Crewe Alexandra F.C.

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Crewe Alexandra
Crewe Alexandra crest
Full nameCrewe Alexandra Football Club
Nickname(s)The Railwaymen, The Alex
Founded1877; 137 years ago (1877) (as Crewe)
GroundGresty Road, Crewe
Ground Capacity10,153
ChairmanJohn Bowler
ManagerSteve Davis
LeagueLeague One
2013–14League One, 19th
WebsiteClub home page
Current season
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Crewe Alexandra
Crewe Alexandra crest
Full nameCrewe Alexandra Football Club
Nickname(s)The Railwaymen, The Alex
Founded1877; 137 years ago (1877) (as Crewe)
GroundGresty Road, Crewe
Ground Capacity10,153
ChairmanJohn Bowler
ManagerSteve Davis
LeagueLeague One
2013–14League One, 19th
WebsiteClub home page
Current season

Crewe Alexandra Football Club is a professional football club in Crewe, Cheshire, England. Nicknamed The Railwaymen because of the town's links with the rail industry, they play at Gresty Road and are currently in Football League One, the third tier of the English football league system.

The club was formed in 1877 and named after Princess Alexandra.[1][2] They were founding members of the Football League Second Division in 1892, but only lasted four years in the League. Since re-entering the competition in 1921, they have mostly remained in the lower divisions. Crewe's only major honour is the Football League Trophy which they won in 2013. They have also won several minor trophies, including the Cheshire Premier Cup and the Cheshire Senior Cup.

In recent decades, the club has been associated with manager Dario Gradi whose 24-year tenure between 1983 and 2007 made him the longest-serving manager in English football; he had a further two-year spell in the role from 2009 to 2011. Gradi is known for focusing on youth development and promoting attractive, technical football. Notable players brought through the Crewe youth system include former internationals Rob Jones, Neil Lennon, Danny Murphy, Seth Johnson and Dean Ashton. Other notable players to have made their name at Crewe in that time include Geoff Thomas, David Platt and Robbie Savage.


Early years (1877–1921)[edit]

Crewe Alexandra were formed in 1877 as Crewe Football Club, separate from the successful Crewe Cricket Club. They were based at the Alexandra Recreation Ground and played their first match against North Staffs that same year, a match that ended 1–1. In 1884, Crewe Alexandra's first match in the FA Cup was against Scottish club Queens Park of Glasgow, losing 10–0. In 1888, the club reached the FA Cup semi-finals, defeating Derby County and Middlesbrough en route, before going out to Preston North End. Crewe were one of the founding members of the Second Division in 1892, having previously been members of the Football Alliance, but lost their league status in 1896 after only four seasons. The club left the Alexandra Recreation Ground shortly before the end of the 1895–96 season, and after playing at a number of different venues, including in nearby Sandbach, they moved to the first Gresty Road ground in 1897. In 1906 the current Gresty Road ground was rebuilt to the west of the original site.[3]


Chart of table positions of Crewe Alexandra in the Football League.

Crewe rejoined the Football League in 1921, during which season a record crowd of 15,102 packed into Gresty Road to watch Crewe entertain local rivals Stoke City, a game The Potters won 2–0. Crewe earned their first honours by winning the Welsh Cup in 1936 and 1937, before being barred from entering (not least since they were not in Wales). In 1936, Herbert Swindells scored his 100th League goal for Crewe Alexandra. He went on to score 126 goals for the club, a record that still stands today.

1955 saw Crewe embark on a sequence where they did not win away from home for 56 matches. The dismal run ended with a 1–0 win at Southport. One of Crewe's most famous matches took place against Spurs in the FA Cup. A new record attendance of 20,000 saw lowly Crewe hold Spurs to a 2–2 draw. Bert Llewellyn and Merfyn Jones scored for the Railwaymen. Tottenham convincingly won the replay 13–2, which remains a record defeat for the club. Llewellyn and Nev Coleman scored for Crewe.

1961 saw Crewe's most notable win in their history, Jimmy McGuigan's side defeated Chelsea 2–1 in the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge. That particular Chelsea side contained the former Crewe player Frank Blunstone as well as Jimmy Greaves, Peter Bonetti and Terry Venables. The Crewe goals were scored by Billy Stark and Barrie Wheatley. Spurs won by a more modest 5–1 in the Fourth Round. In 1963, Crewe gained promotion for the first time in their history with a 1–0 win over Exeter City. Frank Lord became the local hero, scoring the only goal in front a crowd of 9,807. Lord also holds the record for most hat-tricks for the club, eight during his time at Gresty Road.

In the 1964–1965 season, Terry Harkin scored a record 35 league goals for Crewe. 1977 saw Tommy Lowry play his record-breaking 475th and last game for the Railwaymen. 1979 would see manager Warwick Rimmer's most notable signing when Bruce Grobbelaar joined Crewe and played his first match against Wigan Athletic. During the season he scored from the penalty spot against York City and kept eight clean-sheets in his 24 matches played. In the same year the club went a record 15 matches without winning at Gresty Road.

The period from the 1950s to the early 1980s was generally not a successful time for the club, and few would have argued with Michael Palin's comment, in the 1979 BBC Great Railway Journeys of the World documentary when, in a shot over Gresty Road filmed from the roof of the adjacent Rail House he described Crewe as "like those other railway towns, Swindon and Doncaster, possessed of a football team which is perpetually propping up the bottom of the Fourth Division". Indeed, between 1894 and 1982, Crewe finished in last place in the Football League eight times, more than any other league club.

Crewe's fans were the first to sing the famous football song "Blue Moon" (with lyrics that do not quite match the Rodgers and Hart original).[4] The song was a response to the gloomy days at Gresty Road during the mid-1900s, and reflects the colour of the Alex away strip, which only the more steadfast and determined fans would travel to see. The song has since been sung by fans of Manchester City, although their rendition was highlighting the colour of their strips as opposed to simply copying Crewe's supporters which has been a trending ideology amongst Crewe followers.

Gradi era (1983–2007)[edit]

In June 1983, Crewe appointed Milan-born Dario Gradi as manager. At that time, Crewe had again just avoided being voted out of the Football League. Gradi quickly gained a reputation for developing young talent, allowing Steve Walters to become the youngest ever player to pull on a Crewe shirt: aged just 16 years and 119 days he played against Peterborough United on 6 May. Gradi's efforts paid off in 1989 when Crewe won promotion to the Third Division. They went back down two years later, but were promoted again in 1994. In the same year, Neil Lennon became the first Crewe Alexandra player to gain an International cap for 60 years when he was selected to play for Northern Ireland against Mexico. Gradi then led his charges to Division One in 1997, after victory over Brentford in the Division Two play-off final, and kept his team there until 2002, despite a club income on which many more lowly clubs could not survive. Meanwhile, Gradi celebrated his 1,000th game in charge of Crewe on 20 November 2001 – an away fixture at Carrow Road, the home of Norwich City.

After one season in the Division Two the club were promoted back to Division One at the end of the 2002–03 season, having finished in second place; the first time the club had finished in the top two of any division, and the club prepared for life in Division 1.

Although managing to retain their place in the Division 1 in the 2003–04 season, at the start of the 2004–05 season they were rated one of the likeliest teams to be relegated from the newly renamed 'Championship'. In the event, they put in a good showing in the first half of the season; comfortably in the top half of the table, but after selling Dean Ashton to Norwich City for a record £3 million in the January 2005 transfer window, Crewe failed to win any more games until the final match of the season, when they defeated Coventry City 2–1 and narrowly escaped relegation on goal difference. The following year they were not so fortunate. Despite a good run towards the end of the 2005–06 season, they were relegated to League 1.

Crewe were named the "Most Admired Club" in the 2006 Football League Awards, sponsored by The League Paper and FourFourTwo Magazine.[5]

Player development[edit]

During Gradi's tenure the club gained a reputation for its youth policy, and earned official status as an FA Youth Academy. By concentrating on developing its own players the club remained profitable (a rarity in lower division football at the time) by selling them on after they have gained experience with Crewe. The Academy is known to stress technical excellence, which accords with Gradi's aim to have his sides play attractive, passing football.

Players who passed through the ranks at Crewe include the England international players Geoff Thomas and David Platt, Welsh international Robbie Savage, and Northern Ireland internationals Neil Lennon and Steve Jones (Platt was the most successful, totalling more than £20 million in transfers and captaining the England team). All these were youngsters signed from other clubs, but Gradi also had considerable success in nurturing Crewe's own trainees – most notably full England internationals Rob Jones, Danny Murphy, Seth Johnson and Dean Ashton and Wales international David Vaughan.

In 2004 the BBC's Football Focus asked fans of all professional football clubs in England and Scotland to vote for their cult hero. For Crewe, Seth Johnson won with 59% of the vote; Danny Murphy came second with 33%, and Craig Hignett third with 8%.[6]


By the summer of 2007, Gradi was the longest-serving manager in English league football; he had completed 24 years in sole charge of the club, although assistant manager Neil Baker took temporary charge between 22 September and 17 October 2003 while Gradi underwent heart surgery (Crewe only managed one point while Baker was in charge). On 20 April 2007 Crewe Alexandra announced that, from 1 July 2007, Gradi would take up a new role as the club's Technical Director while gradually allowing newly appointed first-team coach Steve Holland control of the team.

Holland's first season in this role, 2007–08, was a disappointment as the club narrowly avoided relegation after finishing 20th with 50 points.[7] That summer Holland spent half a million pounds on new signings, with Calvin Zola and Anthony Elding suspected of accounting for the bulk of the money spent. He also brought in new goalkeepers for outgoing Ben Williams and Owain Fôn Williams in the form of Steve Collis and Adam Legzdins. Striker Nicky Maynard was rumoured to be on his way out of Gresty Road, and eventually Bristol City signed him for a club record fee of £2.25 million. However, despite a positive pre-season, including a win over Premiership club Hull City, these team changes did not help in the league, and Crewe took only 9 points from their first 16 games.

Following pressure from fans, the board relieved Steve Holland of his duties as first team coach. This left the position of manager open, and with a league game approaching the club re-appointed Gradi as caretaker manager until a replacement could be found. Gradi's first game back in charge was a 3–0 defeat at home to local rivals Stockport County. On 24 December 2008 the Icelandic former manager of local rivals Stoke City, Gudjon Thordarson, was appointed as Holland's successor, though Gradi remained in charge of the team for a further six days. Thordarson's first game in charge was a 2–2 draw away at Millwall in the FA Cup 3rd round, while Gradi resumed his role of Technical Director, but, although Thordarson received the Manager of the Month award for February, the team suffered a poor end-of-season run, in which they did not win for 10 games and were relegated to League Two. On 18 June 2009, Steve Davis was appointed Assistant Manager to Gudjon Thordarson. Davis left his role as manager of Nantwich Town, where he spent five successful years, gaining two promotions. Davis replaced former assistant Neil Baker, who was moved to a new scouting role within the club.

Return of Dario Gradi (2009–2011)[edit]

On 2 October 2009, after nine months in charge, Thordarson was sacked after a run of poor results.[8] Dario Gradi was reinstated as caretaker manager in time for the following day's match against Rotherham. With the club on course to finish in a relatively safe mid-table position, despite lingering close to the playoff places for the majority of the season, another run of poor form saw the club finish in 18th place, only five places above the relegation zone. Gradi responded to this disappointment by refusing to take the team on a pre-season tour, stating that he "doesn't want to reward the players for what happened this season". A week later, on 19 May, the club sold two of their most promising players, defender John Brayford and midfielder James Bailey, to Derby County for a fee thought to be around £1 million, which could rise significantly if certain clauses are met.

The club finished 10th in League Two in their 2010–11 season and also ended up having the League 2 golden boot winner: Clayton Donaldson scored 29 goals, but moved to Brentford in July 2011.

On 10 November 2011, the club announced that Dario Gradi had stepped down as manager and would return to his previous role as Director of Football focusing on youth development.[9]

Seasons 2011–2014[edit]

Steve Davis was appointed manager, and led the team to a 16-match unbeaten run in early 2012 up to 7th position, earning the club a play-off place.[10] Crewe defeated Southend United in the semi-final with a 1–0 win at home in the first leg and a 2–2 draw at Roots Hall, extending the unbeaten run to a club-record 18 matches[11] and securing a play-off final against Cheltenham Town at Wembley on 27 May 2012 which they won 2–0 and earned promotion.

Before the 2012–2013 season started, Crewe sold Nick Powell to Manchester United, and on transfer deadline day (31 August 2012) captain Ashley Westwood was sold to Aston Villa. However, with new players coming into the first team, Crewe won the Football League Trophy, beating Southend United 2–0 in the final at Wembley in April 2013.[12] The team finished 13th in League One, ending the season by fielding a team whose starting 11 were all Crewe Academy graduates.[13][14]

While on a pre-season tour in July 2013 seven players were arrested and bailed over an alleged rape,[15] though the police later said no further action would be taken.[16]

On 22 February 2014, for 33 minutes of a match at Port Vale, two brothers played on opposite sides against each other – Crewe's Harry Davis and Joe Davis of Port Vale – while their father, Steve Davis, was manager of one of the teams (Crewe Alexandra).[17][18]

In March 2014, Crewe chairman John Bowler (elected chairman in 1987) was honoured with the Contribution to League Football Award at The Football League Awards 2014.[19] Dario Gradi had earlier won the same award, in 2011.

On 3 May 2014 Crewe ensured their place in League One with a 2–1 home victory over Preston North End ending the 2013/14 Season in 19th place four points above relegation. Although the season had not been successful for the first team, the Under-21s won the Professional Development League Two title with a 1–0 win over QPR on 30 April 2014; Max Clayton scored the goal.[20] The under-18s were runners-up in their Development League.


Main article: Gresty Road

Until 1896 Crewe played at the Alexandra Recreation Ground, located just to the north of the modern-day Gresty Road. After playing at a variety of venues in 1896 and 1897, including in nearby Sandbach, the club returned to the same area of Crewe to play at the first Gresty Road ground, located to the south-east of the original stadium. In 1906 the ground was demolished to make way for some new railway lines, and a new Gresty Road stadium was built on a site directly to the west.[3][21]

The ground is composed of four stands:


Crewe's main rivals are fellow English Football League team Port Vale. The clubs have been involved in 71 games since 1892 (8 games against Burslem Port Vale); overall, Crewe have won 17 games, Port Vale have won 33, with the teams drawing 21 games.[23][24] The rivalry (known by some as the A500 Derby) intensified after the millennium, when both clubs were in League One and Two. Close encounters between the two clubs since 2010 have resulted in violence and arrests.[25][26][27][28] On 22 February 2014, Crewe beat Vale 3–1, at Vale Park and there was trouble before, during and after the game, with several arrests made, flares thrown on the pitch,[29] and a scuffle between rival supporters in the executive boxes.[30] The first meeting of the 2014/15 season saw Crewe beat Port Vale 2–1; again trouble flared with Cheshire Police confirming five arrests were made.[31]

Crewe also maintain smaller rivalries with Wrexham, Shrewsbury Town and Stoke City. There are also traditional local Cheshire derbies with Chester City and Stockport County. The Railwaymen's rivalry with Stockport intensified somewhat in 2009 when Stockport all but relegated Crewe from League One, after beating them 4–3 at Edgeley Park.[32] Crewe then returned the favour in 2011, when they beat County 2–0 at Gresty Road on 30 April.[33] This confirmed County's relegation to non-League football.



As of 26th November 2014.[34]

Current squad[edit]

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

1ScotlandGKScott Shearer
2EnglandDFMatt Tootle (captain)
3EnglandDFJon Guthrie
4EnglandDFHarry Davis
5WalesDFGeorge Ray
6EnglandDFAdam Dugdale
7EnglandMFOliver Turton
8EnglandMFChris Atkinson
10AustraliaMFBradden Inman
11EnglandMFGeorge Cooper
12FinlandFWLauri Dalla Valle
13EnglandGKBen Garratt
14WalesFWCallum Saunders
17EnglandMFBilly Waters
18Northern IrelandMFLiam Nolan
19EnglandDFJames Baillie
20EnglandMFJames Jones
22ScotlandFWFraser Murdoch
23EnglandDFPerry Ng
24EnglandDFGreg Leigh (on loan from Manchester City)
25CanadaFWMarcus Haber
26EnglandFWCallum Prichard-Ellis
27EnglandMFRyan Colclough
28ScotlandMFJamie Ness (on loan from Stoke City)
29EnglandFWFebian Brandy (on loan from Rotherham United)
30EnglandDFAlan Tate (on loan from Swansea City)
33EnglandMFAnthony Stewart (on loan from Wycombe Wanderers)
34EnglandFWUche Ikpeazu (on loan from Watford)
35NigeriaFWNicky Ajose (on loan from Leeds United)
42EnglandMFAnthony Grant

Out on loan[edit]

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

9EnglandFWVadaine Oliver (at Mansfield Town)
15FranceDFThierry Audel (at Lincoln City)
16EnglandMFJohn Johnston (at Alfreton Town)
21EnglandMFLee Molyneux (at Accrington Stanley)

Youth Academy[edit]

Crewe Alexandra L.F.C[edit]

Crewe Alexandra also have a ladies team that currently competes in the North West Women's Regional Football League Premier Division.

Full international players[edit]

1John Pearson is the only player to represent England at full international level (i.e.: not at schoolboy, under-17, under 21, etc.) while on the books of Crewe Alexandra.


Current management & coaching staff[edit]

Past managers[edit]

As of 11 January 2014. Only competitive matches are counted.

Steve Davis EnglandManager
Neil Baker EnglandAssistant Manager
Rob Sharp EnglandHead Physiotherapist
Andy Franks EnglandFitness Coach
Dario Gradi MBE EnglandTechnical Director
James Collins EnglandAssistant Academy Director
Alex Morris EnglandAssistant Academy Director
Phil Swift EnglandAcademy Recruitment Officer
Paul Antrobus EnglandAcademy Operations Manager
Nick Oakley EnglandHead of Academy Sports Science and Medicine
Charlie Owen WalesAcademy Sports Scientist
Ben Nixon EnglandPhysiotherapist
Charlie Ager EnglandPerformance Analyst
Gerald Parton EnglandPerformance Analyst
W.C. McNeill
EnglandAugust 1892May 18945012102824.00
J.G. Hall
EnglandAugust 1895May 189631532316.13
R. Roberts
EnglandJanuary 1897December 18970000!
J.B. Bloomley
(Secretary-Manager to 1911
Honorary Secretary to 1925)
EnglandJanuary 1898May 192516956446933.14
Tom BaileyEnglandAugust 1925May 193857822311324238.58
George LillycropEnglandAugust 1938July 1944452071844.44
Frank HillScotlandJuly 1944October 194810245193844.12
Arthur TurnerEnglandOctober 1948December 195114956395437.58
Harry CatterickEnglandDecember 1951June 19537431113241.89
Ralph WardEnglandJune 1953May 19559625284326.04
Maurice LindleyEnglandAugust 1955May 195814323289216.08
Harry WareEnglandAugust 1958May 196010036224236.00
Jimmy McGuiganEnglandJune 1960November 196422287855039.19
Ernie TaggEnglandNovember 1964October 1970273105699938.46
Tom McAnearneyScotlandOctober 1970July 1971341471341.18
Dennis ViolletEnglandAugust 1971November 19711542926.67
Jimmy MeliaEnglandMay 1972December 19737016233122.86
Ernie TaggEnglandJanuary 1974December 19744813122327.08
Harry GreggNorthern IrelandJanuary 1975May 197816353535732.52
Warwick RimmerEnglandAugust 1978May 1979466142613.04
Tony WaddingtonEnglandJune 1979July 19819324274225.81
Arfon GriffithsWalesAugust 1981October 1982599104015.25
Peter MorrisEnglandNovember 1982June 198333871824.24
Dario Gradi1EnglandItalyJune 1983July 20071,23546047430137.25
Dario Gradi2 / Steve Holland3EnglandItaly / EnglandJuly 2007November 20087219163726.39
Dario Gradi4EnglandItalyNovember 2008December 2008931533.33
Gudjon ThordarsonIcelandDecember 2008October 2009371271832.43
Dario Gradi4EnglandItalyOctober 2009November 20115818172331.03
Steve Davis[35]EnglandNovember 2011current11847304139.83

1As sole Manager. Between 22 September and 17 October 2003, Gradi underwent heart surgery. Assistant Manager Neil Baker took charge of the team for this period (P6, W0, D1, L5).
2As Technical Director
3As First Team Coach
4As Caretaker Manager


  1. ^ "1877 – A Football Club is formed in Crewe, as a separate organisation from the successful Crewe Cricket Club. They take the name 'Alexandra' after Princess Alexandra": from the club's official website
  2. ^ Seddon, Peter (2004), Football Talk: The language and folklore of the world's greatest game, Chrysalis Books, London (ISBN 1861056834), p.174.
  3. ^ a b Paul Smith & Shirley Smith (2005) The Ultimate Directory of English & Scottish Football League Grounds Second Edition 1888–2005, Yore Publications, p62, ISBN 0954783042
  4. ^
  5. ^ Crewe Delighted With Award Retrieved 4 July 2006
  6. ^ Crewe's Cult Heroes. Accessed 5 March 2014.
  7. ^ "Coca-Cola Football League One: Table". BBC News. Archived from the original on 6 April 2008. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  8. ^ Thordarson sacked as Crewe boss BBC Sport; 2 October 2009
  9. ^ Dario Gradi steps down as Crewe Alexandra manager BBC Sport; 10 October 2011
  10. ^ Alex secure play-offs spot, Sporting Life (retrieved: 6 May 2012)
  11. ^ "Go and finish the job, says Crewe Alexandra boss Steve Davis.". BBC News. 17 May 2012. 
  12. ^ Osborne, Chris. "Crewe 2 – Southend 0". BBC Sport. BBC. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  13. ^ "Crewe 2–0 Walsall". BBC Sport. 27 April 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2013. 
  14. ^ Scott, Ged (24 April 2013). "Crewe Alexandra: Dario Gradi's academy dream set to come true". BBC Sport. Retrieved 29 April 2013. 
  15. ^ "Seven Crewe Alexandra footballers bailed over rape claim". BBC Sport. 8 July 2013. Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  16. ^ "No charge for Crewe Alexandra rape suspect footballers". BBC News England, 22 November 2013. BBC News. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  17. ^ "Port Vale v Crewe: Steve Davis plays down family pride". BBC Sport. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  18. ^ "Port Vale 1 Crewe Alexandra 3". BBC Sport. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  19. ^ "John Bowler honoured with Contribution to League Football Award". The Football League. Retrieved 24 March 2014. 
  20. ^ "Crewe Alexandra crowned Professional Development League Two champions". QPR. Retrieved 7 May 2014. 
  21. ^ Smith & Smith, p13
  22. ^ Official Announcement Crewe Alexandra
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ "First Team". Crewe Alexandra F.C. Retrieved 26 March 2009. 
  35. ^ Source: Soccerbase – accessed 11 January 2014

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°5′14″N 2°26′8″W / 53.08722°N 2.43556°W / 53.08722; -2.43556