RECALLING REDS: Richefond on Crawley Town academy’s closure and fickleness of football

Ryan Richefond  Picture by James Boardman
Ryan Richefond Picture by James Boardman

Former Crawley Town player Ryan Richefond is lifting the lid after he suffered the setback of being released from the professional game.

The midfielder made limited appearances for Reds after securing a one-year deal in 2014 after progressing through the club’s youth ranks.

The 19-year-old recalls his time at Crawley fondly and is still close to many former and current players as he refuses to give up on his dream.

Richefond is writing a series of columns for us on life after Reds on snippets from the past at Crawley.

As glamorous as the football lifestyle seems - it is a very fickle business.

One minute you can be on top of the world, the next, all your confidence is shot to pieces. A new manager can arrive with new philosophies and ideas, a run of under-par performances can leave you questioning your own ability or you could just have an unlucky turn and find yourself on the bench or in the stands.

As a Crawley Town youth team, I remember reading tweets and other social media posts about us. The truth of the matter was, we were a bunch of teenagers who couldn’t believe our luck. We were playing football for a living!!

Yes, we were unruly at times and caused mischief but there is not one of us that didn’t give our all whenever we put on a Crawley shirt. Looking back, during my second year, when the majority of the squad was 17 or older, our performances improved and bare a couple of hick ups we had a good season up until that day in February 2014.

We still had just under half the season left. Coming off the back of a couple of top results we were brought back down to earth with bang. After an hour long meeting, we was told that the Academy was closing its doors due to financial restrictions.

In my opinion there was four or five second year scholars that could have been offered a professional contract and as for the first years, you only have to look at what Harry Anderson has gone on to achieve, given time at Peterborough United.

Of that youth team, only nine players are still playing and of those nine, only four have aspirations of getting back into the pro game. The rest have just fallen out of love with it.

That’s the sad thing for me; I see it at other clubs as well. I feel we need to do more in this country to keep young players playing.

There’s a funnel affect with players released by teams higher up, dropping down to League 1 and 2; leaving the players who started lower no choice but to drop out of the full time game. A move, which can cause disillusionment for players.

I have been very fortunate; I still talk to a lot of the former and current players in the team. Lewis Young for example has always been a good ear for me to turn to, being a former County Chess Champion, meant I could, and still do have good intellectual and honest conversations with him.

Jimmy Smith and Joe Walsh are two other players that have also been there for me throughout my time with the club and even more so over the last few months since I left Crawley.

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