|By PADDY HIGGS
CHIEF EDITOR - AUSTRALIA
Adam Federici's former mentor believes the beleaguered Reading goalkeeper has the mental strength to overcome his form battles and establish himself in the English Premier League.
Federici has battled to emulate his exploits of last season, in which he proved an integral part of Reading's Championship-winning season.
The Sydney-born shot-stopper posted 20 clean sheets last campaing, paving the way for a three-year extension to his stay at the club.
But Reading's return to the English Premier League has been rocky, with Federici firmly in the firing line.
He began the campaign the club's first-choice goalkeeper, but - after conceding seven goals in a forgettable League Cup loss to Arsenal in October - lost his place.
An injury to Alex McCarthy returned the fringe Australia international to the starting XI but his fortunes have hardly improved, and he was between the posts as Reading's 3-0 loss to Sunderland on Tuesday kept his side firmly mired in the relegation zone.
But Federici's former coach John Crawley told Goal.com the blame for the Royals' predicament should not be heaped on the 27-year-old.
The statistics suggest he may be right. While Federici has conceded 27 goals in 11 appearances this season, only McCarthy has faced more shots per game [18.14 to 16.1] in league matches.
"I know how good he is," said Crawley, who coached Federici at the Elite Goalkeeping academy in Sydney.
"… He was very deserving of the accolades [last season] and very deserving for a long time. I was glad he was getting recognised.
"But the sport is like that, where he's in a tough league [and] he's copping a little bit of bad publicity.
"I think it's not all him. It's a reflection of the club overall, perhaps."
Balancing the running of his academy with his role as goalkeeper coach at the Central Coast Mariners, Crawley is widely regarded as one of Australia's premier shot-stopping mentors.
Using his experience as a player in Chile, where he represented the likes of South American giants Colo Colo, Crawley has helped develop the likes of Mat Ryan and Danny Vukovic as well as Federici.
The latter had to be patient in his wait to be the Royals' No.1, first joining the club in 2005 on non-contract terms after what was the last in a series of trials with clubs in the United Kingdom.
Crawley said Federici's persistence then showed he had the ability to work through the doubts on his ability now.
"He's a tough character - there's no doubt about it," he said.
"… He's always wanted to play in the Premier League, whether that's been with Reading or another club.
"Being promoted gave him an opportunity. He's a very loyal man.
"And being loyal to the club… I not saying it's backfired, but sometimes - again - it's more a reflection on the club and not so much his performances.
"But it's hard; hard to make that challenge, hard to make that adjustment.
"He's a steely natured kid, he's a determined young man and it's just another challenge for him. He'll be fine."