the real fa cup

(Red) Devil

Crawley Town 2 Derby County 1 – FA Cup 3rd Round

Well, what do therealfacup do now? The most despised team in non-league pulls off one of the shocks of the round against former winners and Championship side Derby County.

Scenario 1)

Packed ground? Tick. TV interest? Tick. Non League team beats Championship side? Tick. Ethos of therealfacup? Tick.

Scenario 2)

The Man City of the Conference (I know but it’s the Vauxhall Conference to me) chuck money at League 1&2 players while employing tarnished former manager implicated in the demise of one of the best rags to riches to rags stories of the last 20 years. Hardly the stuff of plucky underdog? Well, no.

Hmmm …

Twitter was alive with venom, even the BBC Non League show hadn’t seen such a mixed reaction to a giant killing. As a unit, the only completely happy folk were Crawley and Forest fans. The reason for the venom was two-fold, objection to the way Crawley seem to be buying their way into the Football League with pots of cash and that Steve Evans still has a job in football.

OK, Evans seems to be a spiky and unpleasant man but there are loads of those in football, probably at your club. OK, he was banned by the footballing authorities and prosecuted for his misdemeanours but he’s paid that debt so should he not be allowed to get on with it or must he be punished forever? Really, people, get over it. You might not like it but would you want your past brought up every five minutes?

Our man at the game, halftimewhistle, summed it up by saying that some footy fans seemed to be having trouble separating Crawley from Steve Evans. You can’t begrudge a whole fanbase just because you don’t care for the manager of the team they support, can you?

The other issue is more difficult. Crawley are not the first nor will they be the last football team to benefit from wealthy owners who choose to throw funds at a club. I’d  venture a guess that half of all football clubs in England have done it at some point to varying degrees of success or failure. You still need a good manager to get the best out of those expensive players. Cash does not equal the formality of league titles: Mancini hasn’t exactly sealed the deal, Roy Keane has just been sacked for failing to do so, Chelsea still lack a Champions League success …

I don’t like that way of making progress, Arsene doesn’t like it and you probably don’t like it but, given they aren’t currently even top of their league and they were playing a side three leagues above them, you can’t say with any degree of certainty that money made them win. So, they should be applauded for overcoming that. Pundits have been saying that Crawley are a League 1 side in all but name. Well, that’s fine but that’s still a league below Derby.

However. If you add these two things together you get more of a reaction, if you sprinkle on an arrogant attempt at prizing an asset from a rival, Steve Evans’ regular on-field and pitch-side bust ups with practically everyone he encounters and some isolated but unsavoury crowd moments it all adds up to a heady cocktail of dislike.

For us, Crawley beating Derby should be celebrated as a notable league scalp by a non-league side, their fans should have their moment in the sun and Steve Evans should catch a break for 5 minutes. We should, however, appreciate that this is a moment that will always be tainted, Steve Evans’ actions must be tolerated but not forgotten, and the game should not go down in the annals of therealfacup as one of our moments to savour.

We did, however, enjoy the pantomime grief Robbie Savage received, the drama of the missed penalty and this irony-laced Tweet from a Crawley fan – “Just too exciting and money can’t buy those moments as I said to my boy!”.

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