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When you think of Crewe Alexandra in recent years, you think of tidy footballer, with good technique who are comfortable on the ball. One of the academy graduates that lives up to that reputation is Barnsley midfielder James Bailey.
Bailey is typical of the kind of players Crewe have produced under Dario Gradi's influence, a good footballer who can slot in to any team that plays good passing football. Sadly for Bailey, since leaving the Alex for Derby County, his career has stalled, leading to him dropping down a division to join Barnsley on a free last summer.
Technically, as already mentioned, he is comfortable on the ball, a decent range of passes, but he is not outstanding. He is not likely to pick out a pass that suddenly opens up the whole pitch for an attack, it is much more likely he will keep it simple and just look to keep the ball moving.
Defensively he is ok, but he is, again, not outstanding, just does a decent job, but lacks the power and strength of frame to bully players, nor does he have the pace or lung capacity to get up and down the pitch. On the ball he is the kind of player that 'recycles possession' as it has become known, but without having the ability to protect the back four well enough to make that enough.
Going forward he also lacks any real outstanding qualities, he is just neat and tidy and keeps the ball moving. The real issue I have with him is that he can do more, but he seems to play within himself, looking for the easy option every time.
He has more in his locker than that, it just feels like he does not want to take a chance, to play the killer ball when there is a simple ball on. While you do not want your players to always look for the 'Hollywood' pass, a bit of variety in their game is always good. A player needs to be more than just a short stop on the ball's path from side to side on the pitch.
Working with Nigel Clough seems to have taken all the inventiveness and desire out of his game and replaced it with a safe mode. Bailey needs to be given more freedom and allowed to make mistakes and take a chance. Otherwise he will just be another case of wasted potential.
Written by Tris Burke
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