Everybody loves an underdog.
There is no club football competition like the F.A. Cup for providing shock results as every season the lower league Davids take aim with their slingshots and try to down one of English football’s Goliaths.
Of course, results usually go the way of the bigger sides, but every now and then one of the minnows pulls it off.
Hereford’s dispatching of Newcastle in 1972 is perhaps the most celebrated F.A. Cup shock of all time, though there have been plenty more scalps before and after that day when Ronnie Radford’s thumping strike helped stun the Magpies.
The Toon Army were also the victims of this season’s biggest shock; hammered 3-1 at League Two side Stevenage Borough.
Another side pulling up trees in the Cup this year though are Blue Square Premier outfit Crawley Town, who have dispatched of Swindon Town (League One), Derby County (Championship) and Torquay United (League Two).
At face value, this is a remarkable run of form in cup competition, and Crawley’s reward for their scintillating sequence of results is that most coveted of fixtures; a trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United.
What’s not to love about this? A non-league side will battle it out with the stars of the Premier League leaders for 90 minutes, and they’ll have the nation on their side. As I’ve said, everybody loves an underdog to win, and invariably, people who don’t support Manchester United pretty much hate them.
But let me tell you now, I hope Sir Alex Ferguson’s men destroy Crawley Town. I really hope they give them a good battering, because Crawley, ironically also nicknamed The Red Devils, are a shady club.
It’s Crawley’s ambition to make it into the Football League, and quickly. They are currently in 3rd place in the Blue Square Premier, two points behind leaders AFC Wimbledon, but with five games in hand.
But a look deeper at Crawley’s recent past uncovers some mysterious dealings.
After several years of financial difficulties, the club finally had their debts cleared in July 2010, and co-owner Bruce Winfield announced that friends and business acquaintances of his had pumped money into the club’s coffers, meaning they were able to build a side capable of challenging for promotion.
Established Football League players such as Pablo Mills and Sergio Torres were signed, and Crawley splashed the cash to sign Salisbury City frontman Matt Tubbs.
They also captured the signature of York City striker Richard Brodie, who had been linked with several clubs in Leagues One and Two. The fee paid for Brodie was reportedly around the £300,000 mark; a non-league record.
This surely raises question marks as to the legitimacy of Crawley’s dealings; a side seemingly hell-bent on success and displaying very little frugality as they try to make their promotion dream come true.
Manchester City, and before them Chelsea, have been criticised for trying to buy their way to the top of the English and European game; this situation is not too dissimilar.
Another shadow over Crawley Town hangs in the shape of their manager, Steve Evans. A man who, to be blunt, deserves no place in football.
The Glaswegian’s antics on the sidelines have often landed him in hot water with various footballing authorities, and indeed he has even been escorted from Grimsby Town’s Blundell Park ground mid-way through a match after a foul-mouthed tirade at a fourth official. Evans was spoken to by police officers, such was the severity of his actions.
He has been sent from the dugout on countless occasions and during his time at the helm of Boston United, was involved in fraudulent dealings that were investigated by the F.A.
Evans had overseen Boston’s rise through the leagues into the Football League’s basement division, but the York Street club were investigated amid claims of irregular payments to players. They were found guilty and Evans was later convicted of tax evasion as the club withheld over £300,000 in taxes over a period of five years.
Evans was spared jail (he was given a one year sentence suspended for two years), though the F.A. did ban him from the sport for 20 months.
For a crime so severe though, that seems a paltry punishment, and for some reason Evans is allowed to continue plying his trade in football; a privilege that should have been stripped from him when he dragged the name of the game through the dirt.
And so for those reasons, I hope Crawley Town take a real hiding against Manchester United. I hope they lose 10-0; because what they stand for has no place in football.