After managing one of the biggest shocks in the history of the FA Cup third round, Crowley Town coach John Yames can be forgiven for losing his directions.
After seeing his second League team thrash Leeds United 3-0 in the Premier League – highlighting the 62-place difference in the league between the two teams – he ordered his jubilant players to come out to celebrate.
“I’ve asked the boys to go out and have fun tonight, but you can’t go anywhere, and that shows how up-to-date I am!” Yems, whose team became only the second fourth division team to outpace a top-tier club by three or more goals in 34 years, laughed.
Coronavirus restrictions may have deprived their players of a party night, but the FA Cup shock on Sunday was special for Sussex.
Celebrations at the final whistle were somewhat muted, but it was due to the lack of tension in the closing stages as it was to the absence of fans, with Crowley’s victory there was no doubt as soon as they advanced in the 50th minute.
Yass, 61, is in his second term as Crowley’s manager, having managed them in the National League and back in 2019 after spending several years as football operations manager in Bournemouth.
It’s a long way from the legendary soccer journey of Marcelo Bielsa, former Argentina coach Leeds and Lazio, whose team had no answer to the second-half blow for a team that was ranked sixth in the fourth division of English football.
“You have to have fun these days,” he told BBC Sport. “These players have a lot to prove to the clubs that released them and we have shown what we can do against a really good team at Leeds.
“I wasn’t against Bielsa. He did what he’s doing and I’m doing what I do. It was very complimenting after that but I think if you lose 3-0 then you can’t do anything but.”
White midfielder Izgan Alyoski congratulated Crowley for producing “The Game of Their Life”, while BBC Radio 5 critic and former Leeds striker Jermaine Beckford said, “They played inappropriately.”
Car accident for the Champion Cup
When the injuries he sustained in a car accident followed his release as a coach at Tottenham in 2018, Nick Tsarula could have been forgiven for wondering if a moment like his opening goal against Leeds would ever come.
After completing his physical rehabilitation, this was followed by Tsarula’s soccer rehab when he joined the Brentford reserve team in 2019. He left in the summer but signed with Crowley in October.
He has only played six professional matches, but he has ensured that he will never forget his seventh by turning Leeds duo Pablo Hernandez and Jamie Shackleton inside before the hole in Crowley’s opening match – his first professional goal.
Yems said of Tsaroulla and scorer Max Watters: “A few people have asked, ‘What do I do to sign these? “
“But sometimes you get these guys who want a second chance, and they come and do something like that, which is great for them, because they’ve had enough hits, so let them enjoy the moment.”
Tsarula, who grew up in London but crowned Cyprus U-21, hopes his story will act as a catalyst for other young players who find themselves in a difficult position after their release.
“It’s been a long, hard road for me, tough few years, but what a moment. I just hope to inspire someone else out there,” said the 21-year-old in an emotional interview on BBC Radio 5 Live.
Tsarula was far from the only champion of Crowley, and Yames insisted they needed “11 stars” to beat Leeds.
It wasn’t hard to back up that claim because Crowley’s backline kept his opponents calm, aside from saving important Glen Morris to deny Ian Poveda, while their offensive streak suffered occasional riots in the second half, with Ashley Nadisan scoring his second goal. In third place is Jordan Tunnicliffe.
“We were watching Leeds in the Premier League on TV and we know how strong they are. We had to match that and we did,” said center back Tony Cliff.
Leeds was “fooled” by the underdog
While scoring goals is nothing new this season for Leeds – only West Bromwich Albion (39) has successfully shipped over 33 to Real Madrid in the Premier League – their capitulation in the second half here will make Bielsa alarmed.
He made seven changes, but despite starting a record-breaking contract with Rodrigo, England midfielder Calvin Phillips and a number of other first-team players, Leeds only scored two shots on goal.
“This is not the truth about Leeds losing, it’s the way they lost,” said Beckford, who scored the winning goal while Leeds were at the time at Leeds. He beat Manchester United at Old Trafford in the third round in 2010.
“I can’t see Bielsa behaving too kindly with these guys – he’s going to include them in training and whatever they’ve done wrong will correct him.”
Fellow BBC Radio 5 Live and former England captain Terry Butcher added: “People will say Bielsa treated it like a training game, but I don’t think he did. His players let him down.
“Crowley was totally dominant in the second half, and Leeds was deluded by the forward play and teamwork.”