Hartlepool United midfielder available for loan – but the club want guarantees over former Notts County man
Midfielder Tom Crawford hasn’t been handed an opportunity at Hartlepool United so far this season.
The 22-year-old featured 20 times for Pools in his debut season but was used sparingly after the turn of the year as the side pushed for promotion.
Crawford has remained contracted at Victoria Park for the 2021-22 campaign in League Two but his first team chances have been virtually non-existent.
His only appearance so far this season came off the bench in the Papa John’s Trophy match at Carlisle United last month. He was also an unused substitute in the 1-0 defeat at Sutton United, the only time he’s been part of a matchday squad in the league this season.
Despite what Crawford’s lack of game time suggests, he’s actually a favourite of Hartlepool manager Dave Challinor – who is keen to get the midfielder out on loan and playing regularly.
“The plan with Craws is to get him out and playing games,” Challinor told The Mail. “It's an easy conversation because I've known Tom a long time.
"He's brilliant to have around and the easiest thing for us would be to keep him in and around our squad because he's not a minute’s trouble and he's a good player even though he's young and he hasn't had an opportunity. He's great in training and great around the group."
Crawford is out of contract at Hartlepool at the end of the season. With him being under-24, the club would be eligible for compensation should the player go elsewhere after being offered a new deal.
It’s a difficult balancing act for Pools, where they either risk losing a promising young player highly-rated by the manager for nothing or potentially tie down a player who has made just two starts in 2021 to another deal.
Crawford is available to join any non-league side at the moment as they are not restricted by a transfer window like the Football League.
But the club are only prepared to let the midfielder leave on loan if he’s guaranteed regular matches.
“For him, it's about playing games,” Challinor added. “If you go back four years when he was at Chester in the National League and then got a move to Notts County.
"Things didn't really happen for him there with a change of managers and he's sort of had three years not playing a huge amount of football for someone who is hugely talented.
"We need to get him games because with what he is and potentially what he'd cost clubs, I won't allow him to go out somewhere and become a squad player because he's a brilliant squad player to have in terms of what he brings to our group.
"If the opportunity arises for him to go out and play and we have things in place to say that will happen in terms of games, that will happen and we'll get him out.
"After that we'll make a decision on him not just short term but what we do in the summer.”