Retro Red Devils 16 – Soft Pitches, Late Nights, Supporters & Social Clubs

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29th February 2024

I read the Barrow manager’s views on their postponement last Saturday, when the game against Bradford was called off just prior to kick-off as one small area of the pitch was not allowing the ball to bounce as it should. My personal opinion is that it is ridiculous, in these wet British winters we are having, that matches are being postponed seemingly at the last minute when hundreds of fans have travelled long distances to get to them. It only adds to the frustration when they then see games going ahead on pitches (Bradford, for one) that resemble mud-wrestling arenas. Let’s see some common sense, consistency and adaptability to British winter conditions along with – and I know this will not sit well with the EFL, PGMOL and FA – some thought for the fans as well. I am not advocating a return to the days of old when grounds such as Town Meadow were only fit for cows (and then only those fitted with lifebelts), but an acceptance that in our wet winters we have to adapt to conditions to a certain extent.

Mentioning “days of old”, I was recently given (by Ivan Noel) a picture from 8th October 1966 of a match Crawley played at Banbury United in the Southern League. It showed the Banbury player Cyril Green scoring one of a hat-trick of goals in the game. Cyril has recently died and the photo was on the Banbury Facebook page in memory of him. We actually won the game 4-3 that day (goals from Roy McCrohan, Nobby Upton, Wally Watkins and Dave Robertson), to keep up our promotion push.

Banbury & Three Eastbourne progs October 1966

That commendable result came on the Saturday after we played two FA Cup third qualifying round matches against Eastbourne United in the week prior to the match, beginning with a 1-1 draw away on 1st October, followed by a 2-2 stalemate on the following Tuesday night at Town Meadow. After the Banbury away game we had just the Sunday off before the second replay of the cup game on neutral territory over at Horsham’s Queen Street ground on Monday 10th October. Perhaps tired by that run of games, our small squad found themselves 3-0 down, only to fight back to 3-2 in what I remember as a ferocious cup tie, which included some contentious decisions. At one point a woman ran onto the pitch to remonstrate with the referee!

That workload on our small squad was not unusual for that season. Just a month earlier, a run of four matches in eight days stretched the team to breaking point. It started on 10th September with a routine 2-0 home win over Bexley United (a Roy Jennings penalty and goal from Dave Haining) before a long trip two days later to Hinckley United, and a narrow 1-0 defeat, returning home at 2.30 a.m. A day’s work on the Tuesday was followed on the Wednesday by another long trip, this time to Wisbech, where we came away with a creditable 2-2 draw (Bob Finch, 2) before arriving back in Crawley at 3 a.m. Most players would then have to make another journey, maybe around 20 miles, to get home and to bed before getting up for work the next morning!

This exhausting week for our part-time team was followed on Saturday 17th September by an FA Cup second qualifying tie at home to Maidstone United (quite a topical reference, with that side having reached the fifth round proper this week) which we just about managed to win with another Roy Jennings penalty to set up the aforementioned tie with Eastbourne United.

That early part of the 1966-67 season was a time of great optimism for us with the appointment of Roy McCrohan, who arrived with his Football League credentials and new coaching ideas.

At the same time, Crawley were in the process of completing the newly built social club, to be known as the Floodlite Club. The Maidstone programme announced that the license application would be heard on 22nd September, and that this would be a members-only club.

The Floodlite Club would be used for matchdays for many years, and see supporters, players and officials all get together to discuss games, settle disputes and plan for the future. (These were the good old days, when we had a proper “supporters” bar and everybody mixed post-match.) The club was also available for hire (my sister had her wedding reception there) and over the years many dances, discos and variety nights were held there to raise club funds.

1967 Youngmans CC ‘Do’ at Floodlite Club, Kennard & Powney

Despite its success, by the late 1970s the fabric of the building was starting to look shabby, and through financial support from Bruce Winfield and Les Turnbull and thanks to a few willing volunteers, we once again revamped it internally and turned it into a welcoming social club. The formation of the Crawley Town Sports and Social Club had the aim of providing a money-making hub for supporters to gather seven days a week.

Like the early Floodlite Club, this was also a members’ club, and a hugely successful one, but still provided a gathering place for all things CTFC-related. Also binding supporters together in those days were the many sports teams that were affiliated to the social club, including several darts and pool teams, something sadly seen less and less these days.

Unfortunately, despite its rebirth as the football club’s social club, as time went on non-football-oriented members became more involved making it more difficult for the club to use it on matchdays. As a result, with Les Turnbull to the fore again, a large Portakabin was acquired and sited behind the top terrace at Town Meadow, a license was eventually granted and the Broken Flag Club was born. This gave the football club a bar under its own control to offer a welcoming post-match environment to visitors as part of its obligations under Southern League rules.

This bar was quickly taken on by a committee of avid fans who ran it for the football club on a voluntary basis, and became a hugely popular venue on matchdays, with players and officials as well as supporters.

The name Broken Flag Club was penned by some of the jokers amongst our membership after I went to try and break up an “argument” at the shed end at Town Meadow between Crawley and Chelmsford fans. I had just bought a club flag (around 1990 we sold these for Sussex Senior Cup finals at Brighton, see photo) and stuffed it in my back pocket, but in the ensuing melee, I was sat on by a large fan and the flag stick broke. It didn’t take long for some wag to offer that as the name for the club!

1990 Goldstone Ground SSC Final with Flags

In fact, that club’s membership even sponsored our last ever Southern League match at Town Meadow (Town Mead, for those newcomers amongst us) on 26th April 1997 when we played Atherstone United, a match that guaranteed we would start our first season at Broadfield retaining our Premier Division status. By then the club name had changed to the Firkin Broken Flag Club and consisted of a group of Crawley-supporting friends, as the main social club had been wrested back under the control of the football club again and was thriving.

Last SL game sponsors “Firkin Broken Flag Club”

Sadly the social club never successfully transferred to Broadfield, possibly because we had lost our town centre location, and that social hub has largely been lost.

Reading through the special programme produced by Ian Hands for that final game, I see he reproduced a copy of the programme from December 1949 when Crawley FC (as they were then) entertained players and families from Youngman’s who were on a trip to the town to view their new factory and family homes.

Crawley would beat Youngman’s 10-0 in the football match (see pre match team photo), but friendships were formed in the post-match meal at APV Jordans (see photo), and some of the Youngman’s players would go on to play for Crawley in subsequent years.

One of these players was Fred Kennard, whose daughter June kindly lent me her dad’s footballing archive after he died eight years ago. I have reproduced various pictures from this in my articles over the years.

Sadly, Fred’s wife Diana (far right in the group of Youngman’s FC “WAGS” looking out of the coach windows) died in February, with a service of thanksgiving for her life taking place on Friday 1st March, but she has left June and her brother Dave as avid supporters of Crawley Town.


Dec 1949 Youngmans WAGS

Dec 1949 Crawley v Youngmans

Dec 1949 post match at APV Jordans

The photo I used earlier in this article to show the Floodlit Club in use is also from the Kennard archive. It shows Fred and Diana (far right in photo) at a Youngman’s Cricket Club awards dinner held at the club in 1967. The photo is taken just inside the main entrance to the club, with the phone booth behind (stir any memories for any older supporters?). Appropriately this photo also shows Tom Powney (second from left), who was with Fred in the 1949 team photo as a Youngman’s player, but who I remember from my early days of volunteering with Crawley in the 1960s as a Supporters Club official and fan of the team!

Was it that much easier in those days to form longstanding bonds between disparate groups of fans and also with the club?

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!