James Balagizi is one of the most interesting young players on loan from Liverpool this season, but how is the teenager doing at Crawley right now?
In recent years, Balagizi has become the best player in the academy of the Reds, and he could have become a first-team player if not for two untimely injuries.
However, the 19-year-old is currently not gaining experience in League Two, having agreed to join West Sussex side Crawley on loan for a season in June.
At the time, manager Kevin Betsy, whose connections as a former England youth coach played a big role in the deal, said the club “has no right to sign a player of his level.”
Surgery for a nasty groin problem cut short a bright start to life at his new club, but now Balagizi will aim for another big impact on his return.
When he does, he will have a new manager, and Betsy will be relieved of his duties in October after he had just one win in 12 league games.
To find out more about Balajizi’s lease in Crawley at the moment and what might happen in the future, we spoke with Mark Dunford (@MarkSDunford), editor of Crawley Observer and head of Sussex National World sports department.
What was the reaction when Crowley hired a Liverpool player?
He showed how serious the new owners were and what influence the then manager Kevin Betsy had.
The rental announcement was made after the signing of League Two top scorer Dom Telford and on the same day as experienced Swindon defender Dion Conroy.
Those who joined Balagizi really had high hopes for a successful season of Crowley Town fans.
He showed his promise in the Reds’ winless pre-season, but in a disappointing start to the league campaign that led to Betsy’s sacking, Balagizi was one of the bright sparks in the team during that period.
How did the fans perceive Balagizi?
They were very impressed with him.
After scoring against Northampton Town and then two against Fulham on a brilliant night in the League Cup, he made sure that the Crawley Town fans would never forget him.
The Reds fans appreciate someone who gives everything and always strives to attack, and this is what Balagizi did before his call-up to the England under-19 team and an unfortunate injury.
Just presented @jamesbalagizi with the @Crawley_Obby @crawleytown Player of the Month Award for August (and July!). There will be a @SalfordCityFC preview with James and Kevin Betsy up later pic.twitter.com/V6h7UZPHoE
— Mark Dunford (@MarkSDunford) September 1, 2022
He received the “Player of the Month” award for August on the Crawley Observer, based on the ratings of our journalists and fans.
What roles has he already played? And how did he perform?
He played in midfield and as part of the three forwards.
Crowley as a team struggled with the results and with the new style of football that Betsy asked them to play, but this style really suited Balagizi, and his quality shone.
It was easy to understand why he was so highly regarded. He seemed to glide past people, he had a great touch and a clear vision of the goal.
How do you predict Betsy’s departure will affect Balagizi’s situation?
I think Betsy was the only reason Crowley was able to attract Balagizi, so it will be very interesting to see what happens to him when he returns from injury.
Under Betsy, it was a 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 scheme, but since Lewis Young took over, they have returned to a 4-4-2 scheme, and I’m not sure how often Balagizi will play in this line-up for Liverpool or England youth teams.
He is obviously very talented and can probably adapt to any style he is asked to play in, but how he fits into that style I do not know.
But if he is in full form, he should step aside, the only question is where he will play.
It’s a big step, but could you see Balazizi playing for Liverpool’s first team?
Obviously, there is still a lot to be done from him, and who knows where his talent can lead him.
Crowley’s senior players have spoken very highly of him, and Betsy has said more than once that we haven’t seen the best in him yet.
In a word, yes, I could see him in the Liverpool first team, but when that will happen, I do not know.
He probably also needs experience at the championship level.
I always have to remind myself that he’s only 19 because he’s so confident on the pitch and looks great.
If he can gain more and more experience in first-team football over the next two or three years, there’s no reason why he can’t be part of a successful Liverpool first team.