The Genius Midfielder That Aston Villa Let Slip Away

daniel crowley aston villa

Letting Daniel Crowley Slip Away Wasn’t a Great Example of Villa’s ‘Long-Term Vision’


There’s no use crying over spilt milk, the saying goes, but has milk ever had the potential to taste as good as watching ex-Aston Villa youth player Daniel Crowley play?

MOMS was already mourning Crowley leaving Villa last May, when it was clear Arsenal had turned his head, before he signed a professional contract with Aston Villa. So much for the Villa board’s ‘long-term vision’.

As you’ll know, Aston Villa’s academy team are the European Champions with the club having one of the best youth set ups in the UK, but Crowley was a special talent, standing out in even in strong youth company. He made his Aston Villa U-16 debut at the age of 12, and made his U-18 bow at 15. Despite being a couple of years younger than most of his teammates, Crowley made substitute appearances during Villa’s successful NextGen Series win, and was in the squad for the victorious final win against Chelsea. He also represented England at both U-16 and now U-17 level.

With a razor-sharp mind and a ghost-like ability to glide past opponents, he was a midfield schemer par excellence. Never mind being called the ‘New Jack Wilhere’, he had a touch of Messi about him. You think this is just hyperbole? Well, check this out…

The reason, why I’m crying over spilt milk now is I’ve just seen this video of Crowley in action last week for Arsenal U-18’s against Peterborough. He seems to be getting EVEN better. If you’ve been missing watching silky skills and amazing football at Villa Park in recent times, check out the following video, if you haven’t seen it already.

This is what’s going to happen while you watch it. As it starts, you’ll think, ‘Wow, he’s good’. A few seconds later, you’ll think ‘Wow, he’s really good”. Then, you’ll start counting his assists. When you get to four, you’ll start laughing. Oh, and then, he also scores two goals for good measure. Whatever you do, don’t imagine him still being at Villa, as that will make you breakdown and cry through frustration…. Oh imagine, Crowley in the No.10 shirt of Aston Villa!




After a Villa Park diet of turgid ‘hoof’ style of football due to a featherweight Villa midfield, Crowley, if groomed correctly and with the right players around him, could have been a one-player solution to our midfield dilemma. He was only a couple of seasons away from potentially breaking in the first team to be ‘Villa’s teenage sensation’.

According to the Sunday Mirror, Aston Villa got only an initial payment of just over £200,000 for Crowley from Arsenal. Since he was only aged 15 at the time and had not agreed a professional contract, it meant Villa could only claim a set fee. Villa had approached the ­Premier League to argue that, because he had appeared for Villa’s Under-18 side, Crowley should be treated as a 17-year-old and his fee should be set by a tribunal. The case was dismissed. I mean, after all, it was fair enough, he was 15-years-old when you take into account his birth certificate!

Obviously, Villa would have tried to have given him a professional contract, but his advisers must not have thought much of Villa’s mooted ‘bright future’. It’s worrying, because nurturing and keeping Academy talent is part of the approach the club is pinning its hopes on. If they’re just creating talent for the tops clubs to then buy and maintain the status quo, how are Villa going to make inroads into being properly competitive again?

Arsenal and England midfielder Jack Wilshere was full of praise for Crowley when he signed for Arsenal from Villa, tweeting, ‘Trust me when I say this kid is a player! Big future….’

The sad thing is, Villa supporters should have seen him in a first team Villa shirt doing to Arsenal and Wilshere what he had previously done to Arsenal’s U-18 team, when only 15-years-old (see below video).



Just look at the bunch of young players that Villa have recently signed for around one or two million under Lambert. Are they better prospects than Crowley? Do you prefer Tonev to Crowley? Surely the money spent of any of one these players, would have been better spent on trying to keep Crowley? After all, for the next couple of years he’d be playing in a the best youth team in Europe and then have a chance of more regular first team football for Villa than Arsenal, in the transition into Premier League football. He’d help Villa kick on, and if Arsenal did want him, we’d then get millions off them.

So, again, I’d really like to know what this ‘long-term vision’ of the board is again, because what happen with Daniel Crowley surely isn’t it. UTV




  1. The logic of this article is that the rules should be changed. MOMS should accept that Villa could do nothing, as Arsenal did offer him a million pounds and first team football at 18. But the real damage is that we could not stop a player who we had nurtured leaving for peanuts.

    West Bromwich at the time of Crowley leaving asked for a change of rules so the top clubs cannot poach our talent, and there was little response. If MOMS wants to make a real difference, stop criticizing the club, which certainly did not want to lose Crowley, and campaign for a change in the rules. Academy product should not leave till 18

    trevor fisher

  2. Dan Crowley is going to be an absolute superstar. He would be wasting his talents playing for a team consistently hovering above the drop zone.

  3. It goes on and always will we stole Barry & Michael Standing from Brighton, Harry Forrester from Watford these are just a couple of examples, Jay-Lloyd Samuel from Charlton & Ugo Ehiogu from West Brom. I didn’t hear anyone moaning about that. I agree with the majority there is nothing clubs can do about it and i know Villa tried everything they could to keep Crowley.

  4. @Tom – lay off the tabloids, kid. Arsenal are a much bigger club”? They’re Man City’s feeder club! It’s only in the relatively recent history of the Premier League that Arsenal have earned themselves this “big club” reputation. Older followers of football can probably still remember them as the dullest football club in England playing at a half empty Highbury. If Crowley is half the player this report suggests, he will be a Man City player soon enough – oil money trumps all.

    I agree with the article, though. If the current Villa hierarchy are serious about nurturing young talent they would be prepare to pay for it. I am fast losing good will and patience for Lerner and PF.

    A final thought: is Crowley (or his father) a Coventry City fan? It might explain his lack of emotional ties to Villa.

    • Do you really think Crowley was taking into account the European cup win in 30 years ago, or our last FA cup in 864 BC when he/his family made the decision? History is completely irrelevant here, he was looking at the respective positions of the clubs NOW, the fact Arsenal are finally improving again and might be challenging for titles by the time he’s in the 1st team, and the fact they’ve played Champions League football every year literally as long as he can remember (makes you feel old doesn’t it!). So yes, he’s gone to a much bigger club.

  5. The Villa Academy might just as well be closed down, not because of anything to do with this article but because there is no evidence that Paul Lambert knows it exists. He has not used any of the successful NextGen players and it won’t be any surprise when they want to leave. Maybe just maybe some of the ones out on loan will be recalled as better players and given a chance but I won’t hold my breath under Lambert.

  6. Not only did the club do everything they could and he chose to go to a bigger club. You also have to look at the bigger club he chose, the best in the country for nurturing young talent with a proper footballing philosophy. To be honest, if I was 15 probably the only club I’d turn down Arsenal to stay at would be Man United, and I’m not sure I’d want to stay there now!

  7. The fa shouldn’t allow these sort of things to happen. As always, the big clubs will always get bigger.

  8. I agree with the comments, there is nothing the club could have done to keep him. The rules state as I understand them you can’t sign a contract at his age. Wenger is supposed to have offered him a million pounds and starts in the first team before he was 18. Villa could not do this. I will support criticisms of the club, but like Dwight Yorke in 1996 if a bigger club wants, they get.

    trevor fisher

  9. Errr…no. We tried our best to keep him, he still chose to leave. It’s annoying but there is nothing more the club could have done.

  10. This article is void of purpose. As you point out the club did everything in it’s power to keep Crowley. You can’t seriously think that a couple of top ten finishes the past couple seasons would have changed his mind. The current situation of the club would have had little weight in his decision since Arsenal was always going to be a much bigger club. Like you say, “no point in crying over spilled milk”.

    • Arsenal only actually became a ‘much bigger club’ in recent times. If the FA don’t enforce an age limit (18?) when it comes to top clubs turning player’s heads, then this club will never get back to a competitive state. One of the reasons as well as questioning the potential of long-term vision, was to also show that video of him playing. Amazing stuff.

  11. Sorry, this article is rubbish. Full of conjecture to suit an agenda. The club made a huge effort to keep Daniel. He had his head turned.

    • ‘Agenda’? Well, that must be the question, are Aston Villa actually going any where? It also highlights that the FA should do more to protect clubs and their youth products. It also shows that even Villa’s ‘long-term vision’ of focusing on youth development can be knee-capped by the top clubs.

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