' it was really important for me to show that we had their backs' - Crawley Town owner Preston Johnson explains why he sat in the dugout at Stevenage

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Crawley Town co-owner and co-chairman Preston Johnson has explained why he sat in the dugout at Stevenage during the 3-1 defeat in their final game of 2022.

The Stevenage came just a day after Matty Etherington and his assistant Simon Davies walked out of the club – a move which prompted Johnson to return from the US and show his support for the side.

This sparked a backlash from some fans and media and once again provided negative headlines for owners WAGMI United.

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It followed weeks of criticism following the non-selection of Tom Nichols for games before the striker was finally sold to Gillingham, Etherington leaving and rumours of more senior players departing the club.

The Crawley Town Supporters’ Alliance demanded meetings with WAGMI and director of football Chris Galley to get explanations for the events but they either ignored or told they were 'currently unavailable’ to meet with them.

But in a video update, Johnson has given a full explanation of why he sat in the dugout and that he would be meeting with the CTSA on Sunday (January 8).

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He said: “I’ve been in contact with the CTSA (Crawley Town Supporters Alliance) and we are meeting face to face on Sunday (January 8) so they will be able to provide some more context and colour following that meeting.

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Preston JohnsonPreston Johnson
Preston Johnson

"I thought it was important to address you guys directly first, the fans and supporters of Crawley Town Football Club. I know I won’t be able to answer all your questions, but I hope to hit on a few of the big points and help provide some clarity.

"The first one I know, and many of you guys are upset about, was that I said I sat in the dugout with the squad and the staff at the Stevenage game. I wanted you guys to know that I have heard you and I understand where you’re coming from and can sympathise with how you feel.

"I understand that a Chairman sitting in the dugout isn’t really a thing that’s done and it isn’t considered appropriate or normal in football but these last few weeks have honestly been pretty abnormal times.

"So I wanted to share a little bit about why I did it because it doesn’t seem to be accurately reported in the press and it certainly wasn’t a choice that I or the group took lightly.

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"I said in my statement before the game that I wanted to show support for our players as well as Darren (Byfield) and his staff. And that really was my only motivation for being in the dugout. For me I was trying to think about the situation that these players were in. They just had their manager and assistant manager quit on them, less than 24 hours before we played two games in four days.

"I can only imagine what it felt like for them and how it could shake their confidence and their morale. So I decided that it was really important for me to show that we had their backs. That we were behind them and we support them. It was important for me to not say that from thousands of miles away in the United States but actually show that in person.

"When we got the news of Matty’s (Etherington) decision to leave the club. It came and blindsided us. I immediately dropped everything and flew over here to Crawley so that I could be there for the match so that I could show my support to the players in person and also for Darren who was being asked to coach his first League Two game with pretty much zero notice.

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"They were put in a really tough position and I wanted to be there for them as they battled through and frankly thought they did a fantastic job. Not only against Stevenage but also against Newport as well.”

Johnson also talked about the sale of Nichols and Etherington leaving the club – those stories are to follow.

The Reds are still searching for a replacement for Etherington, with Swindon boss Scott Lindsey the current favourite and expected to be revealed in the next few days. Johnson said: “I want you guys to know that we are working to find the best candidate for this job and for this role as soon as possible and we should hopefully have some news on that in the days ahead.

"I want to thank you guys for your patience and for bearing with us these past few weeks. I know it wasn’t easy and I know how frustrated you guys are with the state of the club and I share in that frustration. I want you to know that I care deeply about Crawley Town Football Club, not just the club but the fans as well and I want to make decisions for the betterment of the club on and off the pitch and giving something that you guys can be proud of.”