Monday, February 20, 2012

Club Focus - Crewe Alexandra

Although I didn't make it to any games while I was away in Staffordshire last week I did manage to visit a ground that I hadn't been to before and that ground was Crewe Alexandra's Alexandra stadium. It's a pretty nice stadium and was renovated when they were looking to be regular participants in what is now called the Championship at the start of the millennium. However after doing what they do best and developing new players that are then sold on they have found themselves to be a mid-table League 2 side. In fact it was the sale of Dean Ashton to Norwich in 2005 that was blamed for their slump that season that set them on a downward trajectory.

The Alexandra stadium, which was then known as Gresty Road and for some unfathomable reason has been renamed (if it wasn't bad enough with all the sponsor changes and new grounds) has been Alex's home since 1899 and been a built stadium since 1906. It was renovated in 1999 after the Taylor Report and has the impressive Railtrack stand, which cost the club £6 million, where there was once the Railway Terrace where fans would spend half the time immersed in smoke when the old trains went past. The stadium is conveniently located right next to Crewe station and the club are nicknamed the Railwaymen due to Crewe's past and present as one of the busiest railway stations in the country and at one time the world. It currently holds 10,153 although over the last few seasons average attendances have hovered between 4 and 5,000.



Crewe Alexandra were formed in 1877 and are named after Queen Victoria's daughter Princess Alexandra or the pub of the same name depending on what story you believe. With a good pint of John Smith's costing £1.85 in the pub down the road though now, you can't really blame them for wanting to name the club after a pub if that rumour is true. In fact if you are passing through Crewe I suggest you get off have a quick look round the ground and sample a pint in one of the town's fine drinking holes!

After initially backing the wrong horse and joining the Football Alliance instead of the Football League in 1889 the club became founder members of the Football League Division 2 in 1892. However, it wasn't to be the happiest of sojourns into the League, as they only lasted four seasons. They re-entered the League in 1921. For the most of that time apart from a stay in the 2nd level in the early noughties they have been a lower league team. They haven't had any major trophies to add to their name, but they have won Cheshire Senior Cup 6 times, the last being in 2003 and the Cheshire Premier Cup in 2009 and 2010. They were also named in 2006 by FourFourTwo as the most admired league club.

One of the main reasons for the club's, if not popularity then likeability has been the work done of developing youth at the club spearheaded by Dario Gradi, who was the clubs manager from 1983 to 2007 and then again from 2009 to 2011 (he stepped down earlier this season as manager to work in his previous job as Director of Football with an emphasis on developing youth). It's easy to see why he has so much respect in the game with a list of graduates from the club during his time there including Dean Ashton, Geoff Thomas, David Platt, Neil Lennon, Robbie Blake and erm Robbie Savage.

One of the reasons I went to the club was to get Sean a badge for his collection. The Crewe badge has a lion, which is the symbol of the town, standing on a football.



If it looks like the lion is about to catch a football then it is probably because before 1994 it was holding a locomotive wheel. However, it would seem that some of the grandeur surrounding the railway has like the town faded a bit and it was deemed inappropriate.

The club have unlike a lot of clubs that have been around for such a long time not experimented with changing their colours. They did mess around with a white shirt with blue knickerbockers (as I think the Victorians called them) but even then they incorporated a chic red neckerchief into the ensemble, for a couple of years in their early existence, but for the most part have been proud to wear red and white, like this season's kit shown below.

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