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Leeds to visit creepy Crawley in the FA Cup
Monday, 30th Nov 2020 22:37 by Tim Whelan

Our next adventure in the world’s oldest cup competition will be in Sussex, for our first ever competitive game against Crawley Town, which the local paper has already dubbed the biggest game in their club’s history.

Tonight’s FA Cup draw produced a number of interesting ties, and the experience of watching it live on the BBC was all the better for the sound giving up at the start, to minimise the time we had to spend listening to Robbie Savage. Quite a few ties will feature lower division or non-league clubs at home to Premier League big boys, and one of these will be little old us making the trip to a spot just south of Gatwick Airport.

Crawley Town have existed in one form or other since 1896, if we are kind enough to overlook a three year gap between them being disbanded in 1935 and re-established three years later. They plied their trade in various minor leagues until the 1960s, but the post war growth of the town to it’s present population of 106,000 was always going to provide the fanbase for bigger and better things.

After enduring some difficult financial times in the late 1990s and mid-2000s, investment from Prospect Estate Holdings provided the backing needed for Crawley to get promotion into the Football League in 2011. And they have comfortably maintained their league status ever since and spent three years in League one, though they currently find themselves back in League Two.

Though our paths haven’t crossed up until now, we do share the distinction of having been managed by Steve Evans, and another former occupant of the Crawley hot seat was one Harry Kewell. Their present boss John Yems has no Leeds connection, having spent his entire playing and coaching career in the south, but that hasn’t stopped him from getting very excited about this tie.

He told the West Sussex Gazette, “you couldn't have asked for more. It's obviously a tough game but let's hope a few more fans will be able to come. It will be the biggest game at home in the club's history. It's got to be great for the town. It will give everyone a boost. It will be good for the players playing against good players let's just hope we put on a good show."

Speaking of fans, the current covid regulations suggest that up to 2,000 spectators may be allowed in, though the capacity of their Broadfield Stadium is only 6,134, so it could be hard to socially distance that many people. Away teams have traditionally had 25% of the allocation in FA Cup ties, so by rights we ought to get a few. And if they don’t want anyone to travel down from Yorkshire in current circumstances, it wouldn’t be hard to find 500 Leeds fans in Sussex to make up the numbers.

It’s potentially a tricky tie, especially with the possibility of a home-fans only atmosphere in a compact ground, so much could depend on what sort of side Marcello Bielsa puts out. I say we go for it and try to have a good cup run, as this season we should have little else to distract us now we look to have established ourselves in mid-table but aren’t that likely to challenge for the Champions League.

With the tie taking place on January 9th the players will have had time to recover from the busy Christmas and New Year schedule, so hopefully we will put out a strong side, rather than taking liberties and risking an unnecessary defeat. One or two of the clubs involved in Europe might fall by the wayside through fielding weakened sides along the way, so if we take the FA Cup seriously we could stand as good a chance as anyone of getting to Wembley.

It’s highly likely that this game will be selected for TV coverage on one channel or other, and as soon as we find out when and how you will be able to watch it, we’ll let you know.


Tim Whelan



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