Owen Dale: Crewe winger on confidence, patience and targeting back-to-back promotions
December was a positive month for Crewe as a club but perhaps more so for Owen Dale, a winger who, like so many before him, reached the end of the club’s renowned academy production line in 2016.
In six starts during the month, the 22-year-old scored four goals – including a stunning overhead kick to nick a point against struggling Burton – which represented his best return since turning professional. It was, arguably, the first time he had shown the full extent of his talents which had, initially, forged a pathway to the first team.
“It does a lot for your confidence,” he tells Sky Sports, shortly after training on a particularly brisk January afternoon in Cheshire.
- Owen Dale named League One Player of the Month
- Sky Bet League One table
“Goals always give you confidence. In past seasons it’s not quite clicked in front of goal for me, but if you just keep practising, putting in the hard work and believing, the goals will start to come, so it’s paying off now.”
If the hype from manager David Artell is to be believed, last month’s displays offer just a glimpse of Dale’s capabilities.
“If he keeps developing the way he is at the minute, we are going to have a very good player, not just a good player, in 12 months’ time,” he said in the wake of the draw at Burton.
But what Artell also stressed was that the key to his development continues to be their approach of “drip feeding” him gradually into the first team with a view to becoming a regular starter for the Railwaymen.
Dale himself admits it is a strategy that demands patience.
“Ask any footballer and [they’ll tell you that] all they want to do is play every game,” he continues.
“There’s been times where I’ve wanted to play and the gaffer has had to bring me out, give me a rest and then put me back in. The way it has been done has helped me massively and it’s all coming together nicely, so I’ve got no complaints.
“I think I’ve made some good steps going forward. Last season, I was in and out of the team and I’m still learning now what it takes to start and play week in, week out. This season, I hit the ground running and I think it’s just confidence. Confidence, self-belief and being in a team like this really helps the way I play.
“Those comments [from Artell] are always nice to hear but it means nothing if I don’t keep working hard, keep performing and keep trying to get better every day. That’s the plan, that’s what I try to do and hopefully it keeps going the right way for me.”
With the club’s reputation for populating their squad with home-grown talent, there is seemingly no better place for Dale to hone his craft, surrounded by players including Harry Pickering and Charlie Kirk, with whom he rose through the ranks at Gresty Road.
Owen Dale’s Crewe career (all competitions)
The fact that the club is now on an upward trajectory is a bonus, too. Following promotion from Sky Bet League Two on a points-per-game basis last season, Artell’s men currently sit two points outside the League One play-off places with 20 games played.
With Covid-19 issues mounting both inside and outside of football, the season’s scheduled conclusion in May seems a lifetime away. There is, however, a genuine belief that, with the right blend of commitment, performance and results, Crewe could challenge for a return to the Championship for the first time since relegation in 2006.
“It [promotion] was a great feeling and a feeling that hopefully I’ll get to feel again. The lads I play with here, I’ve played with since I was six, seven, eight, nine, 10, so it’s almost like getting promoted with your mates. It was a great feeling for all of us to finally come of age and get a promotion for the club, which was massive.
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“At the start of the season we had a meeting with the gaffer, the assistant [Kenny Lunt] and straight away they set their stall out to say they didn’t want to just survive in this league; they wanted to go for a promotion or try to be in and around the play-offs at the end of the season.
“I think now the performances and results are coming, we’re starting to believe that too. We think that if we keep going the way we’re going, keep working hard and keep getting the results we’re getting, we’re in no doubt that we could be in and around it.
“We’re looking at the next few months and if we start to do well and get the results then we can really start to build momentum and quickly move up the league. These next few months are important and we’re looking to do as well as we can in them.”
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