Crawley fans head north for Manchester Utd FA Cup clash

Image caption,
The Crawley team coach left Sussex on Thursday evening to head for Manchester

More than 10,000 fans of non-league football club Crawley Town are heading to Old Trafford to see their team play Manchester United in the FA Cup.

The Blue Square Premier club has organised 26 coaches from Broadfield Stadium in Brighton Road, but many more fans will travel under their own steam.

Crawley's mayor Lee Burke and MP Henry Smith will both be at Old Trafford on Saturday for the fifth round tie.

"I'm really excited - it's going to be a great day," said Mr Burke.

"It's put the town on the map - people from around the world now know where Crawley is and hopefully will be supporting them."

Crawley are the first non-league team for 17 years to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup.

The club's website has goodwill messages posted from supporters in Australia, the USA, Italy and Poland.

One fan, Josh Thomas, has flown from Hong Kong to be home for the game and another, Martyn Piper, has travelled from Alberta in Canada.

Mr Piper is setting out from his parents' home in Cooden Beach on Friday afternoon to meet his brother in Essex, then travelling on to Manchester on Saturday.

"It's brilliant - I am really excited and looking forward to the game," he said.

"There is a bit of indecision about who I am supporting because my schoolboy team was always Manchester United.

"But it's got to be Crawley. They are the underdogs and that's my home town."

The Crawley FC team left the Broadfield Stadium on Thursday afternoon following a press conference at which manager Steve Evans predicted a 1-0 win for Crawley.

"We can all dream - but we know it is going to be a tough afternoon for us," he said.

Image caption,
Crawley Town supporter Josh Thomas has travelled from Hong Kong for Saturday's game

But residents who are unable to go to the game are still entering into the spirit.

At Broadfield East Primary School, near Crawley's ground, children have sent letters of support to the players.

And at Thomas Bennett Community College older students organised a football tournament for year seven, where children played for the teams left in the FA Cup.

"There was a bit of a squabble about who was going to be Crawley but we sorted it out," said teacher Chris Jones.

MP Mr Smith said the FA Cup draw had been fantastic for the town.

"Even people who don't particularly follow football have really got into the spirit and got behind the team and there is a really incredible atmosphere," he said.

"You've got a great city like Manchester with millions of people and you have got a town like Crawley with 100,000 people.

"It really is a David and Goliath situation and people are enjoying the ride."

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