Club founded in 1896
Crawley Town FC was formed in 1896 and played their formative years in the West Sussex League. Five years later they entered the Mid Sussex League and won the Senior Division in only their second season.
They remained in junior football until they entered the Sussex County League in 1951. The club then switched to the Metropolitan League in 1956, a competition for both professional and amateur sides. Still retaining their amateur status Crawley won the Metropolitan League Cup in 1959.
Crawley adopted professional status in 1962 and joined the Southern League the following year. For the next 20 years Crawley played in the First Division in its various guises, apart from a brief taste of Premier Division football in 1969-70. In 1983-84 under manager John Maggs Crawley finished runners-up and returned to the Premier Division where they remained until 2003-04. The club enjoyed various cup successes over the years including the Sussex Senior Cup in 1990 and 1991.
In 1991-1992 Crawley enjoyed what was at the time their best ever run in the FA Cup and reached the third round where they enjoyed a money-spinning local derby with neighbours Brighton and Hove Albion at the Goldstone Ground in front of 18,301 fans, losing 5-0. Earlier, they had knocked out Third Division Northampton Town 4-2 at Town Mead in the first round.
In May 1997 the last match was played at Town Mead, the club’s home since 1949. After 48 seasons the ground was sold for redevelopment and the club moved to the magnificent Broadfield Stadium. The first match there was a friendly against Port Vale on July 24 1997.
In 1999 the club went into a two-month period of administration and John Maggs’ involvement after more than 30 years as goalkeeper, manager and chairman came to an end but Crawley Town emerged stronger under new owner John Duly whose arrival ushered in a period of success on the pitch under manager Francis Vines, who was appointed in January 2003. Reds won the League Cup and Sussex Senior Cup and the following year Crawley wrapped up the Southern League title in convincing style, ending 12 points clear and adding the League Cup and Championship Match trophy for good measure.
In 2005 the club was under new ownership as the SA Group took control and made the decision to go full-time. But poor results at the start of the season, culminating in an FA Cup exit to Ryman League Braintree Town, saw Vines replaced by former Chelsea and Swansea manager John Hollins in November 2005. Hollins set about pulling the club out of relegation trouble but with crowds dwindling due to inconsistent results financial problems beset the club and in March 2006 that the players and management staff were only being paid 50% of their salary. They eventually finished 17th but at the end of the season were deducted three points for breaching the annual playing budget although this did not affect their final league position.
The news the fans feared – that the club was to enter administration for a second time in seven years - came in June 2006. The club was just over an hour from extinction when a third offer to pay back half of monies owed to creditors was accepted by the administrators and eventually by the creditors committee.
Starting the season on minus ten points, the customary penalty for entering administration, Hollins and his newly assembled squad all but wiped out the deduction inside the first week of the season after three wins but form dipped and Hollins paid the price after another FA Cup exit to lower-league opposition. Coach John Yems and players Ben Judge and David Woozley were appointed joint caretaker managers until the end of the season, securing Conference survival on the last day of the season.
Vice President Vic Marley became the club’s new chairman in May 2007 and appointed a new manager in Steve Evans with Paul Raynor as his assistant. The club suffered another setback on the eve of the 2007-08 with the announcement that six points were to be deducted. Crawley had one of the smallest budgets in the Conference but they finished a creditable 15th and reached the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy for the first time in their history.
In April 2008, a new era dawned for the club when Prospect Estates Holdings Limited took control in conjunction with former owner John Duly. With former director Bruce Winfield and local businesswoman Susan Carter now key shareholders alongside Prospect Estates the club went from strength to strength. In October 2009 Mr Winfield announced that Crawley Town would finish the season debt-free 18 months after the new owners had inherited liabilities of more than £500,000.
In July 2010 Winfield announced that he and Carter had become majority shareholders and had attracted new investment into the club, some of it from overseas. This enabled Evans to start rebuilding a squad which had finished a superb seventh in 2009-10, the best position in the club’s history. In the next six months a total of 23 new players arrived and the investment paid off spectacularly with Reds enjoying the best FA Cup run in their history, reaching the fifth round where they earned worldwide recognition for a brilliant performance at Old Trafford where they lost to a single goal to Manchester United in front of a crowd of 74,778.
In March 2011, Bruce Winfield lost his brave battle with cancer three days after watching the team take another big step towards the title with victory over rivals AFC Wimbledon. History was made on April 9 2011 when Reds won promotion to the Football League after beating Tamworth 3-0 to stretch their unbeaten league record to 26 games. They finished the season with a record Conference points total (105) and also set a new record for the longest unbeaten run, having extended it to 30 matches by the end of the campaign.
Reds quickly set the pace at the top of League Two and then embarked on another FA Cup run, beating Championship sides Bristol City and Hull City to earn a crack at Stoke City in the fifth round when Premier League opposition visited for the first time in a competitive game.
Reds lost 2-0 and by then had sold Matt Tubbs and Tyrone Barnett for record fees. After nearly five years in charge, Evans resigned in April 2012 to take up the manager’s role at Rotherham. Steve Coppell arrived at the club as Director of Football and with Caretaker Manager Craig Brewster guided Reds to a second successive promotion after a 1-0 win at Accrington Stanley secured League One football in third place.
In May 2012 Sean O’Driscoll was appointed Evans’ successor but within two months had accepted the manager’s job at Nottingham Forest. Richie Barker was appointed manager in August 2012 after a successful spell with League One rivals Bury, whom he guided to promotion in 2011. Barker guided Crawley to a creditable 10th-place finish but after a run of seven League games without a win, with just one goal scored, he left the club by mutual consent. On December 3, the experienced John Gregory was appointed as our new manager and guided Reds to 15th place despite a punishing end to the season when Reds had to play 21 games in ten weeks in the second half of the campaign.