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Ali Crawford turned to mind coach after falling out of favour

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

Ali Crawford turned to mind coach after falling out of favour 12701812

Ali Crawford says he turned to a mindset coach after feeling he had been made the “fall guy” at Wanderers last season.

The Scottish playmaker made his first start for loan club St Johnstone on Saturday in a 2-1 defeat against Rangers, having completed his move on deadline day.

Crawford had not featured for Wanderers since January, having signed a two-year deal to become Ian Evatt’s first permanent signing the previous July.

He failed to recapture the form he had shown in his first Bolton spell, however, and was farmed out on loan to League Two Tranmere Rovers, where he endured a similarly unhappy time, starting just four games in four months under former Bolton boss Keith Hill.

All the while, the former Hamilton and Doncaster Rovers midfielder was seeking the advice of East Lothian performance coach, John Johnstone, who has had success with other Scottish players including Chris Cadden, John Souttar and Greg Docherty.

Crawford says he had been injury free at Wanderers but after playing little part under Evatt in the last eight months felt he had to keep his mental health strong.

“I’ve been fit for the last year,” he said in an interview with The Courier.

“Bolton had a tough start last season and I was kind of the fall guy at Christmas. I got shipped out to Tranmere on loan and that didn’t really work out.

“I just had to make sure I kept my head in a good place for my next opportunity.

“It was the first time in my career I’d gone through this and I did speak to somebody.

“John Johnstone is his name.

“He’s a mindset coach. I don’t think he played football at a high level but it’s an area he’s specialised in.

“To deal with it was new to me. It was good to get the benefit of the experience of somebody who works in that field.”

Crawford had a solid start at Bolton after being signed on a free transfer from Doncaster Rovers by Keith Hill and David Flitcroft on a memorably manic deadline day in 2019.

A knee injury sustained against Manchester City’s Under-21s in the Johnstone Paint Trophy just two months later derailed his progress, however, and though he retuned before the end of the season, the team was already heading for relegation.

After lockdown, Crawford became Evatt’s first official signing and he featured 19 times for Wanderers in 2020/21, scoring once, but eventually falling victim to a reshuffled midfield after the arrival of MJ Williams and Andrew Tutte which allowed Antoni Sarcevic to play further forward.

Crawford admits his time on the side-line made him think more about the mental side of the game.

“When you’re not playing, you’re doubting yourself,” he said. “You think it’s yourself who is the problem,” he said.

“It’s much more common in the game now. People are coming out with mental health issues and stuff like that.

“It’s always good to get things off your chest and speak to somebody. It’s certainly helped me.”

Crawford’s loan deal at McDiarmid Park runs until January and Evatt said last week that he hoped the 30-year-old would make a success of his time in the Scottish Premiership after “losing his way” last season.

Keen to prolong his player career as long as possible, Crawford is looking for a fresh start North of the Border.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I think I’ve still got a good five or six years left in me. The talent will always be there.

“It’s about me producing that week in, week out.

“It was important that I made the right move.

“I spoke to the manager a few days before I signed. He talked me through the way they play and how he saw me fitting into that.

“It sounded really good to me.”


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