MARTIN SAMUEL: Football clubs sell their soul when they go chasing clicks like Crawley have done… PLUS, Antony needs to grow up - and will Callum Wilson's hamstrings take the strain of the World Cup? [1] 0 تعليق 0 ارسل طباعة تبليغ حذف

The year 1896. That is when Crawley Town were founded. Makes them older than Chelsea, Portsmouth, Norwich, even Leeds.

They were Crawley FC back then - Town was added in 1958 - original members of the West Sussex Football League, which did not include Brighton because they would not come along for another five years, in 1901.

So, a serious, historic club, even if Crawley did not enter the Football League until 2011. By then they had enjoyed an FA Cup run that pitted them against Manchester United in the last 16, had won the Southern League and the Southern League Cup, and had been county champions on four occasions.

Crawley remain in League Two, with an average attendance of 2,995. Meaning roughly 3,000 hardy souls regard Crawley as their club, and regularly pay to see them play. 

That number swelled to 9,000 when Manchester United came to town. Yet this weekend, when Accrington Stanley visit for an FA Cup first-round tie, the locals may see some unfamiliar names on the team sheet.

YouTubers Tobi (left) and Manny Brown (right) are set to be in Crawley Town's squad this week

YouTubers Tobi (left) and Manny Brown (right) are set to be in Crawley Town's squad this week

YouTubers Tobi (left) and Manny Brown (right) are set to be in Crawley Town's squad this week 

Tobi, Manny and Jed Brown are training with the club and are quite likely to be included in Saturday's squad. Why? For clicks. 

Tobi Brown also goes by the name of TBJZL - or Tobjizzle - and is a member of the YouTube phenomenon the Sidemen. Manny and Jed are his brothers.

The Sidemen started off as gamers, streaming themselves playing Grand Theft Auto or FIFA, and expanded their repertoire and audience by including football, music, until now their various YouTube channels deliver approaching 140million subscribers.

Earlier this year, the Sidemen organised a charity football match against rival internet personalities the YouTube Allstars which achieved something Charlton Athletic could not by selling out the Valley in minutes.

They raised more than £1m for fine causes including the Teenage Cancer Trust and CALM, a suicide prevention charity, and their only mistake was not booking Wembley Stadium. Nothing wrong with the Sidemen at all. They seem like good people.

That is why Crawley Town want some of their action, and their numbers. And why the club's owner Preston Johnson has invited the Brown brothers for training ground assessment 'to see what they can do'.

Yet he knows what they can do. Anyone does, watching the footage of the Sidemen's games. It is nowhere near League Two standard. That is part of its charm. It is a high level parks game played by people who are, to the YouTube generation, huge celebrities.

What it is not is professional football. But that never matters to owners like Johnson and WAGMI United, his consortium of cryptocurrency investors. He is backed by a fortune in pretend money and now he is in charge of a pretend football team.

Always the poor old FA Cup, isn't it? The most storied and ancient domestic cup competition in the world and yet, whenever these chancers invade, it is always the FA Cup they cheapen.

Manny Brown pictured in a charity YouTube All Stars' versus Sidemen FC match last month

Manny Brown pictured in a charity YouTube All Stars' versus Sidemen FC match last month

Remember Sutton's goalkeeper eating that pie? What is so different here? 

Accrington Stanley are 20th in League One and have lost their last five league games. This is a decent chance for Crawley. Ipswich, Derby, Sheffield Wednesday, all could be in round two with average gates of around 25,000 or over.

But progress is a football matter, and Johnson is more interested in making Crawley 'the internet's team' than in the mundanity of winning an FA Cup tie.

'WAGMI United seeks to reimagine how professional sports teams are owned and operated,' read the statement when Johnson and partner Eben Smith took over.

Yet it was a previous Crawley regime who gave a contract to Mark Wright from The Only Way Is Essex

Wright only featured in two matches for Crawley but, fancy that, one of them was as an 89th-minute substitute in a televised FA Cup tie against Leeds. So this is not even such a new strategy.

Crawley's players know they have a good chance of reaching the second round of the FA Cup - but for those in the boardroom it seems it is more important to gain hits on the internet

Crawley's players know they have a good chance of reaching the second round of the FA Cup - but for those in the boardroom it seems it is more important to gain hits on the internet

As for the internet's team, it is Manchester United. Then Real Madrid. Do Crawley seriously think they can grab a significant slice of that pie on the back of gimmicks like this?

Funny how owners always believe their own job is too important for just anyone to do. Johnson would not dream of getting out of the way for a week or two so the Sidemen can run Crawley.

Yet if this plan comes to fruition, professional players who the club will need to rely on when the circus has left town and Barrow are the visitors on November 12 will be shunted out of the way in the search for internet action. And for what?

The Sidemen have subscribers in the hundreds of millions, a No 1 selling book, a clothing range, a vodka brand and a restaurant chain. They could definitely run a successful fourth division football club. They just should not be playing for one.


Nothing wrong with show-boating or skill, but equally nothing greatly admirable about being able to complete a 720-degree spin around the ball when there is no opposition player in tackling distance. That's no more entertainment than playing the pianola is musicianship — particularly as Antony then hit the pass that followed into touch. Grow up. 

Antony vowed he will continue showboating after performing a 720-degree spin on Thursday

Antony vowed he will continue showboating after performing a 720-degree spin on Thursday


Callum Wilson's ability has never been in doubt. His hamstrings, however, have. This is what Gareth Southgate must weigh up when deciding who to take to Qatar for the most intense World Cup in history. 


Back when managers making notes on the touchline was new, a quick-witted photographer thought there was cash to be made surreptitiously capturing this information and bringing it to a curious public.

What insights, what observations, what cunning ploys might be revealed?

The scoop was swiftly undermined when, on zooming in on notes written by Alan Pardew, the first item on his half-time agenda was a reminder of the score. It can happen. 

Many decades ago, when I was a teenager coming into the business, there used to be a very famous sports writer who would turn to his press box neighbour when the final whistle blew and seek similar confirmation. 'It was 2-1, wasn't it?' At the time it seemed an act of consummate professionalism, taking time to check even the most obvious detail. It probably had more to do with the number of hostelries visited on the way to the match.

The Bristol Rovers boss shared his tactics board of tactical and motviational instructions

The Bristol Rovers boss shared his tactics board of tactical and motviational instructions

Anyway, last week, Bristol Rovers manager Joey Barton shared his tactics flipchart ahead of their League One match at Sheffield Wednesday. 

Underlined at the top was '3 PTS AVAILABLE', just in case any of his players were under the impression it was 1981.

Motivational notes appeared on the left, written in red capitals. 'YOU'RE UNIQUE' read the first, 'A ONE-OFF'. As this observation was made available to all 11 of his starting players, plus substitutes, the exceptionality may have been a little overstated, too. Bristol Rovers are 16th. It's not complicated, this stuff.


Sadly, Luiz Felipe Scolari could not end his coaching career as a champion. 

After he announced his retirement at the end of the season, his Athletico Paranaense team lost the final of the Copa Libertadores 1-0 to fellow Brazilians Flamengo. 

He leaves a World Cup victor, a club champion in South America and Asia and a title winner with four teams across three countries. 

He was also a far nicer man than his gruff and robust Big Phil reputation afforded. It was genuinely surprising, after all the talk of physical threats and dark arts during his early days in Brazil, to meet the genuine, thoughtful person who arrived at Chelsea — and was quickly chewed up and spat out by them, too. 


Barcelona are the latest club to be linked with Newcastle's excellent Bruno Guimaraes, having missed out on Bernardo Silva at Manchester City. 

It's another reminder of how financial fair play works. Newcastle have the money, but aren't allowed to spend it, but Barcelona are teetering on the brink of financial oblivion, yet are free to use their financial levers - translation: mortgaging the future, against the dubious guarantee of success - to pillage clubs the world over.

When commentators like Simon Jordan simplistically claim that FFP was brought in to prevent another Leeds or Portsmouth occurring, he is wrong. What Barcelona are doing is very close to what got Leeds into trouble, whereas Newcastle's owners can underwrite their investment safely.

FFP was always a ruse to protect the established elite, not financial propriety.

Cash-strapped Barcelona are latest side to be lined with Newcastle's Bruno Guimaraes (right)

Cash-strapped Barcelona are latest side to be lined with Newcastle's Bruno Guimaraes (right)


Gareth Southgate was considered to have a blind spot about Fikayo Tomori, and then we saw him in two games against Chelsea.

Tomori was at fault for several goals and, in the second leg, was sent off having lost his man and conceded a penalty. Suddenly, Harry Maguire didn't look so bad.

Now it is Chris Smalling's turn. He is in excellent form for Roma with Jose Mourinho pushing his claims for an England return.

Smalling last played for his country against Scotland in June 2017, when Southgate was manager, so it's not as if he doesn't know him.

Southgate named Smalling in the squad for 10 England matches, started him twice and put him on the substitutes' bench a further seven times. If Smalling wasn't picked beyond the squad for Slovenia and Lithuania in October 2017, it was because the manager didn't think he was good enough.

Smalling has not played for England since 2017

Tomori was being earmarked for England but performed poorly in two games against Chelsea

Gareth Southgate has so far awarded calls to bring Chris Smalling (left) and Fikayo Tomori in

We have to presume he watches Roma because he selects Tammy Abraham, so it must be that nothing has changed. Southgate sees Smalling but still thinks he comes up short. And he wasn't wrong about Tomori, either.

Italian football can be deceptive. AC Milan are the champions and currently third in the league, and they were taken apart by Chelsea, using the same system that failed so dismally at Brighton on Saturday.

It could be that Smalling, like Tomori, looks good because Serie A is — Napoli aside — rather average this season. Yet in the later stages of a World Cup, international football is of Champions League quality. A clean sheet against Monza or Cremonese isn't the same.


Too many cooks spoil the broth and too many crocks do much the same to a World Cup squad. 

As Qatar nears, Gareth Southgate is increasingly waiting on the fitness of key players who remain optimistic about their participation, as players do. 

At the weekend, Reece James was all smiles in an interview with The Sun, yet was photographed on crutches in a knee brace. Kyle Walker is also positive, according to Pep Guardiola, despite having surgery and not featuring in a game since October 2. Guardiola says Kalvin Phillips might be able to get 'some minutes' after a shoulder operation — but such a vague estimate is hardly encouraging given that, when fit, 

Phillips' time in the Manchester City team amounts to three substitute appearances, totalling 14 minutes. The emergence of Jude Bellingham takes the pressure off Southgate's central midfield, but James and Walker would be important for England in Qatar. 

Previous experience of waiting for injured individuals at tournaments, however, hasn't served the team well, and there's nothing really wrong with Kieran Trippier and a back four. 


Red Bull and Christian Horner have a problem because they want people to lie. They want them to say Max Verstappen won the drivers' championship last year fair and square, and he didn't. 

He won it because Michael Masi, the race director, made a rogue decision concerning the final lap of the final Grand Prix of the season in Abu Dhabi, which would have been won by Lewis Hamilton. 

So when Ted Kravitz, Sky's pitlane reporter, spoke of Hamilton being 'robbed' of his eighth world championship, he was only saying what the majority think. 

Christian Horner (left), Max Verstappen (right) and Red Bull are furious with Sky Sports

Christian Horner (left), Max Verstappen (right) and Red Bull are furious with Sky Sports

Masi's management of that race was a travesty far greater than Red Bull's overspend across the season. If Verstappen had won the drivers' championship fairly, as Horner suggests, a financial transgression would not have resonated.

Had the same thing happened this year, for instance, it would not have provoked half the furore because exceeding the limit by 1.6 per cent, as Red Bull did in 2021, does not equate to Verstappen's record 14 victories. 

Yet the fact remains the conclusion to last season was dubious and narrow, so Red Bull's break of the spending cap merely adds to the feeling Hamilton was unjustly denied. Kravitz, and anyone else, shouldn't have to sugar coat that.


After all the fuss over a scheduling clash and the disrespect shown to New Zealand's women's rugby team — playing their World Cup quarter-final at the same time as the men's XV faced Japan — the event was an anti-climax. 

After they beat Wales in the group stage 56-12, their quarter-final against the same opponents ended 55-3. That those games were just 13 days apart merely added to the sense of ennui. 

Sport doesn't deserve an audience just because it's on. It also must be interesting. 

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