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It’s the battle of the ‘trolley dollies’ as the Gatwick posse comes up from Crawley to the big smoke to take on high flying Heathrow. Heathrow are well on top in past battles but Gatwick have a few tricks up their sleeves. BillytheBee catches up with Carol ‘CBOT’ Bates (@CarolBates), owner of a decorating business so used to watching paint dry, Chair of the Crawley Town Supporters’ Alliance and Secretary of Crawley United junior club.

What was your first game ?

My first Crawley game is a bit of a blur to be honest as it was really my escape from 2 very young boys! It was in the Dr Marten’s League when Frances Vines was Manager in 2004, after I moved here. I went on my own, parked up, stood by the clock on the East Terrace, it was sunny, I watched the team win and went home again. I went occasionally in those days when I could and I do remember Frances Vines holding the biggest shield I’ve ever seen after winning that League but a good memory is not one of my strong points!

You are probably what can be described as ‘bottom-mid’ table. Where, without a decent run, flirtation with the relegation zone is more likely than a flirtation with the playoffs. Your best result since we beat you 1-0 in November was beating Orient 3-2 at their place. How the devil did you manage that?

Bottom-mid?? What kind of place is that? I would say mid table, especially after last season’s top 10 finish and the amount of games in hand we have at the moment. We’re only flirting with the bottom due to those games in hand and you will see us soon climbing the table again. A lot of teams above us are on 29 games and we’ve only played 25 so plenty of points to be gained.

Beating Orient was a brilliant display and showed that when we play football, especially against the top teams, we can compete. It also showed the “never give up” attitude that seems to have lost it’s way a bit recently. We have a good set of players who really stepped up their game that day. It was the first away game under John Gregory and with plenty of noisy away support it was a great day all round. You only have to look at the way we played at Peterborough and Wolves to see that the lads are very capable of causing an upset with some quality football. We passed the ball about that day, defenders got forward (and back again at the same speed) and they put some good balls in and we took our chances. A pretty special chip by Nicky Adams sealed the points to stop Slade’s Christmas being a happy one.

And so he then smashed the floodlights in anger


Other than the Orient game, you haven’t beaten a top 6 side since November. The draws against at home to Preston and Walsall and away to Rotherham have gone down very well in TW8. But your best result other than that is probably beating Posh 2-0 at their place at the time when they were flying back in August.

Apart from Orient, we haven’t beaten anyone OUTSIDE the top 6 either, apart from Notts. County! Plenty of draws which as well as scoring in the last few minutes, we’ve also been on the receiving end! The Walsall and Swindon games (no score draws) were Richie Barker’s last matches. They were frustrating to watch and we seemed a bit bereft of ideas or a Plan B. THEN in comes John Gregory! His first home match against Preston, he got the formation completely wrong. He tried something different and it didn’t work but kudos to him, he changed the formation before the half hour and we came back from 2 down to draw 2-2. He gained a lot of respect from the fans for doing that and it was super Gary Alexander who scored the equaliser on 90 minutes. We know you love him really!

Two more 2-2 draws at Coventry and Rotherham with last minute goals. One for us at Coventry (well Sixfields) and an injury time goal on 90+6 for Rotherham, who were actually lucky to get the draw! We could have sealed it on 90+7 with 3 consecutive efforts on target but all 3 were saved. Gutting and that felt like a loss instead of a good away point. Even Mr. Evans said we deserved to win that – even more gutting! Last minute goals seem to be the theme at the moment. God knows where that 7 minutes came from…..

I have to say though that nothing was more welcome than the Billy Clarke late equaliser at Carlisle after a gift from their defender. Billy then shot from 25 yards and really the keeper should have saved it but when you travel for that long and watch a boring game you’re so relieved to get that late equaliser, it actually felt like we were celebrating a win when he scored and nobody felt guilty about that after a 21 hour round trip!

Key players have been missed, with Dannie Bulman suffering a fractured cheekbone, Josh Simpson being out injured and Billy Clarke being suspended. But it seems Dannie will be back in the squad on Saturday and he is the first player on many peoples’ team sheet. Although, now the squad is very lean, we have one of the best records in the Football League for keeping players fit and with rapid injury recovery. Hopefully, we’ll see some loanees come the 8th Feb, apparently from the Premier League, but who knows who they’ll be. At least the money is there ready to dip into the market. We’ll now be playing Saturday/Tuesday until the beginning of April so that will be a test and the players, I’m sure, will relish playing so many games with the chance to get a winning run going.

You have flipped managers like we have this season. When we played you last Richie Barker was manager. He was decent. Many people were surprised when he got sacked as you were 12th in the league at the time. In comes olde stalwart “Sit down” John Gregory (the song Brentford fans sang to him when he was managing QPR in the mid naughties) who seems from the outside to have not quite steadied the ship as yet – saying that he’s only been in the job three months. The club must have had ambitions for playoffs this season making a move like that

Richie Barker did very well in his first season with us and carried on what Sean O’Driscoll started in his few weeks with us. He played some good football but he also divided opinion among the fans with his tactics and lack of substitutions to change a game. It appears he’s also dividing opinion at Portsmouth too. There is only so much football that can be played in midfield without creating any chances and his last game at home to Swindon, demonstrated that.

Now we have John Gregory. A lot of people thought it was a very leftfield decision but so far he seems to have given the lads back some confidence and it’s more visible that they’re giving that extra bit playing for each other again. We’re creating more chances and looking more threatening going forward and he’s not frightened of changing things with enough time to make a difference. I think “Sit down” is probably a bit more polite than our fans singing “Celery” but replacing it with Gregory! I also think that until it’s mathematically impossible, then the play offs are still the ambition, although I’m not cancelling my holiday over May 25th just yet….

We see Gary Alexander has finally left you guys for Burton. A popular player down at Brentford until he held a gun to our head and refused to play for us unless we either matched his wage demands or granted his out-of-transfer-window move to Crawley. Good for you guys?

Gary played a major part in getting us into Lge 1 but also divided opinion in his last season here. Not quite as quick as people thought he should be for a Lge 1 striker but he held up play (and players!) and was a good provider at times and of course scored goals. His double at Posh inflicted their first defeat of the season and he did it in style with a van Basten type volley.

Towards the end of his time at Crawley he got involved with the coaching side and he was well respected by the lads. He took charge of the team with Martin Hinselwood when Richie left but unfortunately we lost at Crewe. At least we created a lot more chances. Fans saw his departure as inevitable and it frees up what was probably one of the higher wages. He went with plenty of good luck wishes and thanks though.

You have had a bit of an unsettled camp as of late. Nicky Adams, who had a fleeting spell at Brentford before demanding a transfer, seems to have been banging on the manager’s door once again this January getting himself a move to Rotherham. Has the transfer window been kind to you? Did you lose any more players or pick up any decent players?

Nicky Adams made no secret of the fact he wanted to move back up North to be nearer his family and his contract was due for renewal at the end of the season, so it was only sensible to get a fee for him now rather than leave him to go on a free. It all started when we got to Carlisle in November and his name wasn’t on the team sheet. He wasn’t even named in the squad which was strange when he appeared to be fit. We were told he was ill but the rumours started and from then on everyone was just waiting for him to go in January.

He was a fans’ favourite but I think opposition teams worked out his game and lately he had to work harder to get past the 3 players who tried to close him down. Wonder how he’ll cope working under Steve Evans! Judging by comments made since his departure by JG, I don’t think he was best pleased that NA was “jumping up and down” when the offer was made for him to go…..

The other transfer activity was saying goodbye to Emile Sinclair and hello to Ross Atkins as an emergency loan goalkeeper. We did make a couple of bids for Lee Gregory at Halifax, both of which were turned down. One major signing was the return of Matt Tubbs. Some players thrive where they feel at home but it didn’t really happen for him up North and he wasn’t getting games at Bournemouth. It was a no-brainer for him to come back. He’s well thought of at Crawley due to his previous record. It certainly worked, as JG appears to be really pleased with having him on board and to top it off he scored at Rotherham. Gary Dicker was the other “in” and has played 2 minutes, so far!

I hear centre back McFadzean, described by Basty the great as the best Centre back in our Division in November’s FanStand, said he’s turned down offers every transfer window and Crawley also turned down a £400k offer for your other centres-back Walsh. Do you know who from?

Kyle McFadzean, at the top of his game, is one of the best in the division and he has for a few seasons been one of our best players. It was unfortunate he had a virus which kept him out for most of last season but he’s back now and has a great partnership with Joe Walsh. They’re even best mates now, apparently!

Joe Walsh is an excellent centre back and plays for Wales U21s, he is definitely one for the future. Joe was the subject of a reported 400k bid but he didn’t want to leave Crawley. Not sure who it came from but it was rumoured that Ian Holloway wanted him at Palace a while ago so it may have been from Millwall, at a complete guess…

Kyle was also the subject of an undisclosed bid in the last window but he opted to stay again. He loves it at Crawley! He could have gone last season to Bristol City after Sean O’Driscoll made a bid for him but S O’D said after a medical that Fadz wouldn’t play again that season so pulled out and Kyle said he didn’t want to go so, who knows?

Whatever the reason, we’re glad he’s still here! JG is building his team around those 2 now apparently and the Club value them both highly so there would have to be very high bids for either one of them to leave.

It did tickle me that the ‘blue bib off-duty nightclub bouncers’ come stewards wont hesitate to throw fans out and manhandle them for sneezing at Crawley’s ground whereas comedy character Lee Nelson had to be snuck out a side-door of one of his shows before finishing his set as the Crawley locals got a bit lively to say the least. I wonder if your stewards were on duty at the comedy night and bit off more than they could chew? I have to say Crawley’s stewarding is completely over the top. Have the club ever thought of reviewing it?

Our “nightclub bouncers” as word would have it, were trying to stop you lot fighting among yourselves when it came to trying to get a beer! (BillytheBee – that wasn’t totally true. On entering the stadium I witnessed the most aggressive unprovoked attack on a Brentford supporter by a blue bib which shocked me. The fan had done nothing. And then at half time I saw the blue bibs literally wading in – once again unprovoked. I alerted our local police liaison officers who said because they weren’t on duty inside the ground, there was nothing they were able to do. It reminded me of the approach of the aggressive Belgian police at Euro 1990). You are now going down in history as the last away fans who were allowed to have a beer at half time. The bottle bar has now been banned! I have heard that they were a bit over zealous. I’ll send my lovely friend Sarah the yellow fluorescent steward down your end next time, she’ll sort you all out!

The next home game (if we ever get to see one again) won’t have any blue bibs in the away end as fans will now be seated whenever there is a low attendance. It’s fair to say that the blue bibs are not the best of friends with some of our supporters but who knows, maybe they were just the thing to help Lee Nelson escape from the baying Crawley boys & girls! Maybe, he should have turned into Jason Bent and popped down the road to show off his skills on the stadium pitch! At least we know he wasn’t too upset and said he’ll return. Thinking about it, Jason Bent does sound a bit like Joey Barton so maybe the blue bibs just chucked him out anyway!

I hear you’re thinking of a new stadium but have no idea where or when it is gonna be built. Nothing like a bit of forward planning eh

That’s right, no idea where or when there’ll be a new stadium but the thought’s there and it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?! These things take years as you know and if Lionel Road is anything to go by we could still be here in 10 years’ time

You must be getting excited that you are going to actually see a match (BillytheBee – maybe I shouldn’t talk too soon). Have you even considered paying some of the farmers down your way to sort your pitch out. You haven’t played a home game all year.

Our farmers are far too busy pulling cars from floods and removing trees from roads to be worried about a bit of marsh land! Seriously though, this has been the worst weather since records began around here and the rain has been ridiculous, even the drains are spitting water back up they’re so full.

To be honest our away form is much better than our home form so our away fans are a happy bunch at the moment. We’ve even purchased expensive pitch covers but even then we were still beaten by the rain still waiting to drain away from before the covers were put on. The weather has really shafted us and as I write we now have another amber warning and it’s persistently raining again! When will it ever end? I hope you have pitch covers on ready for Saturday.

You’ve seen everyone play this season. Who has impressed you and who do you reckon has been fairly poop?

I hate to say it but Rotherham look a good side. Ben Pringle has to be one of the players who has impressed this season, he always looks dangerous when he gets the ball. Obviously Wolves and of course yourselves. I would have to say that Colchester and Carlisle were probably the “less than exciting” games I’ve watched this season although the bubble football at half time at Colchester brightened up things a bit.

Head to head, Brentford are steaming ahead winning all 4 games of the encounters between the two sides. Any chance of an upset on Saturday do you reckon?

Do you think we need reminding of that fact?? The league games have only had 1 goal separating us and I think we’re quite capable of playing again like we did at Orient. I think we’d be happy with an away point at the league leaders but obviously we are capable and want to get all 3. We will have a good following on Saturday and we will get behind the team and cheer them on for 3 points.

Give us a score prediction

I’m going for 2-1 Crawley.

Give us a first, second, playoffs … And a relegation quartet prediction

1st – Orient
2nd – Brentford
Play offs – Wolves, Rotherham, Preston & Posh with Rotherham winning at Wembley

Relegation – Stevenage, Sheff. U, Notts. County & Bristol City

Beesotted would like to thank Carol ‘CBOT’ Bates for giving us the SP on Crawley. You can catch up with her on twitter on @CarolBates or check the Crawley Town Supporters’ Alliance website.