Dan Crowley and Jon Toral have become the latest former Arsenal youngsters to be released on a free after Jack Wilshere was let go by Bournemouth at the end of his short-term contract.
Dan Crowley once said he believed he could be one of the best number 10s in the world but now the 23-year-old is without a club, two years after saying he felt he was good enough to still be at Arsenal.
The midfielder spent the second half of the season on loan from Birmingham City with Hull City, his ninth club.
Crowley never made a senior appearance for Arsenal after signing from Aston Villa in 2013 and arriving with high expectations. He played for the u18s three times, the u19s 11 and the u23s 36 times.
In total, despite still being only 23, Crowley has played for Willem II, Birmingham City (twice), SC Cambuur-Leewarden, Go Ahead Eagles, Barnsley, and Oxford United as well as Aston Villa’s u18s and Willem II’s u21s and, of course, Hull City.
Birmingham paid £750,000 for Crowley in 2019 and, although he showed promise in his first season, he failed to convince Blues’ boss, Aitor Karanka, that he should be a regular member of the starting XI.
Even though Crowley’s loan at Hull helped the Tigers to secure promotion back to the Championship and saw him pick up a League One winners’ medal, the Birmingham Post do not believe Crowley will be offered a new deal with Hull and is on Birmingham’s list of players being released.
“I know Dan’s out of contract, but there’s going to be clubs sniffing around him,” said Hull boss Grant McCann. “He may want to play on a more regular basis.”
Hull are said to favour other signings in his position after a loan spell that saw him start well but gradually spend more time on the bench. Crowley started just six of his 22 appearances.
As for Jon Toral, now 26, he has also been released by Birmingham after signing on a free from Hull last summer. He managed just 18 appearances all season, with two goals and two assists, and Lee Bowyer, Birmingham manager, has opted to let him move on.
“It’s difficult but that’s football, very rarely do you have a footballer that plays their whole career at one club,” said Bowyer.
“You can count on one hand how often that happens, especially in today’s game.
“It is difficult, not nice but players that will be leaving will move on hopefully to clubs that will work for them because obviously you want the best for them.”
Toral’s time at Arsenal was largely disrupted by congenital defects in the meniscus in both knees.
Arriving in 2011 alongside Hector Bellerin from Barcelona’s academy, there was as much excitement, if not more, around the midfielder as there was about the full-back at the time.
During his time under contract with Arsenal, Toral had spells on loan at Brentford, Birmingham, Granada, and Rangers before finally being sold to Hull for £2.97m in 2017 without making a senior appearance for the Gunners.
Although he enjoyed a number of years free from issues with his knees, problems struck once again in 2019, forcing him to miss 28 games. A thigh issue kept him out for another three before groin problems sidelined him for seven matches after he moved to Birmingham.
“I was 16 at the time [I moved to Arsenal],” Toral said in 2019. “I’d spent eight years at Barcelona and a scout at the Nike Premier Cup in Manchester, they saw me at Arsenal and then just contacted me to see if I wanted to come over and continue my career at Arsenal. It’s something that as a kid with my mum English and stuff I always watched a lot of Premier League football and that’s a dream just to make it to the Premier League and I saw that as a chance to doing that.
“16 to 18, yeah, those two years were really tough. My first one [surgery] was when I was still playing for Barcelona. Already signed for Arsenal. So to start at a new club with a knee injury and then having to have another surgery later on in the same knee and then knowing that the other knee needs surgery as well was a bit tough mentally because I was moving to a new country, a new club, and all you want to do is do well and impress. But I guess that’s just made me the player I am today as well, which made me feel, know how it feels and you’re not even able to train when all your teammates are training.
“It happened to be a genetic issue with the meniscus. Now it’s sorted, it’s been like, what, six years now no injury. Injury-free with my knees. So, touch wood, that continues that way and I’m quite comfortable with them now.”
Sadly, his next knee problem was just around the corner and it seems like they have done enough to disrupt his career so much that, like Jack Wilshere, we will never know what might have been.