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Crawley shows he is ‘Good Enough’
It has been a long journey from the central belt of Scotland to Ayrshire to both the east and west coasts of America before heading back to Uddingston and then on to Stirling Albion for John Crawley. However, he knew he had finally arrived as a senior footballer when he netted last Saturday in the 5-1 win at Dumbarton.
Crawley said: “I am really enjoying being at Stirling and I have been welcomed with open arms by both the players and club officials but I knew I was really accepted as soon as you joined me in celebrating my goal against Dumbarton.
“My route to playing for them is rather unusual and I was not sure if I had gained my team-mates respect until that goal. I know now I have and it felt great.”
Crawley’s voyage to that maiden goal began at Motherwell’s Fir Park began 10 years ago when he was brought to the club under the Youth Training Scheme and one of his first tasks was to look after the playing kit of Derek Adams, who has of course, moved on to become Manager at Ross County.
“Derek was a good guy to the youngsters and was always happy to pass on advice especially to his boot boy,” said Crawley before adding, “He also stayed close to a friend of mine so I knew him quite well and it is no surprise to me that he has become a Manager.”
Crawley spent three years at The Steelmen without making an impact in their first team as he explained: “I had some very famous Managers when I was there with Billy Davies signing me and then having Eric Black and Terry Butcher in charge. I made it into the first team squad on a couple of occasions and thought I had done enough to be given a chance but it never happened.
“I was released just after I turned 19 and headed to Ayrshire to play Junior football with Glenafton.”
Crawley spent a season there and six months at neighbours Kilbirnie Ladeside before deciding to head across the Atlantic for America.
“I had been looking into football scholarships after I left Motherwell,” said Crawley before adding, “I was offered one in Brooklyn. It was an amazing experience and to use the expression that the guys over there used ‘I was living in the hood’ and it was a great experience.”
After two years in New York, Crawley moved across thousands of miles to the west coast of the States as he explained: “My coach at Brooklyn and I had different plans about how my playing career should go so I took the opportunity to transfer to the University of Nevada. I completed my scholarship there over the next four years and got a Degree in Art as well as playing a lot of football.
“Don’t ask me how I ended up with a Degree in Art, it was not what I went in for but it is what I came out with! I had been good at art at school and presumed art was easy so that must be how I ended up with that.”
Whilst Crawley may have been a long way from home, his room-mate in Nevada was a familiar face and he featured in the SFL last season as well with Crawly saying: “Nicki Paterson, who was at Clyde last year, was at Motherwell as a youth player when I was there, so we met up in Nevada and shared digs.”
Paterson was not the only familiar face with Crawley adding: “You are allowed to play in summer leagues when you are in America and I joined a team in St. Louis and not only was the Manager Scottish, it turned out he had been a pal of my Dads when they were at school together. You would meet a good few Scottish guys and lots of ex-pat Brits as you made your way around the grounds.”
The football was of a high standard with Crawley saying: “The University of Nevada team was in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division One and two of the players were picked up under the draft system for Seattle Sounders and Houston Dynamo. One of the players at the top team in the league, Akron, was the number one draft pick for the MLS across the entire country.”
Last summer, Crawley decided to return home although he almost overshot Scotland for the sunshine of Cyprus however, he was wary of false promises as he explained: “I went on trial for a team in the Third Division in Cyprus and they were making all the right noises about wanting to sign me. A few rumours started circulating about players not getting paid and I was due to spend a lot of money booking accommodation so I decided to leave it.”
Another former colleague from Fir Park was on to help as Crawley explained: “I was in my mid-twenties and I just wanted to be playing football and a former Motherwell player, Jonny Fuller, took me in to Thorniewood Juniors where he was the Player/Manager.
“I went there and played last season and we had our ups and downs but I would like to think I played my part in helping them win promotion to the Superleague First Division.”
Crawley’s move to Stirling Albion was not as clear cut as being spotted playing well for Thorniewood as he recalled: “I do some work for Firstpoint USA, who were the company that arranged my scholarship to America. Their Chief Executive is Paul Goodwin, who was until recently, working at Stirling Albion and he asked me to go in and do a presentation to players.
“I ended up playing with them and when I heard about the ‘So you Think You are Good Enough’ trial process, I decided to go along and pay my money. It was a bit of a gamble but I was used to it because to get a trial at a professional club in America, you have to pay for it. I tried it there and was successful but they wanted me to leave university and start straight away before graduating and I could not do that.”
There were nearly 40 players involved in the Stirling trials with Crawley saying: “On the first day, there were four teams and we all played each other twice in 20 minute games. They started whittling down the people staying after that and at the end, only the goalkeeper Sam Filler and myself had made it through.”
Crawley made his debut away to Deveronvale in The Ramsdens Cup and it was a happy occasion as he said: “I was told the day before that the club wanted to sign me so I was able to join in the preparations for Deveronvale which were very professional as we went up and stayed in a hotel the night before. The park was great and we put on a good professional performance and came through a tricky tie winning 3-1.”
The following Saturday, Stirling were doing well at Airdrie United in The Scottish Communities League Cup until Shaun Fagan conceded a penalty and was sent off. Airdrie scored and the roof caved in when Filler was sent off in the second half and they ended up on the wrong end of a 5-0 scoreline.
Crawley said: “Airdrie was disappointing but we were doing okay until the sending offs. They changed the game as we had all three substitutes on when Sam was dismissed and Alan Cook had to go in goals. Airdrie took advantage of that and were firing in shots from everywhere and we would have done the same.
“However, we have built on things for the start of the League season.”
Stirling recovered from that defeat to make a positive start to ther Second Division campaign with Crawley pleased to be working under the wily Jocky Scott as he pointed out: “Jocky has been really good to me and I have to say he is not scared to tell you if you are not doing what you have been asked to do. He is playing in a different way than other Managers and Coaches that I have worked with.
“He sets us out in a very attack minded way and it is all about playing football on the ground. No-one knew what to expect from us as the squad was assembled in various ways with myself and goalkeeper Sam Filler coming through the ‘So you think you are good enough’ trials and other players coming in via other routes.”
Scott was also praised by Crawley for the work he has done in building team spirit in such a short period of time as he said: “The players have really gelled and the Manager also has us very fit. He had us in working three nights a week and pushed us hard but we are all seeing the benefits at the moment. Our opening two results in the League have been great and long may that continue.”
East Fife visited the Doubletree Dunblane Stadium to open the IRN-BRU SFL Championship season and Crawley was fairly oblivious to talk of The Fifers being one of the favourites for the League.
He explained: “I did not know too much about them. I have been away from the Scottish senior game for five and a half years and had not been home for four years before last summer when I went and played for Thorniewood. The players started talking about them in the dressing room before the game as a right good side so we were delighted to defeat them.”
The good form showed against The Fifers continued last weekend as Dumbarton were seen off 5-1 with Crawley choosing that game to really make his mark as he explained: “I was playing wide in a 3-5-2 formation and I realised I would have a good chance if I was slipped in as we had a two against one situation. The ball was played to me and my first touch was good and I slotted it home for my first ever senior goal in Scotland.
“The boys were celebrating with me. I now feel like one of them which is great so soon after being a trialist. I feel that I have now arrived as a Stirling player.”