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Sunday, 30 September 2012

Warren meets... Sergio Torres

After our game with Swansea City on Tuesday night, I met up with the player who gave me my best ever Crawley moment and had a chat with Reds' fans favourite Argentine!

WL: Sergio, firstly, let's begin with your time in Argentina; how did you get into football? Did you play regularly over there?

ST: Yeah, I've been playing since I was about 5 years old - that's when I started kicking the ball. I was playing for my home town team until I was around twenty one. I then played as a semi-professional in the 4th division for a couple of years and then had my chance to come and play in Europe. In Argentina, it's very difficult - if you're not in the top league by the age of twenty or twenty-one, it's very hard to make it as a professional footballer. For me, the dream was always to be a professional player so that's when I wanted to try my luck in Europe.

WL: So when you said you wanted to come over to Europe, what did your parents say? Were they happy with you coming abroad at a relatively young age?

ST: My Dad always supported me in football and he always wanted me to do well. However, my Mother didn't want me to go, she didn't want to miss her little boy! With me coming to England and not speaking English (at the time), she was a little worried. They've both supported me though and now I've been in England for 9 years so they've kind of got used to it!

WL: They keep coming over to see you now and again, I think they came up to Bury on the CTSA (Crawley Town Supporters Alliance).

ST: Yeah, they come maybe once or twice a year. My Dad especially misses watching me play football and they both come over. They came to Old Trafford as well which I suppose is the "main game" really!

Sergio with his Mum and Dad after the game at Rotherham last season
WL: We'll talk about your career in England now, and, you initially had a trial at Brighton. It didn't come of anything and you had spells in non-league at the likes of Basingstoke and Molesey, did these experiences at non-league level toughen you up?

ST: Yeah definitely - it taught me a lot about the English game. When I went to Brighton, I knew that I needed to adapt to the English game - I had to learn how to tackle more than anything. At Molesley and Basingstoke I learnt a lot, learnt how to tackle and how to defend. Both are a key part of the game and I feel that I am a more complete player now than when I first came to England.

WL: John Gorman then brought you to Wycombe. How grateful are you to him in giving you your big chance at being a professional?

ST: He's a legend to me. He's a great man. He was not only a good manager but he treated us all as if he was our Dad and I will always be thankful to him for giving me that chance that I was looking for since I came (to England). He's great.

WL: Do you still keep in contact with him (Gorman)?

ST: Every now and then I send him a message. I know he's retired from the game now but he's just a really nice man.

WL: You were then signed by Peterborough, unfortunately, injuries held you back a little, do you feel you could have been a regular in the Championship for them?

ST: I played about 9 games and I really enjoyed it when we played. Unfortunately, we got relegated back to League 1 that season. It was difficult - It was a good move for me but I kept getting injured here and there and I missed Wycombe quite a bit too - I spent 3 years there (Wycombe) and my head was a little over the place but thankfully I came to Crawley and it all came to life again. I've really had the most amazing and enjoyable two-and-a-half years here!

WL: Indeed. Now, you're a little bit of a legend here (Crawley) and I said to you on Twitter today about my favourite moment being that goal against Derby. Talk me through it. What was that like!?

ST: Wow! It was unbelievable! You're right, it was you that said it today and I had a look (at the video footage). It gives me goosebumps every time I see it and it was amazing! It's hard to explain that type of feeling - it was something that I've never had before in my life. It was the whole occasion, the club being in the 3rd round of the FA Cup for the first time in quite a few years, beating Derby - a Championship side and the whole crowd going crazy! It was just... unbelievable!

Check the video below out for Sergio's moment in Crawley history:

WL: So when the ball did come to you from Deano's (Dean Howell's) corner. What were you thinking? Just pass it in or slam it and hope for the best?!

ST: I tried just to keep it on target because I knew where the goal was but there were a lot of bodies in there. I thought if I smash it it could go anywhere! It's split second and you have to make the decision. Fortunately, I just opened my foot up and it went in there. I missed a chance just before when it was flicked off the line but thankfully, it went in!

WL: As you've said, you've been here (Crawley) for two-and-a-half years, did you think it would be this good when you signed?!

ST: No! I knew we had a good team when I signed. Steve Evans (Crawley manager at the time) told me we were proper going for it and I was really looking forward to the challenge ahead to fight for promotion. I never thought we'd be playing against the likes of Manchester United at Old Trafford - that was the dream. Even Stoke in the FA Cup. It's amazing and I don't know how many games I've played for us but I haven't lost many for Crawley Town. The boys have been great, it's been a really enjoyable time for me and I'm now one of the longest serving players I think!

WL: You've recently become a father for the first time, how's fatherhood treating you? Sleepless nights?!

ST: Nah! She's (Sergio's daughter) been pretty good. She wakes up quite early sometimes to be fair. Sometimes it's 6am she's up! Me and the missus take turns with 1 night each but it's amazing and having a baby is the best thing in the world. We're definitely going to have another one soon (Laughs)!

WL: You know Russell Martin (Norwich City defender) and I think I remember seeing on your Twitter that he'd got either (Sergio) Aguero or (Fabricio) Coloccini's shirt. Are they hanging in your house?

ST: Haha! It was Aguero's... In fairness, I need to get them framed! Russ is a good friend of mine and whenever he is going to be playing against an Argentinian player he's always got me in his ear asking him to get me a shirt!
GET SHIRTY: Russell (L) and Sergio (R) with Aguero's shirt
WL: Finally, you're I think 31 now, have you been looking into coaching or anything outside of football for when you hang up your boots? How long can you keep playing?

ST: I want to still play. I don't know what level but hopefully I'll still be playing for a few more years yet. I'm still really enjoying it and just want to keep fit. I've recently started studying a Sports Science course with Josh (Simpson) at Manchester University. It's a long distance and it's me, Josh and Sads (Mat Sadler) who have to go up there next week. It's going to be a long trek!

Many thanks to Sergio for taking the time out to speak to me.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Reds Rue Missed Chances

At the start of the season, on paper, Colchester United v Crawley Town looked a difficult game to predict. However, with Reds riding high and the U's languishing at the bottom of League 1, surely a Crawley victory was on the cards?

The CTSA coach was full, which meant we had to drive up to deepest, darkest Essex. 4pm was the meeting time as me and 3 others departed.

It took longer than expected and we finally reached point at around 18.45. A £6 parking fee was slightly on the ludicrous side before a brief stroll to the impressive Weston Homes Community Stadium.

Over 200 Reds fans made the trip - a good turnout for a mid-week game considering kids going back to school and all that, and were in fine voice.

After just 1 minute, Crawley had their first chance as an in-swinging Nicky Adams free kick found Kyle McFadzean, but his header was tamely pushed onto the Mark Cousins' gloves.

Colchester had their opportunity on 6 minutes when Anthony Wordsworth's corner was headed over by Marcus Bean.
HIGHLY RATED: Anthony Wordsworth
After only 7 minutes, midfielder Shaun Cooper was taken off with a groin injury. The former Bournemouth man replaced by the returning Josh Simpson.

McFadzean's surge up-field saw him beat a couple of U's players before sliding a low cross to the back post, however, Gary Alexander couldn't get enough power, sliding in.

Mat Salder was next to try his luck but saw his left footed drive whistle just wide of Cousins' right hand post, just after the half an hour mark.

That was that for the opening 45 minutes as the half petered out with little else, with the referee adding an extra minute of time.

Reds played much better in the second half and seemed to up the gears.

Mike Jones cut in from the right, played a neat one-two with Alexander before unleashing a strike that went inches wide of the right-hand post.

On the hour, a Nicky Ajose cross found Alexander, but his effort was blocked off of ex-Red Magnus Okuonghae and out for a corner.
OLD BOY: Magnus started for the U's
With 63 minutes played, Colchester had their first clear cut effort as Brian Wilson curling free kick from 20 yards out was heading for the bottom left-hand corner, only to be pushed away by Crawley 'keeper Paul Jones.

2 minutes later and the visitors hit the post; Jones again found space before seeing his effort skim off the right-hand post.

U's manager John Ward brought on Freddie Sears in place of Ian Henderson as his side looked to snatch a winner.

However, it was Crawley that increased the pressure as Cousins' goal was leading a charmed life. The dangerous Adams, who tormented U's right back Wilson, all night turned the former Bristol City defender inside-out before curling an effort towards the far corner, only for Cousins to tip the ball onto the bar and away.
NUISANCE: Nicky Adams
From the resulting corner, Sadler's in-swinger caused confusion in the home box, and, despite shouts for a McFadzean hand ball, the Crawley defender poked in at the second time of asking.

HANDS UP: McFadzean does his best Maradona impression
Adams and Ajose quickly had efforts go over and wide and Jones saw his free kick sail just past the post again.

Colchester managed to grab an undeserved equaliser with just a few minutes left to play as Sadler was adjudged to have felled Bean, despite there being very little contact. Wordsworth stepped up and fired straight down the middle. 1-1.

Minutes later, substitute, Billy Clarke skipped past a couple of challenges before his drilled shot rebounded off that famous post and away to safety.

There were 2 more Crawley efforts before the whistle was blown for full time as firstly, Alexander's volley was heading in onto be be clawed away by Cousins and another Adams effort flew just over the bar as the game ended in a draw.

COLCHESTER: Cousins; Wilson, Okuonghae, Eastman, Rose; Bean, Henderson (Sears, 67), Izzet (c) (O'Toole, 76), Wordsworth, Massey; Morrison

REDS: P. Jones; Hunt, Connolly, McFadzean, Sadler; M. Jones, Akpan, Cooper (Simpson, 7), Adams; Ajose (Clarke, 78), Alexander (c)

Some photos courtesy of Pixel8Photos and Crawley Observer.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Gary's brace punishes Preston

Gary Alexander's brace sealed another fine away victory as Reds bounced back from last week's defeat at home to Portsmouth.

Preston began the brightest as John Welsh and new signing Stuart Beavon both went close.

Crawley's first notable effort came when winger, Nicky Adams saw his 25-yard strike go just wide of 'keeper Thorston Stuckmann's top right-hand corner.

Soon after, on 26 minutes, Mat Sadler's left wing cross was headed just wide by Dannie Bulman. An opportunity for a rare goal from the fans' favourite.

Akpo Sodje was booked for Preston just prior to fracas between both sets of players as Kyle McFadzean was chopped down from behind by Lilywhites skipper Nicky Wroe. Somehow the referee felt a few words would suffice rather than a straight red card.

Wroe's challenge deserved more than just a chat
Graham Westley took off David Buchanan, a straight swap for ex-Stevenage man Joel Byrom as the second half began.

Within 3 minutes of the second half resuming, the visitors had another effort as McFadzean let fly from long range. The defender's header, however, was straight at Stuckmann.

The breakthrough finally came on 54 minutes as Adams' superb deep cross from the left hand side saw Alexander, who rose above Scott Laird to send the away stand into raptures.

Alexander added to his tally four minutes later when he turned North End centre back, Shane Cansdell-Sheriff and fired into the bottom right -hand corner with the outside of his right boot.

The Reds captain had a chance to complete his hat-trick but headed tamely at Stuckmann from another Sadler cross.

Westley decided to take off danger man Jeffrey Mounakana. The former Arsenal man making way for William Hayhurst with 12 minutes of normal time remaining.

Preston snatched a goal back at the death as an in-swinging Byrom free kick found Paul Huntington lurking in the box and the big defender fired past away 'keeper Paul Jones, just before the referee added 5 extra minutes of injury time.

One final chance fell to the home side as the natives found their voice; Wroe tried to head an effort past Jones, only for the former Peterborough stopper to tip over the bar.

Two successive corners ensued but North End couldn't find a way through a resolute defence.

REDS: P.Jones, Sadler, Connolly, McFadzean, Alexander (c), Hunt, Ajose (Clarke, 79), Bulman, Adams, Cooper, M.Jones 
(Walsh, 87)

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Best Buys In English Football

Deadline day was as hectic as always on Friday, however, it was a very exciting Summer for fans of a number of clubs with the amount of transfers both incoming and outgoing. Here are my 10 top transfers and the 1 that just missed out. So, in no particular order....

Eden Hazard (Lille - Chelsea) 
Chelsea were the real big spenders this Summer with Roman Abramovich seemingly allowing new manager Roberto Di Matteo to splash the cash for the newly crowned Champions League Winners. The long-wrangling saga of where Hazard's destination would be, was all the rage; the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Barcelona, Chelsea, Real Madrid etc were all rumoured to be interested and I think I even heard that Dave Whelan was trying to entice the Belgian to Wigan Athletic (possibly unfounded). Anyway, Chelsea won the race for the signature of Hazard and he has impressed greatly in the "new Chelsea" system. He has linked up with fellow playmaker Juan Mata excellently and already has 6 assists in just 3 league games so far as well as scoring for Chelsea too. Excellent signing and, at the minute, looks to be worth every penny of the reported £32m transfer fee. Whelan must be looking on enviously - image the goals Franco Di Santo could have scored with that service!
HAZARD: A dangerous player
Clint Dempsey (Fulham - Tottenham Hotspur)
On the topic of transfer sagas, I think it's very appropriate that we now move on to our American cousin, Clint Dempsey. It looked for all the world that Dempsey was heading for Merseyside to join Liverpool when the window opened. For one reason or another, that didn't work out (LFC surely didn't splash their whole transfer budget on Joe Allen?!) In a bid to try and force through a move to Anfield, Clint refused to play for Fulham again, effectively going on strike to get his move. On deadline day, the Texan was still a Fulham "player" (not that he would play). Aston Villa tried an audacious move to bring him to Villa Park, Fulham agreed a fee with Paul Lambert's side however, Dempsey turned it down and, in a remarkable turn, out of the blue came Spurs and snapped up the USA international for a fee believed to be £6m (typical Spurs). Liverpool fans weren't happy. Spurs fans were. Clint... well, he certainly clocked up the mileage!
DEMPSEY: Got his move... in the end!
Steven Naismith (Rangers - Everton)
The Rangers situation wasn't a good one... unless you are managers that are trying to snare their players on free transfers. That's exactly what David Moyes did. The Scotsman (Naismith, not Moyes) decided against transferring his contract from "Rangers" to the "Newco Rangers" in a long wrangling case involving the club. Naismith linked up again, with his old strike partner, Nikica Jelavic. It looks a deserved signing for Moyes, after spending £7m on Jelavic just 6 months before he would have probably been available for nothing. A good signing for Everton, who seem famed for their lack of finances to sign a player. Naismith has already found the net for the Toffees, grabbing a hat-trick in Tony Hibbert's testimonial against AEK Athens... having said that, even Hibbert scored in that game so perhaps it's not that great an achievement. I'm sure he'll do well in blue.
NAISMITH: Back with his old pal Jelavic
Jan Vertonghen (Ajax - Tottenham Hotspur)
It was an interesting Summer for Spurs fans. The makeover took place; AVB (Andre Villas-Boas) came in to replace Harry Redknapp and Andre got straight to work in tearing apart a decent side, replacing a number of high profile names. Luka Modric joined Real Madrid, Rafael Van der Vaart returned to Hamburg are 2 examples. The Vertonghen signing was something that was needed; the centre back positions at Spurs were something that needed sorting out with the likes of Michael Dawson and Ledley King (now retired) being rather injury prone. At 25, he's a good age to develop, as well as having some good experience. He's another Belgian who seems to have a good future and he's not the last in this blog. Good capture for Spurs when you think he was courted by a number of decent sides. A fee of £14m is a reasonable price for a player in this day and age too.
VERTONGHEN: Will be a mainstay in the Spurs side
Julio Cesar (Inter Milan - QPR)
This was another transfer that almost came out of nowhere. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who took this move with a pinch of salt after first hearing about it. Julio Cesar, a goalkeeper, who, a couple of years ago was the best, if not, one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Now, he's turning up at Loftus Road to sign for QPR?! For some reason, Inter got shot of their Brazilian number 1 and it appears Tony Fernandes sold the club to him, especially after hearing this quote from Cesar: "I joined QPR because I feel we can win the Premier League". I'm not saying they won't, but can you imagine, in your head, Mark Hughes lifting the trophy?... No, me neither. Julio also has to realise that there may be times when the likes of Clint Hill and Shaun Derry will be in the same starting XI as him. On a more serious note, it's an excellent signing for QPR and it's a player I've always wanted to see in the Premier League so everyone's a winner, right? Well, unless your name's Robert Green.
CESAR: What is he doing at QPR?!
Shinji Kagawa (Dortmund - Manchester United)
You don't often get many talented Japanese footballers. I think the last half-decent one was Junichi Inamoto, who played for Fulham. However, this one is a very good player! In inaugural part of Borussia Dortmund's recent success, Kagawa was on the radar of a number of clubs for his impressive goals and assists tally during his time in the Bundesliga. United won the race for his signature after agreeing a fee believed to be around £15m... a tidy profit for Dortmund, who signed him from Curezo Osaka in 2010 for just 350,000 Euros. Good business! Kagawa likes to play "inbetween the lines", linking up with the midfield and the impressive strike-force that United now have to choose from. He'll make an impact in the Premier League and still has a long time left in his career. He's already opened his account for the Red Devils. Could be a United great.
KAGAWA: Good addition to United's squad
Santi Cazorla (Malaga - Arsenal)
It appears that Malaga's gamble of signing big names in a bid to shake up La Liga and the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid failed to pay off. The club's financial difficulties meant they had to sell their prized asset just 1 year after signing the talented Spaniard from Villarreal. Arsene Wenger soon swooped to grab the little schemer for a fee of £15m. Wenger spending money I hear you ask!? He's probably been 1 of the stars of the Premier League in these early games and he scored in Arsenal's latest win against Liverpool. Wenger would have been hoping Robin van Persie just ahead to bang the goals in but unfortunately for the Arsenal boss, Olivier Giroud is the man who is meant to score the goals. They've still got Marouanne Chamakh though. Finally, let's be honest, would I put Cazorla in my Fantasy Premier League team if he wasn't a good player?
CAZORLA: Arsenal's Spanish schemer
Andy Carroll (Liverpool - West Ham United)
This may be a little bit of a surprise to a few of you but I think the big man's move to Upton Park is a bit of a master-stroke by Sam Allardyce. Carroll reunites with his old pal and mentor Kevin Nolan in east London and Allardyce will be expecting goals from the Liverpool loanee. On Liverpool, I bet they're kicking themselves after letting the £35m man leave with only Luis Suarez (who's hardly prolific) and a youth team striker as the only recognised centre forwards on their books! Expect to see Carroll, with a run of games, to notch around 15 goals this season, especially from the service out wide from fellow new boy Matt Jarvis. An impressive debut against Fulham showed no signs of needing to gel in his new team in a 3-0 win. The move away from the north-west could just be the kick-start he needs to revitalise his slightly  flailing career.
Carroll (L) and Nolan (R) are back together again!
Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea - West Bromwich Albion)
The move to West Brom for Romelu Lukaku is an ideal opportunity to show everyone at Chelsea just what he can do. Since joining from Anderlecht last Summer, the striker's opportunities at Stamford Bridge were limited. Dubbed "the new Didier Drogba", Lukaku should work well up from with Shane Long in a little 'n large partnership. He caused problems against Spurs the other week as WBA started the season off very well. A shrewd move from Steve Clarke who's negotiations for Lukaku's services may have been helped by being pals with Blues' boss Roberto Di Matteo. Could play a big part in West Brom's season. On the topic of West Brom, for me, they've been a real surprise this season so far.

LUKAKU: Loan star
Pablo Hernandez (Valencia - Swansea)
The signing of Hernandez is another great piece of business by new Swansea boss Michael Laudrup. Laudrup seems to be taking more players from Spain than Rafa Benitez did at Liverpool and it seems to be working. Michu has been a real star for the Swans so far and with Hernandez whipping in the service from the right hand side, he should score goals for fun. A real snip at just £5.5m and at 27, you'd think that Hernandez would be in the prime of his career. A quality player who should set the Premier League alight. For me, a better replacement for Scott Sinclair, at a much cheaper price. If I was Laudrup, I would have tried to tie him down for longer than the three-year-deal he signed.

HERNANDEZ: Great signing
The one who missed out...

Gaston Ramirez (Bologna - Southampton)
The signing of Ramirez was one that sounded a little too good to be true. The negotiations seemed to go on for a lifetime before boss, Nigel Adkins finally tied up the deal. It's strange that Ramirez chose the south coast with (respectfully) bigger clubs chasing his signature. It looks a great piece of business, however, why has he missed out? The fee of £12m could be good for the long term however, it's a little bit of a gamble if the Uruguayan's potential doesn't come off. Added to the fact that he came from Serie A in Italy, and you do wonder whether there is some third party involved. We all know what happened with the Carlos Tevez/West Ham situation a few years back.

RAMIREZ: Hot property this Summer
Photos courtesy of Zimbio, Southampton FC, Swansea City FC, The Telegraph