Despite a remarkable rise from the non-leagues to League One, Crawley for the first time were caught looking down rather than up last season. Relegation on the final day sees them back in League Two this season and a big rebuilding job lies ahead for new boss Mark Yates.
Last Season: League One (22nd)
Manager: Mark Yates
GKs: Freddie Woodman, Callum Preston
DFs: Lanre Oyebanjo, Sonny Bradley, Joe McNerney, Jon Ashton, Liam Donnelly
MFs: Conor Henderson, Gwion Edwards, Jimmy Smith, Bobson Bawling, Simon Walton, Luke Rooney
FWs: Izale McLeod, Lewis Young, Matt Harrold, Gavin Tomlin, Shamir Fenelon, Lee Barnard, Roarie Deacon
In: Joe McNerneny (Woking), Simon Walton (Stevenage), Luke Rooney (Ebbsfleet United), Shamir Fenelon (Brighton & Hove Albion), Jon Ashton (Stevenage), Lee Barnard (Southend United), Roarie Deacon (Stevenage), Callum Preston (Birmingham City), Freddie Woodman (Newcastle United – Loan), Liam Donnelly (Fulham – Loan)
Out: Blair Anderson (Released), Charles Banya (Released), John Cofie (Released), Ryan Dickson (Yeovil Town), Marvin Elliott (Released), Bradley Issacs (Released), Brian Jensen (Mansfield Town), Dean Leacock (Released), Dean Morgan (Released), Emmett O’Connor (Released), Ryan Richefond (Released), Josh Simpson (Plymouth Argyle (Released), Joe Walsh (MK Dons), Kelly Youga (Released)
First Six: Oxford United (A), AFC Wimbledon (H), Portsmouth (H), Cambridge United (A), Wycombe Wanderers (H), Notts County (A)
Likely Lineup: (4-4-2) Woodman – Oyebanjo, Ashton, Donnelly, Bradley – Edwards, Bawling, Walton, Young – Deacon, Barnard
A word from…Sergio Torres
On his time at the club That first year was unbelievable, it was a hard decision for myself as I’d just been relegated with Peterborough from the Championship so to go to the Conference was a big step back.
But the season after I was so glad I made that decision because that was my best year in football. We got promoted and only lost about three games, we had the cup run to Old Trafford and those things are what you dream of as a kid, to play in one of the best stadiums in the world. It was a great season for the whole club.
On coming to England It was a good decision to come here, I was working in Argentina with my dad and played football for fun. I loved the game, I wanted to be a professional and the first few years were hard, I started really low down but I made my way up.
You need a bit of luck, you need to be in the right place at the right time and for people to trust you. John Gorman gave me the chance at Wycombe and I had three great years there. I would have loved to have played in the Premier League but I was really happy with what I achieved and my time at Crawley particularly was fantastic.
On the step up We finished 10th the first year in League One but I didn’t play as much when I came up that season. That was my biggest test because I loved the club but in League Two I’d played every game and a new manager came in and didn’t play me at all.
The last two years were frustrating because I was told I’d play but never did, then John Gregory came along and put me back in the team for a bit but in the end he decided to let me go. It was sad to watch the club go down last summer for me.
On following the club I don’t know any of the players that are there now really but I just played against them in a friendly and I think they have some good players there, I think they’ll be back up there challenging this season.
On Steve Evans It was a test working with him, I never came up against him or anything but he was a special character. He loved winning, he was so passionate about his football and he conveyed that to his players. I loved playing under him, he trusted me and played me every game. If you work hard he won’t have a bad word to say against you but he’ll tell you if you’re not playing 100%.
You have to accept that for a few hours after the game but the next day he’ll be back to normal, he was a really special guy and I played under him for a couple of years where we rarely lost a game and got to the fifth round of the FA Cup.
The Offside Rule Podcast Prediction: Whilst there a lot of players to blood over the summer and a new manager at the helm, Crawley have made some good signings and have kept some good players from last season. Too much change may out automatic promotion out of reach but play-offs are certainly attainable.
Key Player: Gwion Edwards – The 21-year-old had a solid opening season as far as relegation campaigns can go. The Wales U21 international made 36 league appearances, chipping in with goals and showing plenty of talent on the wing. He should shine even brighter in League Two.
One to Watch: Liam Donnelly – With Crawley currently thin on the ground when it comes to defenders, Donnelly might get a fair shot this season, despite being just 19. 12 months ago he captained Fulham to the FA Youth Cup final and could find League Two a real baptism of fire this season.