EDEN Hazard and Wilfried Zaha will tell you being branded the league’s ‘most skilful’ is followed in the same breath by ‘most fouled’ –and Crewe winger Charlie Kirk is finding this out the hard way.
Touted as one of League Two’s most skilful players, the tricky 20-year-old has faced tough treatment from defences nationwide, from Carlisle down to Crawley.
But little has put off the forward, rapidly convincing many he’s the latest star to emerge from Crewe’s esteemed academy.
“It’s football, it goes on and it doesn’t really faze me, to be honest,” he said. “It spurs me on a bit, so I must be doing something right if the opposition want to kick lumps out of me. I don’t really think about getting injured at all.”
Having already matched his five-goal haul of last season, Cheshire cognoscenti compare his natural ability and verve to the likes of Crewe alumni Dean Ashton and Nick Powell.
Averaging a goal every three games, the youngster has playeda key role in getting the Railwaymen away from anyrelegation danger.
“I don’t think much has changed,” he said. “I think if anything my own mindset going into games has changed.
“I think I have matured a lot, both on and off the pitch.
“That’s helped me massively by scoring and knowing what I have to do for the team. I think the major change is maturity.
“I think it is literally just growing up. I’ve not just woken up one night and thought ‘I need to start switching it on a bit now’.
“I knew I always had it in me, it was just about producing it. Now I think I am producing it at a consistent level.”
Hailing just ten miles from Gresty Road, Kirk joined the Alex youth set-up at seven and broke into the first team to debut as a fresh-faced 18-year-old against Rochdale two years ago.
“Crewe is a good place to be. As everyone knows, the likes of Dean and Nick have come through,” he said.
“I think it comes from being with all your mates, you all being the same age, and coming right through the system together to play in the first team.
“It’s enjoyable more than anything, and you want to do well from that perspective.
“I started at Crewe when I was seven, and there are a few others who are in the first team now that all started at round about the same age. We are a close group.
“We have spoken a lot and there’s no reason that we can’t get a little run together and target the play-offs.
“A four or five-game run of not losing and you’re right upthere. Personally, I want to get into double figures for goals.”