Alex Crean on settling into life at Arsenal

I‘ve always been a goalkeeper.

My dad was quite a good player when he was younger and played in the same team as David Rocastle and Michael Thomas in south London. Unfortunately, he suffered two serious injuries to his knees and couldn’t progress. I remember playing in the back garden with him and I was in goal. He fired a full force shot at me and I saved it, but it also almost broke my jaw too!

Straight away my dad said I should be a ‘keeper and that was it. My main strength is shot stopping. I was with Crystal Palace as a schoolboy and am a Scotland youth international. After playing in one game against Holland while with Palace, I was spotted by a Celtic scout. I moved to Scotland and joined them. I was with Celtic, the club I supported as a kid, from May 2015 until October that year.

However, I decided to leave as I wasn’t getting any game time because it took forever for my international clearance to come through and I just wanted to play. I was really upset the day I left the training ground but I had to play. I went from Celtic, which was a proper set up where everything was provided for you, to Conference side Bromley. That was very different. We only trained 45 minutes a week, there were hardly any facilities and we had to provide our own kit. I played a couple of games for the senior side but didn’t feel that I was progressing and my dad had to keep encouraging me to keep me focused as I’d been thinking of quitting from full-time football.

Thankfully, Arsenal Academy goalkeeping coach Jason Brown saw me play for Bromley and invited me to the Gunners’ training ground. Before I joined Arsenal though, I had a trial at Leicester and broke my finger there and so when I arrived at the Shenley training ground in August last summer I couldn’t do much work.

The rehabilitation went well and Jason must have been happy with what he saw as I was offered a contract which I signed last September. I was happy because I was back at a club who could improve me. Being a good shot stopper isn’t enough and we do the drills but also analyse on the spot so we can make immediate improvements.

I’d say that my distribution has improved massively. I have a wider variety of goal kicks and the accuracy has improved, as has my ability with the ball at my feet and under pressure. I’m so enjoying the work we do at the training ground and I’m focused on just getting better and better every day. I want to keep improving within the under-18s set up. The other players have helped me settle in well.

I am in digs with Zech Medley who joined us from Chelsea recently and we get on really well. And the whole squad are good lads. When I first came to the training ground, one of the first players I saw was Donyell Malen. I played in goal for Scotland when he played for Holland. There was an incident where I came out for a ball and took out all the players around me. One of my team-mates ended up with 12 stitches!

Luckily, Donny, who went up for the challenge, got out of the way just in time. When he saw me at the training ground he didn’t recognise me at first and then said, “Yeah, I remember you now, you were the ‘keeper who almost broke my face!” This weekend’s game is massive. Hull City are full of confidence whereas we’ve had a couple of bad results so a good performance and a win are vital. I can feel that the first- team players really want to make a statement on Saturday and I predict a 3-0 win.


Biggest influence on your career?
My dad.

What's the best aspect of your game?
Shot stopping.

What do you still need to work on?

Which team did you support as a boy?

Who did you pretend to be in the playground?
Neil Lennon.

Which current player would you most like to play against?
Artur Boruc.

If you could score any goal from history...
Shunsuke Nakamura v Rangers

What's been the greatest moment in your career?
My debut for Scotland.

What would you sing if you had to sing to save your life?
Robbie Williams - Angels

What other sports are you good at?


Who has the best sense of humour?
Ryan Huddart.

Who is the best at FIFA?

Who has the best engine?
Josh Dasilva.

Who has the worst taste in music?
Kostas Pileas.

Worst dancer?
Ben Sheaf.

Who has the best turn of pace?
Donyell Malen.

Best ball skills?
Joe Willock. 

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