon leaving Sunday morning we heard them telling people there were naked ladies in there but it was the cheapest place for a coke they’d found all weekend! God Bless Brian and Malcolm!

Sounds potty. There must have been some lows too.

Constant point deductions season after season are never a fun experience but then again neither is being within an hour of being extinct! There were a few dire games like Gateshead away in what felt like artic weather ending 0-0. But the biggest low has to be losing our owner Bruce Winfield who sadly passed away before we clinched promotion to the Football League. We got promoted 19 days later and it was tinged with sadness as he couldn’t see his dream realised.

That’s really sad. I guess he would have loved the cup run too. Brentford fans have sat in front of the TV watching the FA Cup draw for thirty, fourty even fifty years hoping to pull that Man United ball out the bag. You get it pretty much in one. How was it?

In one world…Amazing. It’s what every non-league team dreams of. Getting far in the FA Cup and pulling out a big team. I can remember sitting at my friends house watching the 5th round draw and going crazy when we were pulled out against Manchester United.

We took 27 coaches that day and had 9000 fans there. I didn’t stop smiling all day, but if only a header at the end had dropped below the crossbar instead of hitting it…we might have got a draw and done them at home! We played Stoke at home the next year and Resding last year but who knows how far we can go this year. It’ll be hard to top Manchester United away though!

Being totally honest, from what we have gathered you weren’t the most popular team in the non league. You had some properly shady characters running the club at one point who eventually got jailed. Then hours away from entering administration, you then seemed to have a bottomless pot of cash from new owners to get you out the conference and division 2. What went down there during this period then?

The owners invested heavily during our promotion season which is why everyone hated us but apart from the conference winning season, we didn’t spend as much as everyone thought. We got a lot of players on a free or for small fee. Take Tyrone Barnett. He cost us £150,000 and we sold him for £1.2 million. No spendthrift there just shrewd business!

A couple seasons ago we were able to attract players easily but now with a reduced budget its becoming harder. But Richie Barker is a good manager and a great coach so that helps.

As for our dodgy owners…the less said the better to be honest!

Talking of dodgy b@stards, our old owner and manager Ron Noades has been closely associated with Crawley. If my mind serves me right, his wife was once on the board there – either director or chairperson. Assuming that was a way of getting around him being in charge of more than one football club at a time. Is he still involved?

Not involved as far as I know, ill be honest and say I don’t even know who he is…or his wife!

The club is on relatively new ownership now. Going well?

When we were due to go bust we were saved by Bruce Winfield, a fan who didn’t want to see the club he supported not exist. We are all thankful for him, his wife Silpa and the Carters for getting the club where it is today. We grew from 600 fans to 3000 which might not seem a lot to Brentford fans but that’s a big increase in such a small time scale.

Its going OK overall. Since being in League 1 we’ve reduced our budget and are probably have one of the smallest budgets in the football league. We’re now at that point where we are stable. There’s no huge amount of money flowing in like in the conference but as a club we’re doing well and as a fan im happy.

However our current owners have put the club up for sale after taking the club as far as they feel they can take it…so who knows what the future holds.

AFC Wimbledon fans can’t speak highly enough of your lot. So you still see them as your biggest rivals? Or have you developed new rivals over the past few years?

I believe you mean AFC Kingston…I don’t think where we are we have any rivals any more in League 1 sadly. Our other long term rivals Aldershot are now in the conference. I think if we met AFC Kingston then it would most definitely be a fiery affair!

What’s the maddest rivals game you have ever been to?

Im not really sure to be honest. Any game against AFC Kingston was always a lot more tense than others but Luton away in the conference was pretty fiery when Richard Brodie scored a late winner and then goaded the home fans…they didn’t like that at all!

You apparently have a group of ultras. Is this due to Crawley’s increasing European influences being twinned with the infamous town of Dorsten near Dortmund?

What some 14 year olds say on twitter cant be taken seriously…Ultras…its laughable really isn’t it! We have a good hardcore away support, it might not be the largest but it’s is growing and when we do go away we tend to make a fair amount of noise, a drum is often taken and can really help.

At Swindon our drummer played for the entire 2nd half and the fans sung the great escape without stopping…that’s pretty impressive by all accounts. Our home support is rather quiet in comparision sadly but its not going to change overnight and we’ve got to get the crowds up. We do sing but usually when we’re winning!

With Gatwick around the corner from Crawley and Heathrow around the corner from Brentford, we’re both in a battle for the ‘trolley dolly’. How are you getting on?

Ha ha hopefully the only contact we will get from Gatwick is when they return some of ex striker John Akinde’s shots when they appear on radar! We do benefit from a lot of foreign fans coming over to visit as we are so close to the airport which isn’t a bad thing. If we could get the same amount of visitors as Gatwick then that would be great!

The Cure and The Feeling are from Crawley. As is Gareth Southgate and Faye White the Arsenal and England Women’s captain. Surely they all support their local side? Seen them down the ground lately?

Not seen any of them recently but a couple of season ago I did see Timmy Mallet…That was interesting! Its been mentioned that Sally Gunnell has been to a few games and Ex pole vaulter Nick Buckfield comes too apparently as he’s a local lad.

We did have Brendan Rogers there for the Oldham game as his son plays for them and we do see Steve Coppell at every game but then again he is our Director Of Football. I do remember seeing someone dressed as Chewbacca one game though. He’s hugely famous right?

Mark Lemon the first editor of Punch magazine lived on Crawley High Street. Is there anyone you personally would like to punch at the moment (metaphorically speaking of course. We wouldn’t condone violence) and why?

Id have to say AFC Kingston fans for continually going on about winning the FA Cup which they haven’t. They’ve only been in existence for just over a decade but seem to think they won the FA Cup in 1988…You can’t have both can you? I’ll await the abuse over this but the fact is they’re a new club…the old one moved to Milton Keynes and changed its name…Move on already!

Not sure if it’s fair doing a head to head as the two teams have met only three times. All of them last season (twice in the league. Once in the paintpot trophy). And we beat you every time. Do you think the you can turn that run around this weekend?

I hope so! We lost at your place fair and square in the league. It was a good match and you edged it. The same with the Painpot trophy but at our place if I remember rightly we had a defender sent off after 5 minutes and gave away a penalty which didn’t help…I hate having a team we’ve not beaten so this season I think we can beat you.

So go on, give us a score prediction

I’m feeling confident our little blip is over and you’ll feel the brunt of it so ill say 3-1 to Crawley, Adams, Sinclair and Alexander to score for us (him to run the length of the pitch Adebayor style to celebrate right in front of the away terrace) and Donaldson to score for you

What Crawley establishments do you recommend away fans hang out out pre-match?

Obvious place to go is Redz Bar at the ground, good beers and it’s a great place to chat to our fans, enjoy some banter and catch the early kick off. There are a couple of pubs nearby. The Half Moon isn’t bad and the Downsman is a really nice pub that does a cracking Curry!

As we’re not far from the town centre, there is also an abundance of pubs there. The Swan isn’t bad for a few ales and The Jubilee Oak is our resident Weatherspoons but is decent.

Beesotted would like to take time out to thank Perry for setting the record straight about Crawley. You can catch him on twitter – @bastythegreat or on the Crawley message board.