Crawley Town captain Jimmy Smith believes the club made the right decision in sticking by manager Harry Kewell through the troubled early part of the season.
It took until late August for Crawley to register their first points of the season, a 3-0 win at Swindon Town.
However, in November they started to put the makings of a run together that would see them shoot up the table, a run that Smith believes, barring injuries, could have seen them promotion contenders.
Kewell has now won over the Crawley Town faithful, but it’s fair to say that some factions of fans were harder to convince than others – in fact, a few were even calling for a managerial change towards the end of last year.
However, former Chelsea and Leyton Orient man Smith believes it was crucial that the club showed support to the manager and stuck by him – and results soon changed for the better.
“With the new manager coming in it took a while for everyone to get used to the new style of play,” he said.
“But I think that since then we’ve gone from strength to strength.
“You see a lot of managers getting sacked and I don’t think that’s the answer. You see with this manager, the club stood by him because he works extremely hard on and off the field, he’s improving us individually and as a team and you can see that with the turn of results.
“His door is always open for us to talk to him and get advice from someone who has been at the top level.
“There are rumours that other teams are interested in him because of how well he has done with us, but we all hope he stays.”
Having played with Jimmy three years ago, I have seen a massive change in his game, almost a maturity, something that both he and I agree has come with the captaincy.
The 31-year-old explained: “Being captain, you have to step up to the plate, making sure you are performing consistently and being a role model for the other players both on and off the pitch.
“It’s about setting the right example day in and day out, and the extra responsibility is something that I have had to adapt to but it’s something I thoroughly enjoy.”
There is a real sense of pride in Jimmy’s voice as he discusses this season, leading the team not just with the armband but also with his personal performances, already achieving a season best of nine goals, still with five games to go.
“I’m really chuffed to be chipping in with more goals and assists this year,” he continued. I think with the shape we play, the manager encourages me to get forward and help the strikers. It’s easier for me knowing I have the likes Danny Bulman and Josh Payne behind me to help shore things up.”
Jimmy’s goals have proved even more crucial to the team due to the injuries sustained to several players; often leaving the team without a recognised striker.
But even so, a strong mid-table finish is on the cards, providing a solid platform for the team to push on next term.
Smith added: “At the beginning of the season a lot of people doubted us, but with the team that we had, and the additions over the summer, we knew it was only a matter of time before we started clicking and getting results.
“The togetherness we have in among the players and staff is the best since I have been here and we are looking forward to finishing this season strongly.”