Little Crawley looks for huge upset at Man United
They both are nicknamed the Red Devils and both have fiery
Scotsmen as their managers. That’s where the similarities end
between Manchester United and Crawley Town.
The gulf between the clubs could hardly be bigger ahead of their
meeting Saturday in the FA Cup’s fifth round, a game billed as
among the biggest mismatches in the competition’s history.
United, a world power with three European titles and famous
players such as Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs, has a four-point lead
in the Premier League as it tries for a record 19th English
Crawley has never played above the fifth tier of English soccer
and, until this year, struggled to attract crowds of more than 500
to its non-league matches.
The tiny southeast club would become a household name if it wins
Saturday at Old Trafford.
”It’s a dream come true for the club,” Crawley chairman Victor
Marley told The Associated Press. ”The opportunity to perform in
front of 75,000 people is something that every player, every
manager aspires to do. It’s also a fantastic moment for the people
of Crawley, to go and see their team play the future champions of
England. It’s what any non-league club would ever have wished or
Crawley became only the sixth non-league team since the end of
World War II – and the first in 17 years – to reach this stage in
the FA Cup after beating league clubs Swindon, Derby and
It stands to receive ”in excess of 1 million pounds ($1.6
million),” according to Marley, in gate receipts, television
revenue and other add-ons from the United match.
The club was about to fold in 2006 under the tenure of brothers
Chas and Azwar Majeed, then was rescued by a group of local
Debts of more than 1 million pounds were wiped clear and new
investors pumped more cash into Crawley to help build a squad of
relative quality and depth, costing a reported 500,000 pounds
Crawley is now second in its division of the Football
Conference, on track for promotion to League 2 next season – and
league status for the first time since it was formed in 1896.
Crawley’s manager is Steve Evans, who hails from Glasgow,
Scotland, and is known for having a short temper – just like
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.
Gone are the days when non-league giant killers had a
construction worker at left back and a mechanic in central
midfield. Unlike most other clubs at its level, Crawley has a
roster of professional players, many with extensive league
Players such as Argentine midfielder Sergio Torres, brought in
from third-tier side Peterborough, and prolific lower-level
forwards Richard Brodie and Matt Tubbs were signed for a combined
fee of 270,000 pounds ($434,000) by Evans, helping improve the
average attendance at 5,000-capacity Broadfield Stadium by 75
percent to about 2,000 this season.
”We have new investment in and that’s enabled the manager to
purchase the players that have pushed us to the forefront,” Marley
said. ”But you can spend money and still not win the league, as
has been seen in the past with other clubs.”