Crawley-born journalism student Sam Morton has been working with the Crawley Observer and has watched three of Reds' pre-season games. This is his view of their form so far.
Following Crawley Town’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea XI in their third pre-season friendly, Mark Connolly told me that the club are heading towards exciting times and I find it difficult not to agree.
The mentality shown by the Reds to get back into the game despite falling behind against such high calibre opposition cannot be disputed.
The draw against Chelsea followed a comfortable 6-1 win over East Grinstead and an 11-0 aggregate victory over Oakwood, across two 60 minute games, highlighting their ability to clinically dispatch lower league opposition.
Crawley further underlined their credentials and extended their unbeaten run in pre-season with an impressive 4-2 win at Dulwich Hamlet, despite having let their first two-goal lead slip.
The ability to retake the lead after conceding twice so close to half-time is a further credit to the team’s mentality, which no doubt was installed into the side by head coach Harry Kewell.
The confidence and optimism surrounding Crawley at the moment, is largely down to the star man at the helm. Having played at Liverpool, Leeds and Galatasaray, Kewell has been at the highest level which provides a great influence on his players.
In the words of Connolly: “He’s played at the top of the football pyramid and everytime he talks you listen because you want to learn from him and I think that’s what we’ll do.”
Many thought the exit of last season’s top scorer James Collins would majorly hinder Crawley’s chances going into the new season, but this pre-season has seen goals fly in from multiple different sources, justifying Kewell’s claim to me that he can't name just one player that has impressed him since he became manager.
No fewer than 11 different players have found the net since the start of pre-season, including Matt Harrold, who has scored six times already, Panutche Camara (four),Enzio Boldewijn (two), Jordan Roberts (two), Jimmy Smith, Dean Cox, Mark Randall, Lewis Young, Aryan Tajbakhsh, Moussa Sanoh and Joe McNerney.
This will only unnerve opposition teams in the coming season, as they can no longer focus on marking just one player out of the game to restrict Crawley from making a breakthrough.
Two attacking players who have particularly stood out in pre-season so far are new signings Camara, whose trickery, pace and eye for goal will no doubt make him a fan favourite this season and Sanoh, who also has speed in abundance and will be a handful for defenders this coming season.
Strength in depth seems to be the policy for Kewell as he prepares for his first season in charge, with Harrold, whose goal scoring exploits cannot be overlooked, Jordan Roberts, Enzio Boldewijn and Thomas Verheydt all also possible attacking options.
The variation in style of the attackers at the club will also be beneficial to Kewell going forward, because he can opt to deploy a tall target man up front in Harrold or Verheydt, or inject pace into the forward line through Camara, Sanoh and Boldewijn.
Randall, Dannie Bulman and Cedric Evina have also impressed since their arrival.
Randall has provided a composed head in the centre of midfield, getting on the scoresheet against Oakwood, whilst he also showed his capabilities as a centre-half against Chelsea.
Evina’s blistering pace and mix of attacking and defensive qualities earned him the man of the match award against the youthful Blues and Bulman’s return to the club has re-introduced some much needed experience into Crawley’s squad, whilst also being engine like in the midfield despite being 38-years-old.
The strength in depth and variation in playing styles at Kewell’s disposal will surely make Crawley a force to be reckoned with this season, and the fans have every reason to be optimistic. However, it is obviously only pre-season at the moment, and Kewell will be eager to see the players perform in their opening competitive matches before joining the fans in their excitement.