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Former Arsenal star Dan Crowley says English football has a problem when it comes to young players like him, which stops them being able to develop properly in the country.
During an interview with The Daily Telegraph published on Tuesday, Crowley talked about how academy football in England just doesn’t work for certain players. The midfielder joined Arsenal from Aston Villa for £209,000 in 2013, but he never made a competitive first-team appearance before leaving for Willem II in 2017.
Crowley thinks the problem is that there was no way for him to move forward in England.
“This is the problem for English youngsters,” Crowley explained. “Where do you take the next step? Under-23s football is not competitive enough, there are no fans and you are not playing for anything. I wasn’t ready for the first team or the Championship. League One wasn’t my football. I needed to play.”
The 21-year-old is right that it would’ve been tough for him to make any further progress in the u23s, and he wouldn’t have got games in England’s top divisions. Arsenal tried to loan Crowley out to League One sides Barnsley and Oxford United, but as he says, it wasn’t a good fit, and he just ended up at odds with the staff.
“I started to fall out with people (at Oxford) because I wasn’t playing,” he said. “I was getting on the gaffer’s nerves and he just said ‘You have got to go’. They might not be the best technically (in League One), but they are a lot more experienced and they know how to win games.”
After an adaptation season with Willem, where Crowley ended up once again spending a bit of time on loan, he’s now establishing himself in the Eredivisie and in the Netherlands in general.
In all competitions, the former Arsenal midfielder has played 14 matches this season, scoring three goals and assisting six. All that whilst playing for a bottom half team. He explained what he thinks he’s added to his game since moving abroad.
“I used to think just about myself and what I could do to look good, but now I only do what’s best for the team; if that is playing one or two-touch, or dribbling with the ball. Before, I would just try to make the killer pass or go past three or four. The manager just won’t want to play you.”
Crowley doesn’t even turn 22 until next August, which seems crazy considering how long he’s been on the radar of Arsenal fans, after joining as a 16-year-old.
There’s still hope for the midfielder to make it at a top club, but you’d think he’d have to get a move to a bigger Eredivisie side or a club in Europe’s top five leagues over the next few transfer windows to really make a name for himself. We’ll see how the rest of the season goes first.