Oh fine, I apologise. I don’t know the Latin for “We came, We saw, We would have conquered if it hadn’t been for two daft refereeing decisions. But if we’re honest, we’d have been happy with a point before the game, so although we may feel a little robbed, our lads did us proud. I hope we did them proud, too.
I can’t help thinking back to the start of last season, when we lost 1-0 at home to Grimsby Town despite outplaying them with ten men for most of the game. The parallels are fairly obvious, but on this occasion at least we took something from the game. The fact that we’re a little disappointed not to win is a good indication of how far we’ve come since then.
The day began with a bit of a panic. The M25- a scourge to many of us during the week- had decided to work its evil magic on a Saturday too, and there was talk of ten mile tailbacks and two hour delays. However thanks to the planning of Dave Brown’s Crawley Luxury boys disaster was averted, and our four CTSA coaches arrived at Vale Park 90 minutes prior to kick off and with the occupants in good spirits. For me, the journey -once past the hold-up- was a joy. I particularly enjoyed sharing a motorway service station with supporters of Manchester United, Manchester City, Leyton Orient, and our old Conference comrades from Dagenham and Accrington Stanley- and outnumbering them all. It was quite a buzz to be part of the “whose shirt is that” moment that always occurs in such establishments on a Saturday afternoon, and realising that most people seemed to know who we were. We’ve made our mark at last! But perhaps the most poignant moment of the day was, for me, passing the signpost for Tamworth, and remembering back to our promotion day- the joy, the tears, the ringing in my ears (thanks for that, Mr Prendergast!), and the repeated renditions of “Bruce Winfield’s Red Army”. I wish very much that Bruce had been with us to see our Football League debut, and am sure that he would have been proud of the team, the fans, and the efforts of our united fans organisation- which, as you may recall came together on his instigation. We’ll be launching our community initiatives in his name shortly, and we’ll do our level best to make sure that he is remembered as the architect of CTFC’s success.
The acoustics at Vale Park were very good indeed -although it was a shame they put us in the Snide Stand (though it did give us an opportunity for a collection of schoolboy humour). Apparently the official figure for away fans was 447, but there seemed (and sounded like) so many more. I’m not sure I heard the Vale fans all afternoon, apart from when they were singing along to “Glad all Over” (borrowed from Palace?) and “the Wonder of You” (borrowed from Arsenal?). I’m pleased that we don’t have any goal music at the Broadfield, but I hope that if we ever introduce any we at least try to be original. That said, the Port Vale fans were probably a little muted due to recent events, about which more later.
We controlled most of the game. Perhaps we should have done better for both the goals we conceded, but even the Port Vale manager, Micky Adams, was quite clear on BBC Radio Stoke after the game that he felt we would have won if John Dempster hadn’t been unluckily sent off. By the way, this is a moment for name dropping- I first met Micky Adams many years ago when I was a founder member of the Darlington branch of the Leeds United Supporters Club and he was our Honorary President. Sorry, but everyone has a dark secret, and now you know mine. I was young, foolish, 19- and didn’t even know where Crawley was. One day I’ll tell you about the time I sold a tube ticket to Gordon Banks and the day that Henry Cooper trod on my foot. Or perhaps not……..
The journey home was improved markedly by BBC Radio Stoke. Not just by the aforementioned interview, but by positive comments about our team from Port Vale fans. There was a large amount of angst amongst them, however. Some had missed the game altogether due to a boycott aimed at “starving out” their board, and were talking about the need to protest. Others were arguing that the protest was unnecessary and detrimental to the future of their club. It was easy to sympathise, as I’m sure you can imagine. But the one thing that they all had in common was their praise for the Reds, the view that we should have won the game and that they were lucky, and a fair amount of comparison- as one particularly vociferous fan commented, “why can’t our board invest in our club the way that Crawley’s do?”
Thanks to all supporters who have joined the Alliance, and all of those who used our coaches yesterday. We look forward to seeing you all on the coach to Palace on Tuesday and then to Torquay, Cheltenham et al. Crawley Town Supporters Alliance- accept no imitations! And to end, a message from me and Tony T, as a couple of professional northerners. Port Vale are not, “Dirty Northern B’stards”! Stoke is in the Midlands, for God sake. Learn some geography!