A League 2 blog with an overwhelmingly pro-Torquay United bias
My next preview assesses the likely fortunes of newly-promoted Crawley Town:
Recap of last season
Crawley spent mysterious piles of overseas cash as they strolled to automatic promotion. Their significantly superior budget allowed them to maintain a squad arguably stronger than most League 2 sides, as evidenced by their unprecedented FA Cup run. However, their widely reviled management team attracted a significant amount of hostility which tarnished their success.
Far from resting on their laurels, Town have snapped up another impressive batch of talent to bolster their ranks, many of whom had suitors from higher divisions. Their forward line in particular has been strengthened, with the arrival of John Akinde (Bristol City), Wes Thomas (Cheltenham) and Tyrone Barnett (Macclesfield). In midfield, Everton youngster Hope Akpan, Reading’s Scott Davies and Brentford’s David Hunt have come in on free transfers, while in defence Jamie Day has joined from sadly imploded Rushden & Diamonds.
Several of last season’s squad have been moved on, with striker Richard Brodie being loaned out to Conference promotion-chasers Fleetwood Town given the severe competition for places up front. Sam Rents and Jamie Cook have been allowed to join Gateshead and Bath City respectively.
As long as the seemingly infinite supply of money from their as-yet-undisclosed foreign investors continues to pump into the club, they’ll have a significant advantage over any of their competitors in terms of the array and depth of talent available to them. Their cup performances last year showed that they’re unlikely to be intimidated by the admittedly minor step up from the fifth tier.
Their aforementioned squad depth, with most of their players likely to be guaranteed starters at any other side in the division (or the one above for that matter), brings with it the potential for dressing room unrest if such talented players become frustrated when out of the first team reckoning. This may prove particularly true up front, where four quality strikers will compete for a starting place. The pressure to succeed could also prove their undoing: their staggering budget has rightly made them bookies’ favourites by a country mile, so every blip could be magnified into a crisis. Much depends on the undivined intentions and patience of their overseas backers.
Crawley have signed so many players who would be a no-brainer for this section at their previous clubs that it’s genuinely tricky to pick one who stands out. Last season’s top scorer Matt Tubbs has more competition for his place, but as the established front man he still looks likely to be the chief source of goals.
One to watch
Teenage midfielder Hope Akpan, a summer signing from Everton, looks to be a fantastic prospect and aptly illustrates Crawley’s profound financial reach. Akpan has an impressive passing range to compliment his imposing physique, and is probably the only League 2 player with a Europa League appearance under his belt.
I’ve tried to steer clear of the controversy around both their management team and the source of their funds, as many better journalists than I have already done these topics justice. On balance, you’d have to admit that they’re overwhelmingly likely to make it two successive promotions but don’t expect them to make too many friends along the way.
Ben: They have a squad of League 1 quality that looks set to find its level – it’s hard to see the title going anywhere else.
Danny: For me, it’s between Crawley and Bristol Rovers for the title.
Maxi: A top 3 finish is on the cards: money talks.
Links to other teams in this preview can be found here