Crawley ready to fight for a spot in the First team

Crawley ready to fight for a spot in the First team

Posted on April 11, 2014 in 'News'

Gareth Crawley made an immediate impact on his first team debut, scoring the third goal in the 3-0 win against Forrestfield United in the Cool Ridge Cup.

The 17-year-old is another from the long line of ECU academy players to press for a first team spot, and after recovering from an ankle injury last season he wants to continue that trend. ‘The pre-season was very tough and I missed around 6 weeks due to an operation on my ankle so obviously that set me back a bit, but I feel now that my hard work is starting to pay off and I’m feeling that I’m growing as a player,” Crawley said.

“A lot of that is down to the lads, the standard that we have set this season has been very high and you always have to be at your best in training. We have a strong squad and I’m grateful to be a part of it.”

The goal in the cup was a bonus for the defender, and he fitted in well especially after the sending off of Shane Lowey, and he is getting used to the tempo of first team football. “To be honest I can’t really remember much about the goal, it was one of those occasions where the ball just fell perfectly for me and luckily I hit it well enough and it went in,” Crawley explained.

“When I first made the step up I found it very difficult. The first thing you realise is how much quicker the tempo is. You don’t get away with having 3 or 4 touches, you have to learn to move the ball quickly or be punished. But now I’ve been around the squad for a few months and I’m feeling more and more confident with each and every training session. I’ve put in a lot of hard work off the pitch as well at the gym and I’m feeling in good shape and hopefully I can continue to improve as the season goes on.”

ECU coach Dale McCulloch has been impressed with the teenager and after speaking to him in the pre-season he knew he would be pushing for a spot in the first team. “Gareth is a big strong defender who is gifted with pace and also very good on the ball. He had an operation at the start of the year which held him back a bit through pre-season but is really training well at the moment,” he said.

“I had a chat with him last year and told him that I expected him to play first team games this coming year and he got his debut on the weekend and scored a goal which is a real bonus for the young lad. He still has a lot of room for improvement which is a real positive for himself and ECU Joondalup as a club.”

Crawley has enjoyed his time with the first team and believes McCulloch has done a great job at the club. “As a player Dale was always someone who wanted to win and he’s the same as a coach. I’m sure the other players would agree with me in the fact there is a real buzz at the club and it is a great atmosphere to be a part of,” Crawley said.

“Everyone knows their roles and responsibilities on the pitch and he has installed a real belief that we can succeed and I think that everyone is starting to believe that too. But we need to take each game as it comes and hopefully we can look back at the end of the season on a successful campaign.

The defender has performed well for the ECU under 20’s, and despite a poor start to the season they have turned it around. “Since the first two games and first half against Floreat they have been fantastic. I think Danny and Mark deserve real credit for the job that they have done at the club and they have got the u20’s and u18’s playing some really good football. Obviously to be a successful club you want to have all your teams playing well and knowing Mark and Danny they will certainly want the u20’s competing for silverware come the end of the season,” Crawley said.

“In previous years I think the reserves have been overlooked slightly but that’s definitely changed this season and it’s good to see the team doing well. Hopefully they can continue their good form and get another three points this weekend.”

As a junior, Crawley played for Joondalup City and Stirling Lions, before a year at the National Training Centre where he went on tour to Korea. “We played the then EPL side Bolton Wanderers, the Korean Nation Team and a small club in Spain called Barcelona,” Crawley said.

“That was definitely one of the best experiences of my life but my main highlight would have to be captaining the U14’s state team at Coffs Harbour. It is something I am still very proud of and I still have my captain’s armband sitting in my room. The best thing about it was that we finished 2nd on goal difference, which was our best finish in a state tournament for around ten years, so I still claim that it was obviously down to my fantastic captaincy, but the fact we had Perth Glory midfielder Daniel De Silva in our side, that might have helped us a little.”

Crawley has had some great coaches in his time in the game, but one comes to mind. “Mark Lee. Easily the best junior coach I have ever played under. As a young kid all you want to do is play football and Mark gave you a freedom to express yourself and be the best you can be. He helped me develop as a player and helped me out with many aspects of my game. He is a fantastic coach and I owe a lot to him,” he said.

Now the youngster wants a first team spot, but he knows he will have to perform week in and week out to get there. “I think that’s what every young player wants. Last year watching Jack Oldham and Joe Knowles (two very good mates of mine) getting a lot of first team games really made me want to push on,” Crawley said.

“I’ve worked really hard to get into the squad and all I have to do now is keep plugging away until I get another chance to play and hopefully if I play well enough I will have the chance of playing more first team football.”