Another season has passed and it seems incredible to think that it’s nearly a year since Scott Neilson’s 67th minute goal at Accrington. Since then, a lot has changed.
For example, only six first team players from then are still with Crawley Town. Dannie Bulman, David Hunt, Kyle McFadzean, Josh Simpson, Sergio Torres and Billy Clarke, and I would be surprised if that number isn’t lower come the start of next season.
The club also have a new Chief Executive, are up for sale and on the pitch have just secured a very respectable 10th place in their first season in League One.
Next season there is plenty to build on, and if we keep the core of this squad and build on it I think we really stand a chance of making the play offs, particularly as we weren’t far off this year and we held our own against a number of the top six. This included wins away at Doncaster and Sheffield United, draws at home to Swindon and Doncaster when we really should have won, a win at home to Bournemouth (admittedly before they sacked Paul Groves – indeed, it was that game that prompted the Bournemouth board to sack him.)
Also, it was a case of not winning games we should have won which has cost us, such as the aforementioned home games against Swindon and Doncaster, Walsall away, Yeovil home (a game we lost but dominated) and away, Stevenage at home, Carlisle at home, Notts County at home, to name some.
It is a case of converting performances that merit wins into wins for next season, as we have shown we are one of the better sides in this division, and the core of this side is excellent. Players like Dannie Bulman, captain fantastic Josh Simpson, Mark Connolly, Paul Jones, Nicky Adams, Billy Clarke, Kyle McFadzean, Joe Walsh, Jamie Proctor and Mat Sadler are the players we should build our side around, these are the players who will form the nucleus of a successful season next term.
Josh Simpson has signed a new contract which is excellent news, but added to that inevitable departures of several out of contract players such as Shaun Cooper means that Richie Barker will surely be looking to add at least a few faces to his squad for a second season in League One – but where do the Reds need to strengthen?
A new striker, or likely two, will surely be brought in, as both loanees Paul Hayes and Aiden O’Brien are returning to Brentford and Millwall respectively and the out of contract Lateef Elford Alliyu has been released, leaving just Jamie Proctor as the club’s sole striker currently (discounting Billy Clarke as he’s more of a forward than an out and out striker). Proctor himself has shown he is capable of leading the line this season, scoring seven goals since joining in January, and he will surely be a crucial part of the side next season.
A new central midfielder may also be on the list as whilst out-of-contract Matt Sparrow looks set to sign a new contract, Dannie Bulman is out of contract although I expect talks about a new deal to begin soon if they haven’t already, and of course Josh Simpson has signed on for another two years, but four central midfielders will probably be an ideal number.
Right backs David Hunt and Mustapha Dumbuya are both out of contract this summer and so that is another area which will need to be strengthened, even if one of them signs a new contract.
There’s a lot to be optimistic about going into next season, and, whisper it quietly, I believe there is a genuine chance of us making the play-offs and even challenging for automatic promotion if the right players are retained and brought in.
This past season has been a funny one, one of great memories tinged by a hint of frustration we slipped up in games we could and should have won. Winning away at Portsmouth on Boxing Day, the recent win at Sheffield United, Nicky Adams’ wondergoal in the first minute against Reading, beating Bolton at home with two goals in the last five minutes. All wonderful memories and moments that will brighten up a season which, after looking like it could have promised so much, fizzled out into a season of consolidation.
Finishing 10th however is far from a disgrace for our first season in League One, and as one of the smaller if not the smallest club in the league it’s a position we can be very proud of. Barker’s done an excellent job on a small budget and this year he has a pre-season to build his own squad, something he didn’t have last year and if he uses the summer wisely, next season could be a very exciting one for the club.
Written by Louie Elmer, We Are Going Up’s Crawley Town blogger
Louie tweets at @louie_j_e