Time’s flown since the 2-2 home draw with Hartlepool that saw an encouraging first season in League One draw to a close for Crawley Town, and since then we’ve parted company with our CEO Richard Low, and just today appointed Michael Dunford as Low’s replacement.
Other than that, and the well publicised banning of (now former) CTSA Chairman Paul Prendergast from the ground for 4 games, which has since been rescinded, it’s been a fairly quiet summer for The Reds.
In terms of transfers there hasn’t been much activity, for the first time in a long time. The permanent signing of young goalkeeper Jonny Maddison, who spent the majority of last season on loan from Sunderland, as well as the return of classy midfielder Andy Drury who spent 3 months at Crawley on loan from Ipswich in late 2011, and the acquisition of former West Brom right back James Hurst has been the only business the club has done in the summer, so it’s largely the same squad that wasn’t too far off the play offs, and with a year’s experience at this level along with the return of long term absentee Kyle McFadzean there is potential for the squad to push on and build on a very respectable and encouraging season last time out.
Realistically though, a similar season is what we can expect this year. Last season we were wasteful in the final third and this season I see things being similar as nothing has changed in regards to our strikeforce but the return of Gary Alexander from his loan spell at AFC Wimbledon.
So where will the goals come from? First choice forwards Billy Clarke and Jamie Proctor will both be among the goals for certain, whilst winger Nicky Adams and captain Josh Simpson were a reliable source of goals last year. Still, I’m of the opinion that we require another striker, either someone to come in on a permanent deal and try and fight for a place or someone on loan to offer competition and a different option. Unfortunately that looks unlikely before Saturday’s opener against Coventry but a combination of Clarke and Proctor is in my opinion a potent one all the same, and both are good enough to lead the line for any team in this league in my opinion.
However, whilst we are by no means a defensive side, at the back is where our real strength lies. In goalkeeper Paul Jones we have one of the most talented shotstoppers outside of the Premier League, whilst vice captain and first choice left back Mat Sadler proved to be one of the most consistent players last season. Center backs Kyle McFadzean, Mark Connolly, Connor Essam and Joe Walsh all have Championship quality- indeed, McFadzean has attracted interest from Peterborough in the past and in January nearly completed a move to Bristol City before the deal fell through- and right back James Hurst looks like a very solid signing, as I mentioned earlier, from West Brom.
In midfield there’s further strength in depth, and arguably where Richie Barker will have the most difficulty selecting his starting line up for Saturday. Tricky winger Nicky Adams will be first choice on the right flank, and in the middle of the park Dannie Bulman and Josh Simpson formed a very good partnership last season. On the left Mike Jones has impressed during pre-season but all the same Andy Drury, whilst not an out and out winger, is simply one of the most talented players in the league and if you have that kind of player in your squad then you have to make the most of it. Sergio Torres will provide strong back up and competition for places as well.
Up front we are a bit light in terms of numbers, with only the enigmatic Billy Clarke, Jamie Proctor and Gary Alexander currently fit, however they all have experience at this level and higher and a good amount of quality to boot, and will all be hoping to hit double figures
The one worry I do have is that the squad is very thin. Currently we only have 15 professionals on the books along with three trialists (one of which is Luke Rooney, who I’d personally be delighted to see join) and with extremely limited funds to bring more players in, it won’t be getting much bigger. I’ve no doubt he wants to bring players in and there is still a month to go before the window slams shut, more than enough time to get two or three players in, but whether we will actually be able to is another matter completely, as our resources are small and the number of decent quality players available even smaller. One of Barker’s strengths however has been picking up young, unwanted players from the Premier League and Championship who have a point to prove and will end up making a sizeable profit if and when they are sold – Joe Walsh is a prime example, as it’s widely expected that he will move on for £1m+ in the relatively near future, after signing last summer on a free from Swansea- and it’s not unreasonable to hope that he can unearth another gem before September 2nd.
I honestly think we have a good chance of a play off push if things go our way and the squad remains injury free, which it did last season mainly. There’s a lot of quality in the squad and a good team spirit which bodes well. But whatever this season brings, it promises to be eventful. Let’s hope the show’s a good one.
Written by Louie Elmer, We Are Going Up’s Crawley Town blogger
Louie tweets at @louie_j_e