Hope will be one to watch

Hope Akpan attacks the Southend defence (Pic by Jon Rigby)
Hope Akpan attacks the Southend defence (Pic by Jon Rigby)

CRAWLEY Town’s Dannie Bulman has tipped midfield partner Hope Akpan to be a star performer in League 1.

Akpan, signed from Everton last summer, found chances limited last season, despite being tipped for big things by then manager Steve Evans. He was restricted to 20 starts and missed the start and end of the season through suspension.

But Bulman believes the 20-year -old’s athletic style and all round energy will be able to flourish under new manager Sean O’Driscoll.

He said: “Who plays in midfield obviously depends a lot on who the new manager brings in and how he likes to play football. I think it will be a big season for Hope, he is a great young footballer.

“I think we saw glimpses of him, but it was hard for him under the previous manager (Evans).

“It can take a while to get used to him and his ways, for me, I had been there five years so I was used to it, but not for Hope.

“I am expecting big things from him this season.”

Bulman himself defied those who questioned his ability to still perform in the Football League by making more appearances than any other Crawley player last season, and picked up the Observer’s player-of-the-year award. Bulman was released by Oxford United when they won promotion from the Conference in 2010, and returned to Crawley for a second spell where he played an integral part in their promotion winning campaign.

The addition of Akpan last June prompted some questions over Bulman’s involvement, but his proved his longevity and ended the season with the captain’s armband.

He said: “We are all just resting our bodies at the moment.

“Next season will be tougher, the players we are coming up against will be fitter, stronger and better on the ball.

“Hopefully we have got the right people in, the manager has a great reputation and I am looking forward to it.”

Bulman, 33, admits he is yet to talk to new boss O’Driscoll, who was appointed last month, as both players and management take advantage of the extended post season due to the Olympics.

“I think we need to look to improve the side all over really,” Bulman added.

“We have got a good team, but we do need to improve as the opposition will improve.

“As my myself, I am going to keep on going until my body tells me to stop. I’m 33 and there are a lot of older players than me who are still playing.

“I will work as hard as I can and if that is good enough, then so be it.”