John Gregory believes Crawley can profit from the root of England’s early exit from the World Cup.
Reds snapped up Conor Henderson on a free transfer yesterday after the midfielder failed to make a single appearance in the Premier League for Arsenal and Hull City over the past four years.
The lack of first team opportunities for promising young players in the top flight has been used as one of the excuses for Roy Hodgson’s side’s dismal showing in Brazil.
Henderson represented England at under-17 level before switching nationalities to play for Republic of Ireland at under-19 and under-21 age groups but the point still stands.
At 22 Henderson has played just five league games – during loan spells at Coventry and Stevenage – but Gregory is confident he can flourish at Crawley after penning a one-year contract to become their eighth signing of the summer.
Gregory, who has just returned from the World Cup in Brazil, said: “Conor is one of those boys who has come through a Premier League academy and then found the opportunities are just not there at the age of 17 or 18, particularly as he is English. Jack Wilshere has managed to get through that barrier but not many do.
“He showed amazing potential as a kid but the English boys tend to get overlooked and replaced by big money foreign players at clubs like Arsenal. That is just what happens in the Premier League as clubs are only interested in themselves and totally overlook the national team.
“He’s having to drop down a couple of divisions to get a chance. I think he’ll benefit from playing games for us and we’ll benefit from having someone of his ability.
“Conor is one of those whose progress has been hindered by us having the best and richest league in the world but from my point of view it is their loss and hopefully our gain.”
Henderson made his full debut for Arsenal as 19-year-old in an FA Cup tie against Leyton Orient in March 2011 but never featured again before being released in 2013.
Hull picked him up at the start of last season but he played just 16 minutes as a substitute in a Capital One Cup tie against Huddersfield Town in September before joining Stevenage in March.
Former Albion goalkeeper Mitch Walker remains an option if Crawley can agree a fee with Dover Athletic while Gregory admits there has been “progress” in bringing back wingers Gwion Edwards and Jeffrey Monakana on loan from Swansea and Albion respectively.