Crawley Town at Wembley: Reds legend who played at Old Trafford has this advice for current team - and makes his predictions for play-off final

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Big games at big stadiums have been few and far between for Crawley Town players and fans.

Crawley are currently preparing for one of these kinds of games, their first ever match at Wembley Stadium as they face Crewe Alexandra in the final of the League Two play-offs.

The last game of this magnitude was when Crawley Town, who were Non League at the time, travelled to Old Trafford to face Manchester United in the fifth round of the FA Cup. You can watch the full interview with Matt Tubbs above.

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One of the stars of that team, striker Matt Tubbs, says he still holds that experience close to him. Tubbs, who now teaches Sports and Exercise Science at Brockenhurst College in the New Forest, scored 66 goals in 96 games for the Reds and was part of Steve Evans’ side who climbed from Non League into the Football League.

Matt Tubbs in action at Old Trafford, under pressure from Wes Brown | Picture: Jon RigbyMatt Tubbs in action at Old Trafford, under pressure from Wes Brown | Picture: Jon Rigby
Matt Tubbs in action at Old Trafford, under pressure from Wes Brown | Picture: Jon Rigby

The former Portsmouth and Bournemouth striker had two spells at the Boradfield Stadium and still follows the Reds now. And he has enjoyed following their progress this season. “They have had a remarkable season, especially at the back end.

"You can see with the results, the team spirit and camaraderie, the togetherness that’s there goes so far and that’s ultimately, in addition to having really good players, that has got them over the line. That was evident at the end of the MK Dons game how tight the group is and that’s credit to the staff and management to create that culture and get them where they have got to now.”

And like most people, following the season they had last year, Tubbs did not think this season would end with a trip to the home of English Football. “I don’t think anyone did and that’s why they were tipped to be relegated but again that’s credit to the staff, the manager and the players to come such a long way in such a short space of time. It does take time for teams to gel and what Scott Lindsey, Jamie Day and the rest of the staff have done is unbelievable and now they are getting their rewards with a day out at Wembley.”

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Tubbs still remembers the week building up to the Old Trafford game in 2011 and he had advice for the current squad. “It’s just the euphoria of it,” he said. “The week leading up to it is just one of the best weeks. It’s almost better than the day because of the euphoria and excitement around the town. You won’t see any of the players in the medical room this week they will all be out there. They will have a great week’s training, one knowing they are going to Wembley and have a great day out, but two, they have a chance to be promoted to League One.

“My advice to the players when they are at Wembley is just savour the moment. It goes within the blink of an eye.

"I am 12 or 13 years past Old Trafford now and I still hold it so close to me and think about it all the time. I see it with students, when they find out I used to play football I see them watching youtube clips of the Man United game.

"It’s an amazing day out. We went to Old Trafford and they are going to Wembley. Just take in every single minute, take as many photos as you can. They are with their friends on a football pitch, going into battle against a good team and they are going to fight for each other.”

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Lindsey’s playing style is a little bit different to how Tubbs and his teammates played at Crawley and former Reds favourite believes it would be a tough call who wins if they were to play each other in their prime. He said: “Back then it was much more direct and the way Steve Evans set up his teams, he was predominantly a direct manager and coach and he built a team that work very much to work to that philosophy.

“And in that season when we got promoted from League Two to League One that worked for that team.

“And what Scott Lindsey is doing with his players that are technically really good footballers and can move the ball well and do what he wants to do and it got them to that last play-off spot. And now they have an amazing day out coming this weekend and I am sure they are going to play the way they want to play on their big day out.

"It’s two totally different styles. They could counteract each other. One more direct and one who wants to get it down and play. But that’s not to say Steve Evans didn’t play good football, he liked to get ball forward quick and then play nice football in the opponent’s half.

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“To call who would win is too tough and I would have to sit on the fence.”

But one thing Tubbs did not sit on the fence about was whether Crawley can win this Sunday. “They definitely can. It’s a one-off game and I would back Crawley. It’s whoever goes out there and works harder and wants it more and I would back Crawley all day. I am going 2-1 win for the Reds.”