Retro Red Devils 13 – 1967/68 “Promotion here we come”, No reason to Bragg!

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13th January 2024

No, I am not referring to the present day (but who knows, after that brilliant win at Bradford!) but a season I have written about several times in the past: 1967-68, our fifth season in the Southern League.

I was recently loaned some old scrapbooks by ex-player Vic Bragg to use at the Crawley Town FC exhibition. Unfortunately I didn’t get them in time to display anything other than a small number of his prized possessions, but before I pass them back to Vic, I thought I would show a few bits and pieces in this article since we have little history against this week’s opponents, Salford City.

Vic Bragg signs

Quite a few of you will know of Vic, a local boy and long-serving left-sided player for the Red Devils who joined us after leaving Fulham in 1967. He would go on to play hundreds of games for us, right up to a couple of appearances in season 1983/84, before embarking on a very successful coaching career, initially alongside his career as a teacher (some may remember him from his days at Langley Green and Bishop Bell schools).

Vic would go on to coach and manage England age group sides for the FA before joining Brighton, becoming Director of their Centre of Excellence, where he is still involved – but let’s not hold that against him as he did play over 600 games for the Red Devils!

Back in 1967, Crawley manager Fred Cook had been alerted to this local lad who had been at Fulham as a youngster, travelling up from his family home in Ifield to try and make his mark in league football, and who was also a member of England’s youth squad. Fulham let Vic go in 1967 and initially he tried to get fixed up with a league club, with trials at Reading and QPR. Vic’s first appearance for Crawley was as a triallist in a home friendly in August 1967 against Andover of the Western League, where he was joined by fellow ex-Fulham youngsters Jimmy Dunkley and Dave Loveridge who had signed for Crawley alongside other new faces in Mike Tomkys from Canterbury City and big signing Ray Keeley, who would score the only goal in the Andover game. That game sounded more like a battle than a football match, with the referee resorting to sending off Dunkley in the second half, a rare occurrence even in league matches in those days, let alone in a friendly!

After that bruising introduction, next up was a surprisingly tame pre-season encounter at home to near neighbours Horsham in August 1967, with Vic appearing still as a triallist, apparently linking play in midfield well, in a 6-0 win for the Red Devils (Harry Easton, Keeley, Jennings pen, Loveridge, Dave Robertson, Haining).

Surprisingly, after the nastiness of the first game against Andover, we would travel to their ground soon after for a second friendly, which on this occasion passed off relatively peacefully and with another win for the Red Devils, this time by 2-0.

It was reported that Vic signed for Crawley on the coach returning from the Andover match, and also that this signing came after much boardroom discussion over whether the club could afford him on top of the signings already made.

Having spent strongly on putting together his squad, manager Cook was expecting great things of this team, as were the supporters, and we went confidently into the first league game of the season at home to Trowbridge Town on 19th August 1967.

Trowbridge Victory Pleases Fans


Thankfully, in front of a crowd of 964, we overcame a sluggish start and finished with a comfortable 2-0 win (Keeley, Tomkys), prompting one press report to proclaim, “Crawley have now pieced together the best ever side to wear the club’s colours”!

Looking through the programme for the Trowbridge game, as well as welcoming our five new signings we were also welcoming back Glyn Jones from his broken leg, sustained the previous season on an icy Town Meadow pitch against Hastings (sadly Glyn would not return to league action apart from one game). It was reported too that John Howe, also sidelined with a broken leg, was making good progress in his recovery, although as with Glyn, he would not feature for us again in the Southern League.

A programme feature on “Laws of the Game” mentioned clarification on a new directive from FIFA whereby goalkeepers were now instructed to release the ball after four paces or less, presumably to try and speed up the game (some things haven’t changed, then!).

There was also an appeal in the programme for fans to donate the cost of a match ball (£8 each) in the hope that the club could then use a new ball for each game! Also on the fundraising side, help was requested in selling the club’s weekly “Tote” tickets, this scheme having been one of the biggest money earners for the club over the previous decade. To give an idea of the scale of the scheme, as well as the weekly prizes of £137 (the average weekly wage at the time was around £20 per week), every 20 weeks the first prize was a new Austin Mini!

Some of the early optimism from that first game and the new signings was dampened, though, as we lost three of the next four league games and were thrashed 5-0 at Barnet of the Southern League Premier Division in the first leg of a SL cup tie on 28th August 1967. Apparently, though, we had fielded a weakened side due to illness and injury against what was one of the best non-league sides in the country. We did redeem ourselves in the second leg of that tie on 5th September with a superb 3-0 home win (Bobby Roberts, Upton, OG) when we were able to field our strongest side in front of 827 appreciative fans.

Crawley You Were Great!


But as would happen often that season, we followed up this great (see Observer headline) performance with the complete opposite, this time in a Southern League game at Tonbridge on 9th September 1967, where we lost 2-0. This prompted Alan Peden to write in the Observer that a fan had reminded him after the game to report that we were “rubbish” to counter his comment of the previous week that we were “great”!

Crawley You Were Rubbish


We also managed to lose 1-0 in the FA Cup third qualifying round at Sussex County League side Chichester City, a significant blow to our finances which were starting to feel the strain after assembling what for us was a relatively costly squad. I also saw mentioned that for a Saturday away match at Merthyr Tydfil in October, the team would travel on the day itself, leaving Crawley at 6 a.m. and getting home at around midnight. Ahh, the joys of semi-professional football!

Interest locally in the team was starting to wane as we continued with our inconsistent results and performances. One bright spot though was our Crawley Town Minors, who were playing at Town Meadow and in early October won by an incredible 24-0 against Forest old Boys!

I suspect the fact the Minors were sharing the Town Meadow pitch wasn’t helping its condition, and as we reached Christmas 1967, the picture from the Gloucester City game on Boxing Day shows the pitch at its worst, with Dave Haining trying to shovel the ball out of ankle-deep mud. In fact, one report said he was foiled by the mud on three occasions, with one effort beating the keeper but then sticking in the mud before it could cross the line. Alan Peden in the Observer likened the conditions to “a morass resembling the battlefields of Flanders in WWI”.

Gloucester City mudheap


January would see no respite for the long-suffering Town fans, with just a 3-1 home win over Dunstable (Keeley, Haining, 2) on 20th January 1968 to console the 381 home fans alongside results such as a 5-0 defeat by Hastings United in the Sussex Professional Cup and 7-0 at Bedford Town, as well as conceding another seven against “amateurs” Slough in the Floodlight League.

As the disastrous season drew to a close, and with Fred Cook (he would become General Manager) having relinquished the manager’s role in favour of Roy Jennings, we were in serious danger of finishing in the re-election places. 

Thankfully a 3-1 home win over Gravesend and Northfleet on 15th April (Haining, 2, Tony Kingston) followed five days later by a superb 4-1 home win over promoted Rugby Town (Kingston, Robertson penalty, Haining, Bragg), eased us closer to safety before three defeats in four games left us looking anxiously at other results. A 5-4 home win (Robertson, 2, Bragg, 2, Maggs) on 11th May 1968, our final game of the season, dragged us to safety by just a single point. Note one of our goalscorers was goalkeeper John Maggs, playing at centre forward for the final few games of the season, with the equally fine keeper Graham Brown taking over between the sticks. Maggs’s goal, a dazzling run from the halfway line, was his final outing as emergency centre forward. We nearly threw victory away though when Crawley were pegged back from 5-1 to finish the game hanging on for victory, the 468 fans pleading with the referee to blow the final whistle on a season that had promised so much but delivered little except increasing financial problems.

Wisbech 5-4 and safety!


Thankfully Roy Jennings had other ideas, and season 1968/69 would be one of massive over-achievement. All of which is covered in the Crawley Town exhibition at Crawley Museum, which runs for another two weeks until it ends on Saturday 27th January. Don’t miss it!

Mick Fox  –



Mick Fox

Mick Fox

Mick has been a lifelong fan since being taken to games as a young boy by his Dad (an ex Crawley keeper) in the 1950s and today is a season ticket holder in the East Stand. Over that time Mick have been involved in the Supporters Club, Social Clubs (including the Broken Flag Club) and also sat on the Football Club board. He has seen many regimes and fans come and go but never been able to shake the bug. Big fan of "proper" football - definitely not the Premier League!