How rookie coach Kewell turned Crawley into promotion chasers

Crawley Town director of football Selim Gaygusuz has revealed how "different class" coach Harry Kewell has silenced the doubters to turn the League Two club into promotion contenders.

Just seven weeks ago, the tiny Sussex side, owned by Turkish steel tycoon Ziya Eren, were marooned in 21st spot on the ladder, and questions were being asked of Kewell.

But eight wins in 10 games has seen the Reds climb to within two points of the play-off places and vindicated the decision of Eren and Gaygusuz to persevere with the rookie coach, who retains cult status in their homeland after three influential seasons with Galatasaray at the back end of his playing career.

Gaygusuz, who refers to the Australia legend simply as "Mr Kewell", said he has revitalised the playing style of the team, lifted their fitness levels and brought a cohesion previously lacking.

“Mr Kewell was positive from day one and wanted to change a lot of things at the club,” Gaygusuz said.

“He came in with a new set of skills and training techniques and it can take time for players to adapt.

“But he’s turned things around big time, on and off the pitch, especially the fitness levels.

“We’ve always believed in Mr Kewell and always backed him and have worked well together.

“We will always show him loyalty ... from the first minute I spoke with him about the job, there was a bonding there and an understanding of what we wanted to achieve.

“He is different class and wonderful to work with. Every time he walks into the stadium there’s just a different atmosphere.”

At the age of just 28, former player agent Gaygusuz is the Football League’s youngest football director.

He and Kewell have added six players to the squad from last season, most recently striker Karlan

The 20-year-old has scored three goals in four games, since arriving on loan from Charlton.

Gaygusuz revealed he and Kewell even converse in Turkish during morning meetings, in a throwback to his days as a cult figure in Istanbul.

“In Turkey, people still talk about him and I’m constantly asked about Mr Kewell,” he said.

“We were very pleased that he was interested in the job here.

“Turkish people respect what he did there ... how he played and conducted himself, and him being so open to Turkish culture.”

Hinting that Kewell, 39, may go on to coach there at some stage, Gaygusuz said: “One day in the future, long-term, we will see Mr Kewell’s name in Turkey.

“He’s a different type of football person and I am personally learning a lot from him. I look forward to working with him for many years to come.

“We put a lot of things in place now to make a challenge to go up.”

Gaygusuz is keen to add Australian players to a kaleidoscope of nationalities within Crawley’s ranks, though visa issues are a hindrance.

“I have a lot of time and respect for Australian players and follow the A-League closely,” he said.

“But without a European passport, there are always work permit issues.

“I’m constantly forwarding the names of young Australian players to Mr Kewell, and it would be wonderful to bring an Australian player here and maybe see them go on to represent the Socceroos.”

Kewell will be given resources available to bring more quality players to the 6,500-capacity Checkatrade Stadium.

“We don’t want to stand still as a club, we want build on and off the field and make it easier for Mr Kewell to do what wants to do with this team,” Gaygusuz said.

“We’re looking at putting in a new pitch soon ... Mr Kewell likes a flat surface to play the football he likes.

“Like me, he just wants to make the fans here happy.

“It’s a joy to see families coming and supporting him and the team.”

Crawley benefactor Eren previously owned Turkish second tier club Kayseri Erciyesspor and, according to Gaygusuz, has a keen passion for his Crawley project.

It’s something he shares with Kewell, with Gaygusuz saying: “I’ve always admired the passion of Australian players, especially that showed by Mr Kewell during his career.

“We need somebody like him who has given everything in his career and cares about the club, cares about the training and cares about the players.

“We work hard to the last second of every game and have won matches with late goals.

“You can see where this is coming from ... it’s all down to Mr Kewell.”

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5 min read
Published 20 February 2018 at 2:41pm
By Dave Lewis