Who is Crawley's FA Cup hero Nick Tsaroulla?

Robbie Copeland
Jan 10, 2021, 5:45 PM GMT
Tsaroulla's wonderful strike got Crawley on their way against Leeds
Tsaroulla's wonderful strike got Crawley on their way against Leeds | GLYN KIRK/Getty Images
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There's a lot to break down off the back of Leeds' 3-0 demolition away to Crawley Town.

The League Two side showed up, the Premier League side didn't, and there was only one team in it as Crawley shrugged off the 61 league places between them to qualify for the fourth round of the FA Cup.

The win was so comprehensive that Crawley used stoppage time to give a debut to Mark Wright, the reality TV star who signed on a short-term contract last month, and whose involvement was the dominant narrative before his team ran riot and wrote the story to suit themselves.

Amidst all the noise, however, the story that should not be overlooked is that of Nick Tsaroulla.

The 21-year-old got the rout started with a spectacular solo goal that had everyone wondering what on earth he was doing at a League Two club. He made a mockery of Leeds, cleaving open their midfield with some deft movement before committing Jamie Shackleton, gliding past him, and firing beyond Kiko Casilla.

In a day Crawley were without their runaway top scorer in Max Watters, young winger Tsaroulla - formerly on the books at Spurs - stepped up with a spellbinding performance to send a top tier side packing on live TV.

Speaking afterwards, Tsaroulla was clearly emotional, and as the interviewer alluded to his 'difficult few years', it hadn't quite been explained why it was such a big moment for him.

In 2017, Tsaroulla was a highly rated left-back in the Spurs academy, but was involved in a car accident that left him with career-threatening injuries. Details about the incident are scarce - he has never been a big enough name for the wider media to cover it in detail - but it prevented him from playing football for a year, and eventually led to his release from Spurs.

After a year out, he was picked up by Brentford, where he spent a season with their reserves, but to his frustration, he was unable to force his way into the first team.

By the summer of 2020 he was in limbo. He'd been on could nine, with genuine prospects of a Premier League breakthrough, but now he was in his 20s, yet to make a senior appearance at any level, and looking for any club that would take him during a period of unprecedented uncertainty.

Things looked bleak and many in his position would have packed it in. A trial, and a subsequent one-year deal at Crawley, was a lifeline.

"I lost myself in the moment there," he told the BBC, voice breaking, after his wonder-strike against Leeds. "It's been a long, hard road for me, so I'm really proud.

"I'm getting a bit emotional now. It's been a tough road. It means a lot to get that goal and that win."

Tsaroulla is a player Crawley have high hopes for, and judging by their win over Leeds, they have every reason to. He has the talent to go as far as he wants, but after a crushing couple of years, his momentum had slowed to a halt.

A magnificent strike against Leeds, however, might just signify the key turning in his ignition.

There are enough players in the Premier League at present who will tell you that, with elbow grease and determination, careers can be rebuilt in the lower echelons of English football. Jamie Vardy, Patrick Bamford and Connor Coady to name a small handful each had to claw their way back to the top after early setbacks.

So, let's set the Mark Wright circus act aside for a moment and appreciate the story that matters, and might just be beginning.

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