2 November ~ Are Crewe Alexandra the most inconsistent team in English football? Looking at the results of the Alex’s seven games in the past month, it is difficult to argue. Crewe’s form guide for October reads as follows: LWLWLWL. But it is Crewe’s previous two games that truly indicate their frailties. On October 25, the Alex secured a superb 1-0 away win at Cheltenham Town, a team who had just won five in a row. Yet four days after this supposedly morale-boosting victory, they travelled to lowly Aldershot and completely surrendered in a 3-1 loss, looking out of sorts for long periods of play.

So what is the problem? For a start, the team fielded by Dario Gradi against Aldershot had an average age of just 23. Add to that the loss of last season’s 29-goal striker Clayton Donaldson to Brentford and it is easy to understand why this young, inexperienced team are losing winnable games. But what concerns many Alex fans is doubts over whether the club will ever move forward as they did in the 1990s under Gradi, eventually playing Championship football for eight out of nine seasons between 1997 and 2006.

With these glory years still relatively fresh in the mind, some supporters find life in League Two very difficult to take. After a 2-0 defeat at Shrewsbury in August made it five defeats from Crewe’s opening five games of the season, Gradi, the manager for a total of 26 years, was the target of vitriolic abuse from travelling supporters calling for his head. But the standard riposte to such calls is simple: who else can do what Gradi does? It is a question to which nobody appears to know the answer – even Gradi. And it is not even for a lack of trying that a suitable successor hasn’t been found for the 70-year-old.

In May 2007, Gradi stepped down after 24 years as manager. By May 2009, Crewe were back in League Two for the first time since 1994, following the disastrous reigns of Steve Holland and Gudjon Thordarson. Manchester United and Arsenal are very different clubs to Crewe, but even they would do well to look at this example and see how difficult it can be to replace a long-serving manager. Promotion from League Two looks hugely unlikely in the immediate future.

There was a time where Crewe were regularly able to generate huge income from the sale of star players, but no such thing has happened since the £3.5 million sale of Nicky Maynard to Bristol City in 2008. (Nick Powell, 17, and Max Clayton, 16, could end up fetching similar fees in future, but for now they are still undergoing their education as players.)

All this has left Gradi with absolutely no power in the transfer market: the one player he brought in over the summer was the club’s current reserve goalkeeper, Alan Martin, on a free transfer. As a result, the club’s famous talent pool has been liberally utilised this season, with nine of Saturday’s starting XI at Aldershot having progressed through the academy ranks. This commitment to youth, alongside Gradi’s commitment to attacking football, often provides for incredibly exciting games alongside frustrating inconsistency.

There are many Alex fans, proud of the club’s nurturing of their own players, who would have it no other way (myself included). It is just a shame that at the same time, a return to the Championship is an untouchable fantasy. James Morris

Comments (7)
Comment by ingoldale 2011-11-02 11:18:19

Try being a Grimsby fan mate - we have had an even more spectacular drop from the 'dizzy' heights of the Championship and now find ourselves languishing in the mid-table mediocrity of the Conference with £1.63M of debt (which I bet Crewe don't have), and the only thing really worth looking forward to is a derby day with an even more pathetic Lincoln City.

Comment by fieryelephant 2011-11-02 12:05:47

'Lowly Aldershot', eh? That'll be Aldershot who a few days previously had played Manchester United in the last 16 of the league cup and having won their game in hand last night now sit four places above Crewe! Always like playing Crewe, as it's guaranteed to be entertaining - last season's 3-2 game was a cracker. Thought Shelley and Miller looked like they could be next to go up the divisions, but that's only based on one game.

Comment by Lincoln 2011-11-02 15:12:49

I think Grimsby's level is around about this level, as is Crewe. On the one hand you can hark back to the glory days, but on the other as a Lincoln fan we have never really known any different so we don't have the eternal disappointment to deal with nor do we need to slate another team to feel better about ourselves. Even though I just have and consequently now do.

Comment by ingoldale 2011-11-02 19:18:24

I'm not saying we are playing at an inappropriate level - the league doesn't lie, as they say - I was merely making the point that whilst the grass is always greener, it could also be a damn sight browner too.

I would disagree that the Town support deserve to be at this level - on the opening day of the season, for example, we had a higher gate than 12 Football League clubs. We took 897 fans away to York (957 the season before) and I'm sure we'll match, if not better it, at Lincoln, not to mention Histon away last season when the away fans outnumbered to home fans! That is not Conference support.

We've always been a yo-yo team between the divisions and the sustained period in what is now the Championship has given people the experience of a really good standard of football which was very quickly taken away (to consecutive demotions from the Championship to League 2). I think the fans of GTFC deserve a team in the Football League but unfortunately the fans don't play.

And, if you can't have a little pop at your local rivals, who can you have a go at?

Comment by Lincoln 2011-11-03 09:51:54

Why do the fans of GTFC DESERVE a football league team? Are they more passionate than other teams? Or is it just that there appear to be more of them? Possibly those who joined in when they were getting to Auto Windscreen finals and doing well in the Championship.

"if you can't have a little pop at your local rivals, who can you have a go at?" True, but I never imagined looking at an article about Crewe and seeing a jab at Lincoln

Comment by cc82 2011-11-03 17:21:56

historically, grimsby have usually been the highest placed team in humberside/lincolnshire.

higher even than the marty targers, who as a scunny fan, i remember a number of basement division derbies against.

ah, the memories. have lincoln ever been higher than D4?

Comment by Lincoln 2011-11-03 18:22:30

Aye, for a time D3, dizzy heights. Good to see the Iron will be dropping back to their natural level soon, especially as the rich benefactor gives up on pumping in his cash.

Sorry to James this has ended in being a Lincolnshire bun fight, in my defence they started it

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