Oh Dan Crowley… Just how good has he been so far?
If you could describe the perfect man for a Luke Williams system, you would look no further. From that diving header against Grimsby Town to that effortless moment of magic against Bradford City, to say he has been pleasing on the eye would be a severe understatement. So, that brings me here, to discuss his impact on the side and the void once left by the departing Ruben Rodrigues which he has filled with complete ease.
However, before I begin singing endless praises about our number seven, I will be the first to admit that my immediate judgement of Dan was miles off the reality we have now with him. Maybe I underestimated how challenging it is to step into a Luke Williams side, as many of the players here prior have said on good record that it is the most intense training, they have experienced in their careers so far. Due to this, I was just not overly impressed by his pre-season display, but how quick has he been to correct me. Every single week, without a failure at all, he has stepped up and constantly been a star performer for this newly promoted Notts County side that currently sit in the automatic promotion spots in the Sky Bet League Two.
The beauty of it for me is just how effortlessly he glides around the football pitch. It has been ever since that goal against Grimsby Town, he has just turned into one you would now brand as irreplaceable. At times it is almost as if he is playing the game at walking pace, and for the ‘smaller players have a disadvantage in a physical game,’ Dan and his low centre of gravity always find a way to rubbish that quote. Look at that goal of his away at Salford City, to collect the ball on the edge of the box as he did and weave in and out of three opposing defenders and convert so emphatically into the far corner was a good showcase of not only this point just made, but the reality of the fact that we have just swooped one of the steals of the season as far as this division is concerned. It was not just this goal though, it was the one also against Newport County where it was showcased by Dan that this kind of goal just comes naturally for him. That close control, impeccable dribbling ability and eye for goal comes in handy more often than not and Newport County’s backline and the unfortunate displeasure of finding that one out first-hand. With Dan though, it is not all about his goals and that has been shown by his four league assists. Firstly, that four will inevitably turn into a whole number made up by two before the end of the season as if this form continues, there is not an ounce of doubt in my mind that he sweeps up a comfortable double digits in both goals and assists. But also, his crossing ability has been absolutely insane and again you only have to look at David McGoldrick’s headed goal at Salford City to see that. Another mention for Salford City in the space of five minutes gives you the indication that Dan was on top form that evening, and despite that being the biggest praise possible even that feels an understatement. However, that delivery was inch-perfect, and one that would not surprise anyone if it gave Didzy a flashback to his Premier League days.
Honestly, I just think in a pool of early strong candidates for player of the season, Daniel Crowley is currently the front-runner for the award. A player in previous campaigns who knew a thing or two about winning awards was a certain Ruben Rodrigues and it does now not take a genius to understand the direction this is going in. it has been a recent online debate over who is the better of the two, so let’s do what we do best here and talk about it…
Firstly, Ruben Rodrigues, wow. The fact that even just thinking about the joy he brought us in his three-year stint at Notts County brings a very gleaming smile to the face says it all. In my lifetime, and that includes some serious players at the Lane such as your Jack Grealish and your Jorge Grant, Ruben for me is the most complete player we have seen at the Lane in sometime. The man has it all, and though it was a dream to keep him in the summer, you cannot be angry over his decision. Without an ounce of doubt in my mind, the man is a Championship footballer next season, whether that is with Oxford United or not. But, that is not what we are here for, we are here for that key comparison that sees many new participants in the conversation after every game.
There are so many similarities between the two, the first main one being that if they are having a typical ‘on their day performance’, they run the show from start to finish. I personally lost count of how many times Ruben dropped a masterclass and already am running out of fingers to count for the same with Dan and he has not even been here for three full playing months yet. Not only just this, but to back up the point, just look at the goal contributions. Ruben last season ending with double digits for both goals and assists whereas Dan is two goals and six assists away from doing the same and although that sounds like it is still some task, it is but not for the quality of player Dan is and with the form he is in too. Just frightening.
On this topic, it is well worth mentioning the trait of unselfishness they both share. When you play for this Notts County side, you have to have that trait because if you do not, you would never be purchased to begin with. In this day and age, you see these kind of players, the naturally gifted, technical players trying to be the star of the show at all costs and that sometimes results in fallouts, again something quite common here in the past but not since Luke Williams walked through the doors. Although Dan and Ruben are the kind of players capable of running the show, the amounts they contribute/ contributed to their teammates is evident to see and one man that benefits the most from this is Macaulay Langstaff. It is no secret now that Macca is excellent, already 55 league goals in a Notts shirt and you do not get that return being a bad footballer. However, he would be the first to admit it himself, without a creative number ten behind him like Ruben Rodrigues and Dan Crowley, that return simply just is not possible and it is proven by the fact it is only Macca that has an obscene return like that in the EFL. The similarities between the two are evident and it comes as no surprise at all to anybody in connection with this club that the debate has started.
However, two main points to consider with this debate from a wider perspective…
The recruitment process. To replace a player of Ruben Rodrigues’ importance was meant to be difficult, yet made easy again by Notts. We were so used to the fifteen/sixteen signings per summer and just being content with being a mid-table side in League Two for so long, before the Reedtz brothers completed their takeover. Since, we have recruited almost faultlessly, and it has led us to what is comfortably the best place we have been in for some time now. Adding Dan to the playing squad in place of Ruben was plain and simply a stroke of magic, the jackpot was hit and that is simply undisputed. The other point is the main man, Luke Williams. We are now blessed to have a manager who not only has the pull factor he does, but also is well regarded by so many from his past clubs. It is difficult to keep up with how many tweets of praise the man has had in the past few days, from supporters of all clubs, and most importantly top quality EFL players. It is no coincidence that now we are constantly recruiting quality such as McGoldrick, Jones, Bostock, Gosling… you could easily go on. Having this man comes success, both on the pitch and on it and when you combine the two successes, a huge off-field success was bringing Dan to the club and a huge on-field success is having Dan in a Notts shirt on it.
As for the debate, Ruben has a legacy and one that will be hard to replicate. However, if Dan Crowley is here for the same duration as Ruben was, I have zero doubt that he will create a legacy greater and overall leave with a better impact on Notts County Football Club than Ruben did. That is no disrespect to Ruben, he is amazingly good at what he does and will go further, but Dan has all the right things and more to surpass Ruben as the best technical player the club has seen for some time and that is comfortably a fact.
*Article provided by K-Ci Rennicks (Notts County Correspondent).
*Main image @Official_NCFC Dan Crowley scoring a sensational goal in the win over Bradford.