Dan Ashworth: Why Brighton have a 36-year-old in their Under-23s
Written by Training Ground Guru — December 7, 2020
BRIGHTON Technical Director Dan Ashworth says the club are fielding a 36-year-old in their Under-23s in an attempt to create a ‘hybrid’ of the old reserve team system.
Andrew Crofts was signed from Yeovil in July 2019 as an over-aged U23s player, with an eye also on him becoming a coach at the club one day.
Speaking to the Training Ground Guru Podcast, Ashworth explained that the inspiration for the idea came in a Premier League International Cup (U23s) game against Bayern Munich at the end of January 2019.
“Bayern Munich rocked up for this evening game at Lancing and I’m watching and thinking, ‘blimey, their centre back looks 30 plus.’
“After the game we spoke to the Bayern Munich staff, who said: ‘He never plays in the first team and is here to help our young players.’
“That’s one of the criticisms of the Under-23s - I hear a lot of people talk about back in the day when in the reserve team you could drop down a couple of senior players and help the young players. I suppose it’s a hybrid version of that.”
Crofts had previously had two spells at Brighton, making a total of 125 appearances, but there was no intention of him playing senior football when he was re-signed last July.
“It was a bit of an experiment, but Crofty has taken to it really well and is now on his Pro Licence so will be a fully-qualified coach within the next 12 to 18 months,” Ashworth said.
“Crofty is a great individual. I don’t think you could do this for every type. Crofty was looking to come out of playing and into coaching and was really passionate about becoming a coach.
“He still wanted to play, so this gave him a bit of that training every day and still being able to play and also the time to take his coaching qualifications and start that transition.
“He drives up standards every day when he trains. He doesn’t train five times a week, he might train three and focus more on the coaching side on the other two. We drop him in and out of games.
“One of the things was we didn’t want to block pathways, so he’s not guaranteed to play. For example, Jensen Weir and Teddy Jenks are two really good midfield players for us, so Crofty wouldn’t automatically play instead of them, but just be around to drive standards on and off the pitch.
“He’s an ex Brighton player, he’s the right type, he gets us as a club. We’ve done that a few times with players coming into coaching - Bruno is on our first-team staff, Steve Sidwell works with our 16s and has done a bit of work with our 18s, Liam Rosenior worked with our 23s and is now on Derby’s coaching staff, Ben Roberts and Casper Ankergren who are goalkeeper coaches.
“The club has done a really good job of transitioning those players into coaching and it’s just another way of us doing that.”