Harry Kewell (left) made his league bow as manager with Crawley Town.
Harry Kewell (left) made his league bow as manager with Crawley Town. Jordan Mansfield

Mixed emotions for Kewell on managerial debut

WHILE Harry Kewell's illustrious playing career started in the spotlight of the Premier League, his senior managerial career started in relative anonymity of Crawley, a working class town tucked 50 kilometres south of London.

Kewell emerged from the tunnel dressed sharply and receiving a warm reception from the 2270 crowd, and for the next 110 minutes he endured the full gamut of emotions in the League Two clash with Port Vale.

Two goals down within 26 minutes, an opponent that began time-wasting moments later, a rival manager Michael Brown five metres away chirping in the fourth official's ear and, as if to rub it in, a downpour just before the break.

Kewell kept cool, and a shrewd tactical tweak and stern half-time address later, Crawley Town scored and was completely dominating playing a possession-based game.

Dutchman Enzio Boldewijn, whose early switch from right to left wing triggered Crawley's revival, scored a delightful 54th minute team goal that started from leftback and involved a string of passes.

Rather than celebrating elatedly, as many debut managers justifiably might do, Kewell turned to sub Josh Payne to deliver a final instruction before sending him on.

Adrenaline pumping, Kewell paced down the touchline urging his players forward with momentum and Broadfield Stadium crowd noise building, before the fourth official called him back into his technical area.

Visitors Port Vale, whose first two goals were aided by a deflection and lucky free kick, scored a late sealer as Crawley pushed for a winner.

Kewell at no stage panicked, encouraging his team to keep playing and they dominated the direct but street-smart Port Vale, yet couldn't convert their host of chances.

The 3-1 loss was not a fair reflection of Kewell's impressive and unlucky debut, with a nervy start and naivety from his players costing Crawley at least a draw, if not more.

"Angry, disappointed, furious. That's part and parcel of the game," Kewell said when asked on his emotions after his debut.

"But you've got to accept it and move on and keep a clear head and focus on the next game.

"We can't have this League Two mentality (resign to kicking it long). In the first half I felt we played tommy long passes, in the second half we got the ball on the ground and moved it, it's just a shame we didn't finish our chances.

"We knew what Port Vale were going to bring, and I felt in the first half we played their game. We tried to fight them and they're a strong team.

"I'm happy with the second (half) performance, there were positives signs to work with."

In true English fashion, Kewell has the chance to rectify the result just three days later, in the League Cup visit to Harry Redknapp's Birmingham City, before next week's league visit to Cheltenham Town.

But the ambitious and focused Kewell's debut, demeanour and humility in accepting a job in England's fourth-tier after a two-year academy apprenticeship at Watford, indicate that he has long future in management.

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