There was plenty of excitement around St. Andrews following the announcement that Blues had secured the services of talented midfielder Dan Crowley. The 22-year-old had enjoyed a productive spell in the Eredivisie when playing for Willem II last season, and had also caught the eye whilst on loan at Oxford United before that. Crowley has already made an impact in the West Midlands and has featured ten times for his new club this season. The former Arsenal youngster has claimed two assists although he is yet to find the back of the net. Despite averaging around 1.2 shots per game, he hasn’t managed to get off the mark, and adding some goals to his game is certainly the only potential area of improvement for the Coventry-born midfielder.
OFFICIAL: Blues have today completed the signing of talented young midfielder Dan Crowley from Dutch top-flight side @WillemII for an undisclosed fee.
Crowley has penned a two-year contract, with a year’s option.
— Birmingham City FC (@BCFC) July 18, 2019
The Early Days
Crowley began life at Witton before being picked up by Arsenal’s academy at the age of 15. His hat-trick against Anderlecht in the UEFA Youth League in 2014 prompted the media to dub him “the next Jack Wilshire” and he subsequently signed his first professional contract with the North London club just hours after his 17th birthday. Injuries hampered his development over the next twelve months although he still managed to produce a plethora of eye-catching performances when fit enough to feature.
His first loan spell saw him pitch up at Oakwell although he was only used sporadically in South Yorkshire and played just 795 minutes of competitive EFL football for Barnsley. A slightly more successful stint at Oxford United followed before his first taste of Dutch football arrived with a 16-game stretch at Go Ahead Eagles in 2017.
Dan Crowley’s scored one Eredivisie goal for @WillemII this season – and it was indicative of his fantastic technical ability.
Just the start of a standout season, hopefully.pic.twitter.com/uQ82tNtpBY
— Scouted Football (@ScoutedFtbl) August 26, 2018
The midfielder returned to the Netherlands ahead of the 2017-18 campaign signing a three-year contract at Willem II. He was arguably underused by head coach Erwin Van Der Looi during the first half of the season and finished the year at SC Cambuur where he netted four times in 17 appearances for the Leeuwarden side.
Upon returning to Tilburg, he worked hard to re-establish himself as a Willem II regular and netted his first goal for the club on 17th August 2018 against Groningen. He notched three goals in five appearances at the beginning of calendar year and this prompted a number of media outlets to link the midfielder with a move back to England.
Dan Crowley #Eredivisie stats for Willem II in 2018/19:
57 key passes
1,538 total passes
77 successful dribbles
— English Players Abroad (@EnglishAbroad1) July 17, 2019
Although there were a number of clubs rumoured to be eyeing up the playmaker, it was Pep Clotet who eventually won the battle for his signature. He was joined by fellow summer recruit Alvaro Gimenez, who joined from Almeria, and Ivan Sunjic, who was highly rated at Dinamo Zagreb. The attacking midfielder made a low-key start to life at St. Andrews although he did play an integral part in helping the Blues secure three points at Griffin Park on August 3rd. He claimed his first assist of the campaign against Derby County at the end of September before repeating the trick just a week later against Middlesbrough.
Blues have proved particularly tough to beat at home with the Spaniard’s favoured 4-4-2 working effectively in front of the partisan crowd at St. Andrews. The Blues must improve their form on the road if they hold any hopes of pushing for a play-off spot this season. As of October 11th, Birmingham are 10/1 with Betway to finish in the top six this year and their home form will be key in helping them move up the Championship table. Crowley has started on the right-hand side in recent weeks and although he is also able to play in a more advanced role, he is clearly relishing the opportunity to feature on a regular basis. He’s completed a full 90 minutes in three of his last four appearances and is evidently now up to speed with the relentless pace of the second tier.
Getting Off the Mark
The former Arsenal youth player netted six times and claimed 11 assists in the Eredivisie during his time at Willem II and he will be desperate to recapture that kind of form in the Midlands. He managed just a single shot on target during Birmingham’s 2-1 victory over Middlesbrough, although it’s his intelligence on the ball that stands him out from the rest. Playing alongside Fran Villalba, our midfield is one of the most stylish in the division, and Crowley’s ability retain possession allows the side to control the tempo of the game, which has been important during recent home fixtures.
The midfielder has previously displayed an eye for goal although he is yet to hit the back of the net in over 600 minutes of Championship football. With Blues netting just eleven times in as many games, our fans will be desperate to see the talented 22-year-old break his duck before Christmas.
He has an 86.7% pass success rate and plays an average of 1.7 key passes per match. He offers plenty going forward although the only thing missing is his ability to hit the back of the net on a regular basis, but that is surely to come.
Dan Crowley has already won over the majority of the locals, although one or two goals over the coming months would only help to further enhance his reputation around St. Andrews.