A Hard Habit To Break

It’s often said in football that winning is a habit. If that’s true (and to a degree I believe it is) then the last week has been far more positive than one league win and advancement to the Quarter Finals of the Parafix Sussex Senior Cup would normally suggest.

Let’s look first at the away win against Crewe: Our away form this season has been pretty dire if we’re honest and the longer the journey it would appear the worse we seem to do, so coming off the back of our 5-0 capitulation away to Yeovil I have to be honest, I was hoping for a draw. Hoping, but certainly not expecting one. I most definitely didn’t expect us to put in a performance so dominant that by all accounts we should have done better than the 2-0 win that we walked away with. 53% possession, 11 shots with 4 on target is a marked improvement on the previous week (47%, 6 & 2) and the fact that we pressured Crewe in to making two major mistakes that we then subsequently capitalised on is testament to the effort and commitment of the midfield showing a significant improvement on the performance against Yeovil. Having James Collins more central in a position to capitalise on the errors was no chance encounter either. With the midfield raising their game he was able to do his job rather than assisting them in theirs.

The clean sheet was a welcome return and whilst it was easy for some to aim their blame at Alex Davey last week I honestly don’t think he was to blame for any of the goals. Our full backs were constantly out of position and the midfield offered little cover. In many ways, Mark, Alex and Glenn were left to fend for themselves and we should hardly be surprised that they failed to hold off an entire team on what appeared to be their own.

So three points in the bag, eight points above relegation and only four off the playoffs. I’d say that’s reason enough not to panic.

And then on Tuesday we had the Parafix Sussex Senior Cup against Horsham YMCA. In recent seasons this cup has been a poisoned chalice for Crawley Town. It’s a cup that many expected us to win at a canter, but one that has proved increasingly onerous with a diminished squad and a packed fixture schedule. For the first time in a long time we have a squad that’s deep enough to allow us to compete in the cup while simultaneously allowing us to test out any players returning from injury or give an opportunity for game time for those players on the fringe.

With a busy Christmas and January schedule on the cards it’s a great opportunity for Dermot to see how some of his players are progressing without putting league points at risk. To have come through the game with three different scorers, no injuries and 86 minutes under the belt for Joe McNerney after his knee operation I’d say it was a valuable night out. It’s not been often in recent seasons that we could say that.

I know that it’s only the Sussex Senior Cup, but we’re in the Quarter Finals now and I genuinely do believe as I previously stated that winning is a habit. The advantage of this cup is that virtually the whole squad in the last week have been able to enjoy this habit. I’ve stated numerous times now; with our strongest side available (or at least very close to) we’re a force to be reckoned with. We showed this in spades against Crewe and you’ve got to go in to the game against Newport this Saturday with a great deal of optimism.

I spoke last week about the improvements the club have made off the pitch. I didn’t however include within that article my views on Media, both traditional and new. I left this out intentionally as a) the article was already long enough, and b) I wanted to give it a little bit of focus all on its own.

We’ve been very lucky over the past few years to have retained the services of Bruce Talbot. Bruce has been the centre of (if not all at times) the Media at Crawley. He’s had tough times to steward and I honestly think in the round that he’s done it extremely well. He’s had some appalling managers, dodgy owners and emotional board members to contend with in the past. He’s never been blind to the challenges that the club faces, nor has he been blind to the pain of the fans. He’s always tried to drive a neutral path through what at times has been extremely muddy waters which has to be tough for someone on the payroll. Whilst Bruce has been the ever present face of the Media at the club he has been assisted over the past few seasons by some outstanding interns. We’ve been very lucky in this regard and whilst I’m not about to name everyone, I would just draw attention to the work done by Warren Lucy and Ben Blackmore. They really did set the tone for what was to come and in Alex Stedman I genuinely believe that we have a gem (if we brush over the fact that he’s a Charlton fan…!).

I’ve been extremely impressed by the work that Alex has done this season already. I love the fact that he’s willing to try new things. I love even more that he’s not afraid to get it wrong, learn and move on. The best entrepreneurs out there will tell you that it’s important to fail. If you haven’t failed, you haven’t tried hard enough. Sitting in that horrible safe space won’t advance anything.

Now “fail” is probably too strong a word to place at Alex’s door, but you get the point. Alex does his homework well. He looks at what works for other clubs and he speaks to those clubs to understand better the thinking behind the idea. Then he looks at how he can apply that to what Crawley Town can do. Not everything is learnt from other clubs and to be fair to Alex some of this is entirely of his own making, but what I like more than most is that he’s constantly looking for ways to improve and change.

Now as an old git myself I can say that the emoticon numbers for the twitter commentary against Crewe didn’t work. And in fairness to Alex it was immediately changed. I did feel however that he came in for a disproportionate amount of criticism for trying it. I don’t like the video team sheet idea either, but this isn’t about pleasing just me, it’s about appealing to the masses. Alex isn’t afraid to get criticism for his initiatives, but there are some out there who could do with toning it down a touch and remembering that whilst we’re not the biggest club in the word, there are a couple of thousand people in the audience, not just themselves.

It’s undeniable that the club has done well behind the scenes, but what pleases me the most is that what is done behind the scenes is promoted and advertised thoroughly through both traditional and modern media.

I’m aware that this article is now horribly positive, so I’ll balance it out by asking politely if we could have the John Gregory poster removed from the gents on the South Terrace.

I’m also aware that I sound like I’ve written Bruce’s leaving speech. I haven’t and I genuinely hope that he’s not going anywhere any time soon.

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