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Matt Crooks – Scout Report
Accrington Stanley are still defying all odds this season, and are well and truly in the promotion picture heading into December. Their most recent scalp came at Cambridge on Saturday, with Stanley twice coming back from a goal down to eventually run out 3-2 winners. Although Stanley’s forward Josh Windass often gets most of the plaudits, it has been the talismanic Matt Crooks who has been dominating most games from centre midfield for the Reds.
The former Huddersfield Town Academy graduate has seemingly put the disappointment of having his contract terminated by the Terriers behind him and is really flourishing under John Coleman at Accrington. The 21 year-old is currently 14 games into his first full season with Stanley – and he is really beginning to make a name for himself. The 6 ft 3 central midfielder has played in 14 games thus far this season, scoring 5 goals in the process.
Despite still only being young, at 6 ft 3, the most obvious strength Crooks possesses is his ability to deal with the physicality of League Two with ease. He uses his strength effectively to retain the ball, win back possession and win aerial duals to help his team form meaningful attacks. Despite his size, Crooks is one of the most technically gifted players in League Two, he is extremely comfortable with the ball at his feet and he has a tremendous passing ability. Also, considering he has already scored 5 goals this campaign, he is also a midfielder with an eye for goal. Stanley fans will be hoping he continues chipping in with goals to help the team remain in and around the Playoffs.
Although Crooks is comfortable in possession, he can sometimes be guilty of trying to overcomplicate things. He will try the difficult, delicate dink over defenders rather than to play an easier pass sideways to retain the ball. However, he is only 21 and as he grows older and gains more experience his decision making will improve. In addition to this, Crooks has already picked up 5 cautions this season, although this is potentially due to his passion and exuberance, he needs to learn how to convert these emotions in the right manner on the field – the last thing Stanley need is him getting banned.
Having a player of Crooks quality is never a bad weapon to have at your disposal.
Josh Windass – Scout Report
Prior to the start of the season, many had tipped Accrington to struggle, but after 15 games they sit in the play-offs and that position is certainly merited. John Coleman looks to be the catalyst in Accrington’s early season success, as he looks to emulate the 2010/11 season in which Stanley agonisingly missed out on promotion – losing in the play-off semi finals to Stevenage. Another factor influencing their fine form has been the consistent performance of young starlet Josh Windass.
Windass’ road into football hasn’t been a straightforward one. He was an apprentice at Huddersfield Town where he suffered a broken leg, resulting in him missing a full season, thus being released in 2012. This led to Josh having a year in the footballing wilderness, plying his trade labouring on building sites for five months on £50 a day. He never gave up on football though, making a few appearances for non-League side Harrogate Railway, before signing his first professional contract with Accrington in July 2013. He claims that having the knowledge and experience of being out of the game is what drives him on to succeed as a footballer.
Although still young, Josh is an athletic, strong and quick attacker who uses his physicality effectively to create chances for himself and his teammates. This has resulted in him finding the net on 7 occasions this season for Stanley – making him the league’s current highest scoring midfielder. In terms of his technical ability, he is a lethal striker of the ball. Aforementioned, due to his injury and time out of the game, his attitude and focus to succeed is second to none.
Windass often gets himself into some dangerous positions in the final third, but can be prone to picking the wrong option. However he is still only 21 years old and as he gets older and gains more experience he will improve this aspect of his game. Although his fitness has increased since last season, he sometimes fades around the 60 minute mark, and if he is to be a top class player he will need to learn to keep the intensity high for the full 90 minutes.
It is clear to see why Stanley manager Coleman labelled Windass as his ‘£1million Man’. One thing is for sure though, either way they have found a real gem in Dean Windass’ son.