Signed after plenty of speculation and praise around his time at Crewe Alexandra, Harry Pickering headed straight back to the Railwaymen on loan until the end of the season.
The 22-year-old came from the academy of the Cheshire-based club, becoming a regular in the side aged just 18, and he has since made at least thirty appearances in each season.
The departure of right-back Perry Ng (who signed for Cardiff in January) saw Pickering take the armband, and he kept it following the completion of his deadline day move to Ewood Park.
Pickering will link up with Rovers for the 2021-22 season, with the future of current left-backs Barry Douglas (on loan) and Amari’i Bell (contract expiring) still in the air.
We are proudly partnered with sixyardsout.com. Use code RoversChat for 10% off
RC: How would you sum up Harry Pickering’s season with Crewe so far?
TR: As with the rest of the group of young players that came through Crewe’s academy together, and had been on a similar path of development, there question was whether Pickering would handle the step up from League 2 to League 1 following the promotion at the end of the prematurely curtailed 2019/20 season. The answer as far as Pixie [Pickering] is concerned is better than most.
For Harry, it was not just business as usual, if anything, his form this season actually seemed to go up a notch at the higher level. In what has probably been the most intense EFL season ever, it’s perhaps not surprising that Crewe’s performances and results did become a little inconsistent, especially competing with more illustrious opponents with bigger budgets. But being the only one of the four promoted clubs to have avoided flirting with relegation has been a huge achievement, and Pixie has probably been Crewe’s most consistent player.
RC: How important has Pickering been to Crewe this season?
TR: Pickering has been very important. As well being a model professional, and one of the team’s senior players at the ripe old age of 22, he’s also been Crewe’s captain since his fellow academy graduate and full back Perry Ng got first suspended in December and then sold to Cardiff City in January.
His partnership down the left wing with his mate Charlie Kirk, Crewe’s left-winger, has been a notable feature of Crewe’s season, and League One defences found it just as hard to stop them as their League Two counterparts had the season before.
The level of Pixie’s performances in the first half of the season, as Crewe threatened to mount a play-off push, meant it was inevitable Championship clubs would come calling, but it was a real coup that when the transfer to Blackburn did go through, that we were able to get him back on loan until the summer. If he had said goodbye in January it would have left an enormous hole in Crewe’s team. I would say that since deal went through his form has maybe dipped very slightly, but after a superb first half of the season maybe that is only natural.
RC: What would you say are his strengths and weaknesses?
TR: He’s probably not what you’d consider a typical lower division full back. He was a number 10 in the Crewe academy, and he possesses a lot of the characteristics you would expect from someone that plays in that position. He’s a very intelligent player, his vision and movement off the ball are excellent. He makes both overlapping and underlapping runs to support his wide forward on the left, and he gets so far forward he has set up a large number of goals and chances with passes and crosses from the byline. He’s also something of a set-piece specialist, taking most of Crewe’s free kicks. He scored direct free kicks at Lincoln in 2018/19 and at Doncaster and against Peterborough at home this season.
In terms of weaknesses, he can be vulnerable to out-and-out pace. Lincoln’s wide forward Brennan Johnson gave him a torrid time in our recent encounter, but that was about the first bad game he’s had in the last two seasons, and Johnson has rarely-seen speed. He’s also not the strongest in the air, but that’s nothing untypical for a full back.
RC: Do you think he’ll be good enough to play a regular role in the Championship for Rovers? What level could he play at in the future?
Pixie’s fellow full back at Crewe, the right-sided Perry Ng, has gone straight into Cardiff’s team at that level and been getting rave reviews. Most Crewe fans would say Pixie had a higher level of form in 2020/21 than Perry. Moreover, Pixie would probably have a higher ceiling, being a more technical player, and more adept at the sort of attacking full back play many modern sides demand.
Based on that, I’m confident he is ready for the Championship now, and will go onto be a leading Championship level over the next few years. I wonder whether the lack of gears will stop him playing at the very highest level, but the technical side of his game is so strong that I would not be surprised if he can keep stepping up.
RC: How big of a miss will he be when he returns to Rovers?
Pixie will be a big miss, but that is the lot of being a Crewe fan. Players come into our team when they are not ready for first team football, and we suffer all the trials, tribulations and inconsistencies as they develop. Then just when they find their feet and start to show some real ability in a Crewe shirt, some big club like Rovers come along and snap them up. Rio Adebisi will now get his turn to develop in the first team at Crewe in Pixie’s place, But Pixie goes with our best wishes. He has been brilliant for us. He’ll be remembered as the best left back most Crewe fans have seen, probably since Paul Edwards that Crewe sold to Coventry City in the 1980s. Crewe fans are well used to selling on our best players however. We know that part of being a Crewe fan is bathing in the reflected glory when the academy kids we produce go on and achieve great things in the game.
We’ll all be looking out for Rovers’ results next season, hoping Pixie and Rovers can go up and we can see him playing in the Premier League. And of course, at some point we will be hoping for a nice windfall from the sell on clause, so if Rovers could sell him on for £10-20 million in a couple of years, the £1-2m that would earn us would help fund the Crewe academy for a couple more years!
Featured Image Credit: https://www.crewealex.net/