David Cameron Walker

Archive for the ‘Crewe Alexandra’ Category

Paradise

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

What an unforgettable year 2012 has been! From the lower depths of League Two to the top half of League One, Crewe Alexandra have been on a one way train ride to the top. November 2011 saw Crewe appoint a new manager, Steve Davis, who, at the time was the assistant under Dario Gradi. Struggling for form and with fans grumblings getting louder by the game, Crewe sat in 18th  in League Two, dangerously close to visiting a territory that I myself hadn’t experienced as a fan, non league.  What happened next can only be described as outrageously unbelievable (Kammy’s next catchphrase)!

Crewe started 2012 with a 1-0 loss to Morecambe at home. Not ideal. After a handful of solid wins and a terrible game against Barnet, which saw us have two men sent off and lose 2-0, Crewe made the long trip down to Essex to play Southend, who had already demolished us 3-1 in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. In the sunshine Crewe recorded their 17th and last loss of 11/12 season. Now, this is where the outrageousness begins…

With a little help from a few wonder goals from a youngster named Nick Powell, the Alex started climbing the table. A fitter looking Crewe Alex were taking the field and grinding out results, which earlier in the season seem next to impossible. What a time it was to be following the Railwaymen. Even teams like United couldn’t match our unbeaten form.

Crowds were improving and the away followings had never looked so healthy.  Hundreds descended on the likes of Crawley, Torquay and Hereford, with thousands making the short trip to Macclesfield. The crowd were out in force and it was certainly making an impact on the results.

With the unbeaten running continuing, Crewe broke into the play-off positions just before the season came to an end. “Dare to Dream” was a phrase bounded about. What had started as a, “let’s make sure we have a solid season after the terrible start and build for next season”, had turned into “WEMBLEY, WEMBLEY”…Crewe had the famous end of season form and we planned not just to scrap into the play-offs, but to gain promotion….

Which we did!!!  After dispatching Southend 3-2 on aggregate in the Play-off semis after the two legs, it really felt as though we had turned a corner. Some 3 months and 16 games previous, they had been the last team to defeat us…it seemed fate that we had to avoid defeat in the second leg to progress to Wembley.

On a hotter than the sun sort of day in May, the arches of Wembley glistened in expectation and with us beating Cheltenham just over a month earlier, it’s safe to say Crewe went their as favourites and nothing less than victory would satisfy 13,000 hungry Crewe fans. One of the goals of the new Wembley set us on our merry way, Nick Powell who was a certain to leave in the summer scored a stunning goal and apart from a few close encounters, victory was never in doubt.

What a season, what an unbeaten run, what a team!

But how long would that unbeaten run last? We had been promoted into a league, which, initially looked very strong…. We couldn’t do the unthinkable could we? No, we couldn’t. Our first league game against a strong Notts County saw us lose for the first time in almost half a year. The inevitable sale of Nick Powell happened in the summer. Man Utd snapping him up. We released a number of players who had been so strong in the run which saw us gain promotion. The likes of captain Dave Artell and Lee Bell had literally put their bodies on the line to get us to League One, but they were soon cut from the team to make way for a younger looking side. Steve Davis took risks, bought in some relatively unknown players, and as I write this now…it seems to have paid off.

After a run of 3 wins in 12 in all competitions and the sale of captain Ashley Westwood to Aston Villa, the opening few months hadn’t been as successful as we had hoped. We had been turned over by Brentford and tactically mastered by Oldham, but I wasn’t worried. There were enough positive signs not to be downbeat and I’m sure king Steve had some tricks up his sleeve.

With 11 wins out of the last 19, Crewe sit in 10th place in League One, 3 points off the play-offs and almost certain of safety from relegation. It’s been a truly unbelievable journey. Watching the team who you genuinely think can beat anything that’s in front of them is exciting. Who says our journey on the train can’t continue to the next station?

It’s difficult to sum up last year in one word, but I think “Paradise” just about covers it.

Written by Hugh Wilson, We Are Going Up’s Crewe Alexandra blogger

Hugh tweets at @Hugh_Wilson

A little excitement and optimism never harmed anyone

Friday, August 17th, 2012

What a time to be a Crewe fan! The star of last season gets sold to one of the biggest clubs in the world, once again showing what a fantastic academy we have in place, we win our first competitive game of the season 5-0 and our transfer window actually excites the fans…oh, and we’re also unbeaten since January.

After the mammoth season Crewe fans experienced last year, nobody could blame us if we hoped for some downtime and an opportunity to recover from the sunburn after our epic win at Wembley in May. Realistically, this was never going to happen. At the start of June, we saw one of our most gifted youngsters get a deserved move to Manchester United. 18 year old Nick Powell, scorer of one of the best goals at Wembley last season, moved to the Manchester giants for a fee believed to be around £4 million.

I personally thought this was great news. Crewe were never going to be able to keep hold of him and it was the first transfer of an Alex player to a top flight side since Dean Ashton’s £3 million pound move to Norwich back in 2005. Our youth system, so famous for the likes of David Platt and Danny Murphy, was back on the map.

With the departure of Powell, this left a gap in the side. He had been the top goalscorer last season and had created a number of others. Our manager Steve Davis had easily won over the fans with the results and promotion, but now he faced another hurdle to climb. The transfer window.

I’m pleased to say he delivered! Five new faces came into the squad, and from what we have seen already, quality has been added. Mark Ellis, was the first to arrive. We had seen from our matches against Torquay that he was a solid defender and its fair to say with the departure of David Artell, we needed a strong centre halve to be brought in.  Another stand out signing was Mathias Pogba from Wrexham for a free. Brother of Paul, Mathias is a striker who will battle for the ball and cause problems for the opposition defense.

He was prolific in pre season and followed that up in the Capital One Cup, scoring two against Hartlepool. As well as filling the left back role and bringing in another winger, eventually we signed former Northampton man Abdul Osman. We have two sensational creative centre midfielders in Ashley Westwood and Luke Murphy, but we desperately needed another body in the centre of the park to add some hustle and bustle in the centre, and that’s what we have found.

Looking to what we already have, this season will see Max Clayton take it up a notch. He has already scored two last minute winners last season, as well as scoring a fairly important goal in the playoff semi-finals at Southend! He has just turned 18 years old and there is no doubt he will be the player everyone will be talking about this season. Like Pogba, he has already notched two goals already in the easy Capital Cup 5-0 win over Hartlepool (Jeff wont be amused) and has also had a decent pre season.

I’m excited and optimistic about the coming season. I think we can continue our unbeaten run, but as we haven’t lost in such a long time, it will be important that we react well when we are eventually beaten, as lets be honest, we are not going to go the whole season without losing. I would say I would be happy with staying in the division, but would it be bad to expect a top half finish? I think not…We have the squad, we have the manager and we have the belief.

Written by Hugh Wilson, We Are Going Up’s Crewe Alexandra blogger

Hugh tweets at @Hugh_Wilson

Sheer Talent!

Monday, March 19th, 2012

“Nick Powell, 17 years of age, stared in the recent England Under 17s World Cup in Mexico. The attacking midfielder came on as a sub in 18 games last season and showed great skill and potential, but couldn’t find the back of the net. He has already shown in pre-season that he is ready to make a step up and start contributing to Crewe’s goal tally.”

This is what I wrote on August 1st, when writing a preview for WAGU on Crewe Alexandra for the upcoming season. Over 30 appearances and 12 goals later, I wanted to write a follow up on possibly one of the most gifted footballers I have ever seen coming through the ranks at Crewe.

I am not saying that I am the next Paul the Octopus, predicting the future, as 95% of Crewe fans had a very good idea who would be the main man come the end of the season. It’s only been the last few months where football fans around the country have started to mention his name, and for the time being if they could keep quiet and let him get on with his work, that would be appreciated.

Last night I was having dinner with my family and I was talking to my Dad about the latest Crewe game and goings on. Although we no longer live in the area, my Dad has always been interested in the latest developments and attends the occasional away game with me. Of course, we started with the exceptional win over top of the league but the conversation quickly turned to Powell. I reminded my Dad of the first time he had seen him….Last season, away at Shrewsbury. Powell, 16 at the time, came on as a late substitute when we were winning 1-0 and proceeded to tease the Shrewsbury defence with various tricks and step overs.

It was always clear that this boy had talent; from his 18 substitute appearances last season, the majority of fans got to see what he was about, but this season (as you would expect) he has taken it up a notch. Recent goals against Gillingham and Swindon have thrust him into the spotlight, as well as winning the League Two Apprentice of the Year award. He showed a number of strengths against Gillingham; A sweetly struck shot from 30+ yards giving the goal keeper no chance, as well as a tidy finish in the box and to add to that, a brilliant assist after winning the ball on the halfway line. It’s not just his technical ability on the football pitch which stands out, he reads the game like a seasoned pro.

Something that I personally like about Powell is his arrogance. He knows he is a sensational player. He lets other players know he is a sensational player. He lets opposition fans know he is a sensational player. The swagger he has adds to his game and although it has divided the Crewe fans, as long as he is banging in the goals, we are all happy.

Rumours this week are that a 5 million pound bid from Chelsea is about to come in. I think it would be too early to go, but a move to a top Premier League club doesn’t come around often. Dario, Steve and the board won’t let go of him too easily…Ultimately, they want the best for his career, so won’t stand in his way in the future, but it’s important for him to gain more first team experience instead of potentially getting thrown into reserve squads in the top leagues. Ipswich were reported to have had a bid turned down last January. Rightfully so…he won’t leave Crewe unless its to a Premier League side, or big Championship team.

For me, I think he needs to stay at Crewe until next January. We have played very well under Steve Davis and sit 3 points of a playoff position which looked so unlikely 3 months ago. The top 7 is a possibility, and if we can squeeze through, half a season in League One would be good for Nick.

The world is certainly his oyster. I think a lot of Credit must go to Dario and the backroom staff. Powell wasn’t rushed into the team and although a lot of pressure has been on him this season, he seems to be dealing with it well. Lets hope he can carry on this form and drive us into a playoff place where he will have the opportunity to shine infront of the cameras and show the country the whole package!

Written by Hugh Wilson, We Are Going Up’s Crewe Alexandra blogger

Hugh tweets at @Hugh_Wilson

Technical Knockout…

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Before my visit to Valley Parade on Boxing Day, I could have written a novel full of superlatives to describe Crewe Alexandra’s start under new manager Steve Davis. However, after a truly dismal display, I will keep them locked in a chest and possibly throw away the key.

Bradford was not a fun trip. Over the last few seasons, I have seen some terrible games away from home. The Alex had a shocking run last season which saw us lose 10 away games in a row. I was there at the majority and I therefore feel as though I can judge how bad an away day has been.

I left the living room with the blazing fire and warm turkey sandwiches to embark on a 3 hour drive to pick up my companions and head up the M6 to Bradford. The ground itself is spectacular for a League Two side. Once a Premier League venue, Valley Parade is built into a hillside and is quite a view for a Crewe fan. I approached the game feeling optimistic about the 90 minutes ahead; under Steve Davis, the team had started to look like a decent outfit who could finally defend and grind out results. After a solid draw against top of the league a week before, I genuinely thought I was going to see my team take all 3 points from a struggling Bradford side.

90 seconds into the match, Crewe’s defence exploded, as did my expectations.

A “fluke” goal had not been the start I was hoping for and the game had a feeling of… “What’s changed?” Crewe competed, but the same weaknesses (Defence) were being exposed by the opposition who deservedly lead at the break. The team came out of the dressing rooms with extra belief, we attacked their goal with flare, but then a penalty turned into a nightmare for us. I say this, as it completely changed the game. Great work by Nick Powell on the right and after a slight touch (Debatable) he flung himself onto the grass and the referee pointed to the spot. Cue celebrations by the Crewe fans. Not all though, including myself, who knew full well of Crewe’s record of converting penalties.

What followed could be described as one of the most painful 30 minutes I have ever watched. After a long delay, Lee Bell struck the penalty onto the underside of the bar and down onto the line. The ball was cleared and the chances of Crewe coming away with anything disappeared. After this, the Bradford fans were in full voice and to cut a long story short, they scored two goals and inflicted a first league defeat under Steve Davis.

What was positive to come out of the trip was the players reaction at the end of the match. Bell and Tootle both raised their hands to apologise, the team seemed devastated. This is a side of the team that has not been shown before. Steve Davis walked right over to the fans to applaud them and it genuinely seemed like their performance was a total one off.

The problem Crewe have is goals. Last season they were the top scorers in the division and would just outscore teams. However, after big names left in the summer only 5 teams have scored less. The January transfer window will be interesting. Crewe won’t spend money, but I expect them to be busy in the loan market. A centre forward and centre back need to be brought into the team. We have the potential to be up there at the end of the season competing for the play-offs. Davis has brought fresh ideas to the team which have been welcomed. Just an extra 25% needed to be that team who will be making a late surge come the second half of the season.

Ever optimistic….

Written by Hugh Wilson, We Are Going Up’s Crewe Alexandra blogger

Hugh tweets at @Hugh_Wilson

1404 out!

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

What an innings by an exceptional man and ambassador to football.

Dario Gradi has announced he will be stepping down as Crewe Alexandra manager, handing over the reins to former Nantwich Town and Northwich manager Steve Davis. Having spent 26 years in charge of the first team from 1983 to 2007 and then from 2009 to 2011, Gradi will continue in his role as Director of Football at the club and focus the majority of his attention to the club’s Academy.

Legend is a word which is banded about far too often in today’s game, but it is a word which will appear numerous times in this blog. In 2007, Dario decided to give his assistant at the time, Steve Holland, a crack at managerial duties. It’s fair to say the two years that followed were not Crewe’s most successful. Holland, who had made a name for himself at Alex’s academy, wasn’t the right man for the job, lasting 16 months before leaving the club at the bottom of League One in December 2008.

Following Holland’s departure, Dario stepped in for a short period whilst the search for a new manager went ahead. Former Stoke City boss Gudjon Thordarson was appointed – his approach to the game was not favoured by fans and Crewe were relegated to League Two at the end of the 2008/09 season. After a poor start to the following campaign, which saw Crewe win four out of fifteen games, Thordason was sacked.

Once again, Dario was back at the helm. At the time, he made it clear that he would be taking over responsibilities of the first team until a suitable manager was found. After two years, it seems he is satisfied to leave the responsibility in Steve Davis’ hands.

During the last couple of games, the fans’ frustration has been very clear. Chants at the Torquay game at the weekend from the supporters calling for Gradi to go were getting louder and in his post-match interview he commented on what he heard. Gradi said that he would go when he felt it was time to go.

The performance on Saturday was woeful and Torquay got their tactics spot on, crusing to a 3-0 win. It was one of the worst games I had seen for quite a while. Despite this, I decided to make the trip to Oldham on Tuesday night and that didn’t do Dario many favours. After a battling performance for 65 minutes, Crewe just lost the spirit and went down 3-1 to a poor, but lucky Oldham side in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

I have always been 100% behind Dario as he has done so much for the club, but maybe this is the time for a change, to see if Crewe can try and pull something together, to emerge with a successful season and bright future.

There is no doubting that Dario Gradi is a legend (how many other managers can boast that there is a music group named after them?) But after 26 years at the helm, it does seem like the right time to step down and concentrate fully on the Academy. Gradi will hopefully help nurture more players like Dean Ashton, Danny Murphy, Robbie Savage, Rob Jones, Neil Lennon, Geoff Thomas and David Platt, all of whom have Dario to thank for making them the players they are and were.

Although the 70-year-old Gradi may be taking a step back, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in charge again if things don’t improve, Crewe is in his heart and as we have seen in the past, it may be hard for him to let go completely. It’s safe to say you should watch this space with interest!

1404 not out?

Written by Hugh Wilson, We Are Going Up’s Crewe Alexandra blogger

Hugh tweets at @Hugh_Wilson

Somehow failing

Friday, August 19th, 2011

Four games into the season now for Crewe and after shipping 10 goals, we find ourselves in the bottom two in the Football League and out of the League Cup.

Whilst writing my first blog, I found myself talking about excitement, optimism and expectancy, but now (I am aware I shouldn’t be making a U Turn after half a month of football) I am dreading the remaining 43 league games we have left.

Crewe Alex are a unique football club. People always recognise them for (trying to play) attractive passing football and through their leader, Dario Gradi, who is in his 28th Year of management with the Railwaymen. Crewe’s structure is a great base for any football club, but this season, it’s just not working.

Crewe have played some excellent football in the opening four games. Dominated large parts of each game they have played in, but we have lost all four. Rotherham on Tuesday night was an example. Crewe had plenty of chances in front of goal and seemed to be keeping Adam Le Fondre extremely quiet. That was until midway through the first half when two defensive errors gifted him a simple chance to open the scoring. Which he did.

Never mind, Crewe would get back into it (I thought). More pressure from The Alex led to missed chances and fans started to get more frustrated with the fact we couldn’t make the most when dominating a match. Cue another defensive error. 0-2.

Sighs, negative chanting, fans leaving the ground. Still around 20 minutes to go, but it was once again the same old story for Crewe and a lot of fans had had enough.

After hitting back via a well worked goal and then continuing to pepper the goal with no reward, I began asking myself if Crewe would ever get a point this season. Ok, maybe a bit extreme, but if we couldn’t win or draw when we were playing some fantastic football, when were we going to finally get off the mark?

It has come out in recent weeks that Dario’s mentality is, “as long as we can score more than them, we will be fine” that was evident last season as we finished as top scorers of the division, but failed to make the playoffs. After Clayton Donaldson, the league’s top scorer, left on a free, Dario had a whole summer to find a replacement. We are still waiting. This has meant a lack of goals, which means no points. (Points mean prizes)

According to the senior players, the camp remains confident, but as we continue this tough run of games, will the fans share the belief that we can do something this season? The play-offs seemed a high possibility at the start of August, but now I’m just hoping that we avoid the clutches of the Blue Square Premier and remain a respected club in the Football League.

Written by Hugh Wilson, We Are Going Up’s Crewe Alexandra Blogger

Hugh tweets at @hugh_wilson

Destination Unknown

Monday, August 1st, 2011

The life of a Football League fan is never easy. Promotion, playoffs, relegation or mid-table are all very realistic outcomes for a League Two club – perhaps that’s the joy of the lower leagues; no one can predict the outcome.

As a Crewe Alexandra fan though, you can have a good guess at what will happen. Pre-season always gives the roughly four-thousand fans false hope going into the new season. As they have done over the past couple of seasons, Crewe will beat a Premier League team select XI and then continue to score at will against “local” clubs (9-1 vs Quorn stands out this year). However, when the season starts, the frailties of our defence will be exposed and we can put this down to one reason, three words: Commanding Centre Half. It’s something Crewe have always lacked and it’s been their downfall in the last two seasons which has seen them attempt to get out of the bottom tier of the Football League.

But it’s not all negatives at Gresty Road. Last season saw us show that we can compete with the top clubs in League Two, commandingly beating Chesterfield, Wycombe, Bury, only to lose two woeful matches against Hereford and Macclesfield away from home at the end of the season, (part of Crewe’s 10 away defeats in a row) which saw us finish 10th and only 3 points from the playoffs.

Looking towards the new season, players have left the club, most notably Clayton Donaldson, League Two’s top scorer last season and has not been replaced. Young Goalkeeper Alan is our only signing so far this season, and it looks as though he will be warming the bench. So how will our talisman Dario Gradi cope? The Yoda of the Football League. The answer is he will stick to his morals and bring in the youngsters.

This is where this season could get interesting for The Railwaymen. There are a number of youth players who broke into the first team last season, but didn’t have the experience to make a difference. This season will be the turning point for the new prodigies. It’s been a while since Crewe have produced players like Dean Ashton, Nicky Maynard, Seth Johnson and Danny Murphy (don’t get me started on Robbie Savage) but I think this season will see three players really making a name for themselves…

- Nick Powell, 17 years of age, stared in the recent England Under 17s World Cup in Mexico. The attacking midfielder came on as a sub in 18 games last season and showed great skill and potential, but couldn’t find the back of the net. He has already shown in pre-season that he is ready to make a step up and start contributing to Crewe’s goal tally.

- Max Clayton, 16 years old, also played in England’s recent Under 17s world cup. Arsenal and Liverpool have been reported to have been sniffing around this player. The Striker made two appearances as a sub last season and brought excitement to the pitch and the fans, it looks as though he will be asked to step up this season with Crewe’s lack of strikers.

- Caspar Hughes, 18 years young, great prospect for the future who played one match last season. Dario has already said he would be happy to bring him in to the fold and with his vision and natural skill; he could be a star of this season if he gets a chance.

Although there has been a lack of signings, as ever, I’m optimistic about the season. Crewe have a tough start away to Swindon Town, which could go two ways – a 5-1 battering, or a 0-3 win for Crewe. I naturally hope it’s the latter and hopefully Crewe will come out of the blocks and destroy the memories of last years away form.

In 10 months time I can only dream that I will be able to say we’re sat in 1st place and 10 points clear, but as I’ve said, League Two is an unpredictable league and anything, and I really mean anything, can happen.

Written by Hugh Wilson, We Are Going Up’s Crewe Alexandra Blogger

Hugh tweets at @hugh_wilson