Crewe Alexandra F.C.
|Full name||Crewe Alexandra Football Club|
|Nickname(s)||The Railwaymen, The Alex|
|2019–20||League Two, 2nd of 24 (promoted)|
Crewe Alexandra Football Club is an English professional association football club based in the town of Crewe, Cheshire, and competes in League One, the third tier of the English football league system. Nicknamed The Railwaymen because of the town's links with the rail industry, they have played at Gresty Road since 1906, having earlier moved from their first home at the nearby Alexandra Recreation Ground. Supporters maintain rivalries with a number of nearby clubs, their fiercest rivals being Staffordshire-based side Port Vale.
The club was formed in 1877 as the football division of Crewe Alexandra Cricket Club, named after Princess Alexandra. They entered the Football Alliance league in 1889, before becoming founding members of the Football League Second Division in 1892. However they failed to be re-elected into the Football League after finishing bottom of the division in 1895–96. They joined The Combination then spent three seasons in the Lancashire League, before spending ten years competing in the Birmingham & District League. They spent the 1910s in The Central League, before they were invited to join the newly created Football League Third Division North in 1921, where they spent the following 37 years. After three consecutive last-place Third Division North finishes, they were placed in the newly formed Fourth Division, and went on to achieve their first promotion after finishing third in 1962–63. Immediately relegated, they were promoted again in 1967–68, but again lasted just one season in the Third Division.
Crewe spent 20 years struggling in the fourth tier, being forced to apply for re-election on seven occasions, before their fortunes were revived under manager Dario Gradi, who secured promotion at the end of the 1988–89 campaign. Relegated after two seasons, they were again promoted in 1993–94, and after two unsuccessful play-off campaigns, won the 1997 Second Division play-off final to win a place in the second tier after an absence of 101 years. They spent eight of the next nine seasons in the First Division / Championship. Gradi resigned in July 2007, with the club in League One. During Gradi's 24-year tenure Crewe built a reputation for playing attractive, technical football and the Crewe Alexandra Academy forged a reputation for developing young players. Future England internationals David Platt, Danny Murphy and Dean Ashton began their professional careers at the club, whilst Nick Powell was sold for a club record £6 million in 2012.
Gradi returned first on a caretaker basis and then on a permanent basis from 2009 to 2011 following relegation into League Two at the end of the 2008–09 campaign. New manager Steve Davis led the club to promotion via the play-offs in 2012 and then to the Football League Trophy title in 2013. They spent four seasons in League One, before being relegated in last place in 2015–16. The club was heavily implicated in the football sexual abuse scandal that came to public attention in 2016, facing criticism for their handling of youth coach Barry Bennell, who was gaoled in 2018 for child sexual abuse. In the 2019–20 season, shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Crewe secured promotion to League One, under David Artell, manager since January 2017.
Formation and early years
Crewe Alexandra Football Club was formed in 1877 as an offshoot of Crewe Alexandra Cricket Club (established in September 1866 by Thomas Abraham and other workers at Crewe locomotive works), and named after Princess Alexandra. They were based at the Alexandra Recreation Ground, adjacent to Crewe railway station, and played their first match against a side from Basford in North Staffordshire on 1 December 1877, drawing 1–1. In 1883, Crewe Alexandra's first match in the FA Cup was against Scottish club Queen's Park of Glasgow, losing 10–0. In 1888, the club reached the FA Cup semi-finals, defeating Swifts, Derby County and Middlesbrough en route, before going out to Preston North End. In 1891, the football club split away from the cricket club - a step that was condemned by Francis Webb, chief engineer of the town's railway works, who supported the exclusion of professional sportsmen; following the schism, Webb and the LNWR said the company would 'refuse to find employment in the Crewe Works for any professional football player'.
Crewe were founding members of the Football League Second Division in 1892, having previously been members of the Football Alliance, but lost their league status in 1896 after only four seasons (finishing third from bottom, fourth from bottom, then bottom twice), possibly due to a player budget that was a quarter of that of other clubs. 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). Crewe spent two seasons in The Combination followed by three seasons in the Lancashire League, before spending ten years competing in the Birmingham & District League, during which period they won the Cheshire Senior Challenge Cup in 1907 and 1910. They spent the 1910s in The Central League, finishing second in 1913-14 and 1920-21.
Crewe rejoined the Football League in 1921; they finished 6th in their first two seasons in the Third Division North, but then did not finish as high again until 1931-32, and again in 1935-36. Crewe earned their first major honours by winning the Welsh Cup in 1936 and 1937, before being barred from entering (as Crewe is not in Wales). In 1936, Bert Swindells scored his 100th League goal for Crewe Alexandra. He went on to score 126 League goals for the club, a record that still stands today.
Post World War II
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.
In 1955 Crewe embarked 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. Crewe finished bottom of Division Three North three times in a row from 1955-56 to 1957-58, gaining just 21 points from 46 games in the 1956-57 season, and 23 points the following season. The club was placed into the newly formed Fourth Division in 1958-59.
One of Crewe's most famous matches took place against Spurs in the FA Cup in 1960. A new record attendance of 20,000 saw lowly Crewe hold Spurs to a 2–2 draw on 30 January, with Bert Llewellyn and Merfyn Jones scoring for the Railwaymen. On 3 February, 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. Crewe were then again drawn against Spurs who won by a more modest 5–1 in the Fourth Round.
1960s promotions and relegations
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. The club finished in third place, behind champions Brentford and Oldham Athletic, but were relegated back to Division Four the following season. In the 1964–65 season, Terry Harkin scored a record 35 league goals for Crewe. Managed by Ernie Tagg, the club achieved promotion for a second time in 1967-68, but again spent just one season in Division Three.
1970s and early 1980s
Signed from Bury, Stan Bowles scored 15 goals during Crewe's 1970-71 season before being sold to Carlisle in October 1971. Crewe then finished bottom of Division Four in 1971-72, 1978-79 and 1981-82. In 1977, Tommy Lowry play his record-setting 475th and last game for the Railwaymen (he had earlier passed Peter Leigh's total of 430 appearances between 1960 and 1972). In 1979 manager Warwick Rimmer's most notable signing saw Bruce Grobbelaar join Crewe and playing 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 Gradi years
After Crewe finished second from bottom at the end of the 1982-83 season, the club parted company with short-lived manager Peter Morris, and, in June 1983, appointed Milan-born Dario Gradi as manager. His first season signings included Mark Leonard from Tranmere, John Crabbe from Hereford and David Pullar from Exeter as Gradi looked to build an academy structure to develop players that could be sold to help fund the player development programme. Among his first transfer successes were Dave Waller (sold to Shrewsbury in 1986) and Gary Blissett (sold to Brentford in 1987), plus Geoff Thomas and John Pemberton (both signed from Rochdale and sold to Crystal Palace, in 1987 and 1988 respectively).
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 7 May 1988. 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. Crewe achieved their highest finishing position, 11th, in the 1997-98 First Division season, and Gradi kept his team in the division until 2002, despite a club income on which many more lowly clubs could not survive. Gradi celebrated his 1,000th game in charge of Crewe on 20 November 2001 – an away fixture at Norwich City's Carrow Road.
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. Crewe retained their Division One place in the 2003–04 season, but at the start of the 2004–05 season were rated one of the teams most likely 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, narrowly escaping relegation on goal difference. The following year they were less fortunate; despite a good run towards the end of the 2005–06 season, they were relegated to League One.
Crewe were named the "Most Admired Club" in the 2006 Football League Awards, sponsored by The League Paper and FourFourTwo Magazine.
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. That summer Holland spent half a million pounds on new signings, including Calvin Zola, Anthony Elding and goalkeepers Steve Collis and Adam Legzdins, while striker Nicky Maynard joined Bristol City for a club record fee of £2.25 million. However, despite a positive pre-season, including a win over Premiership club Hull City, Crewe took only nine points from their first 16 games.
After pressure from fans, the board sacked Steve Holland as first team coach in November 2008, and re-appointed Gradi as caretaker manager. 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 Stoke City, Gudjon Thordarson, was appointed as Holland's successor, though Gradi remained in charge of the team for a further six days before resuming his technical director role. Thordarson's first game in charge was a 2–2 draw away at Millwall in the FA Cup 3rd round, but although Thordarson received the Manager of the Month award for February, the team suffered a poor end-of-season run, not winning 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.
On 2 October 2009, after nine months in charge, Thordarson was sacked after a run of poor results. Dario Gradi was reinstated as caretaker manager in time for the following day's match against Rotherham. 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".
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.
2011 to present day
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. 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 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 2012–13 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. The team finished 13th in League One, ending the season by fielding a team whose starting 11 were all Crewe Academy graduates.
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).
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. Dario Gradi had earlier won the same award, in 2011. In December 2014, it was announced that Bowler had, like Gradi (in January 1998), been awarded an MBE for services to football.
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. The under-18s were runners-up in their Development League.
Crewe started the 2014–15 season poorly, accumulating just four points from the first 11 League games. Some sustained runs of better results pulled the club out of the relegation places, but, needing a home draw against Bradford City to secure safety, Crewe lost 0–1 and had to rely on favourable results elsewhere to ensure League One football for another year, finishing two points above the bottom four in 20th position.
The following season started in a similar pattern, with the team winning just two of their first 15 league games, and crashing out of the FA Cup in the first round, defeated at Gresty Road by non-league Eastleigh, forcing Davis to defend his position as the 'right man' for the job. Crewe's relegation to League Two was confirmed following a 3–0 defeat at Port Vale on 9 April 2016, with five games remaining. After an initially promising start to the following season, Crewe's form slumped during the final months of 2016, and on 8 January 2017, Davis was sacked as Crewe manager, with former Crewe defender David Artell appointed his replacement. Under Artell, Crewe finished 17th, improving slightly to 15th position at the end of the 2017–18 season (on 5 May 2018 again fielding a starting 11 who were all Crewe Academy graduates), and then 12th at the end of the 2018–19 season.
After 36 years involvement with the club, Gradi, 78, announced his retirement from all positions at Crewe Alexandra on 7 October 2019. In February 2020, further changes to the club's board were announced with local businessman Stuart Whitby (of Whitby Morrison) and former Nantwich Town chairman Tony Davison joining the board following a £1.75m buy-out of majority shareholder Norman Hassall; the Railwaymen Supporters Society also raised £250,000, to earn the right for a Crewe fans' representative on the club's new board.
On the pitch, Crewe vied for promotion for much of the 2019-20 season, and were top of the table (ahead of Swindon Town on goal difference) when the football season was suspended on 13 March 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, Crewe was one of several clubs to 'furlough' (put on temporary leave) players and staff in order to save money. On 9 June, Crewe's promotion to League One was confirmed, but Swindon were crowned League Two champions on the basis of average points per game. Artell was selected as League Two Manager of the Year in the League Managers Association Awards, and two Crewe players, Perry Ng and Charlie Kirk, were named in the PFA League Two Team of the Year.
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.
The ground is composed of four stands:
- The Air Products Stand (formerly the Railtrack Stand, before a change in sponsors), built in 2000 at a cost of £5.2 million. It accommodates 6,809 spectators, together with the club's office accommodation.
- The Rhino Safety Stand – also known as the Gresty Road End, accommodates 982 spectators and 4 disabled spectators.
- The Blue Bell Family Stand, also known as the Railway End, accommodates 682 spectators.
- The Whitby Morrison Ice Cream Van Stand, formerly the Pop Side, accommodates 1,680 away spectators.
Supporters and rivalries
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). 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.
Crewe's main rivals are fellow English Football League team Port Vale. The clubs have been involved in 73 games since 1892 (8 games against Burslem Port Vale); overall, Crewe have won 19 games, Port Vale have won 33, with the teams drawing 21 games. The rivalry (known by some since the 1980s 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. 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, and a scuffle between rival supporters in the executive boxes. 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. The sides met again in January 2015, at Vale Park. Crewe won the game 1–0 to seal their first league double over Port Vale. Two arrests were made at the game, with minor disturbances between rival fans after the match. Six arrests were made at Gresty Road during the 22 September 2018 meeting between the two sides. One study in 2019 ranked the Port Vale-Crewe Alexandra rivalry as the 14th biggest rivalry in English professional football.
Crewe also maintain smaller rivalries with Wrexham, Shrewsbury Town, Stoke City and traditional local Cheshire derbies with Macclesfield Town, Chester City, Stockport County and Tranmere Rovers. 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. Crewe then returned the favour in 2011, when they beat County 2–0 at Gresty Road on 30 April. This confirmed County's relegation to non-League football.
The Macclesfield Town rivalry intensified on 9 February 2019. After a 97th minute equaliser by Reece Cole to make it 3–3, some Crewe fans invaded the pitch and brawled with a section of the Macclesfield fans, with bottles and other objects thrown. Crewe, Macclesfield and Cheshire Police led an enquiry into the incident.
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%.
Full international players
- Madjid Bougherra
- Marcus Haber
- Dean Ashton
- Frank Blunstone
- Stan Bowles
- Seth Johnson
- Rob Jones
- Danny Murphy
- John Pearson1
- David Platt
- Geoff Thomas
- David Artell
- Mathias Pogba
- Gylfi Sigurðsson
- Paul Green
- George Abbey
- Efe Sodje
- Terry Harkin
- Steve Jones
- Neil Lennon
- Michael O'Connor
- Neil Etheridge
- Rodney Jack
- Clayton Ince
- Dennis Lawrence
- William Bell
- Alfred Owen Davies
- Bill Goodwin (Wartime international)
- Richard Owen Jones
- Benjamin Lewis
- Billy Lewis
- Trevor Owen
- Robert Roberts
- Robbie Savage
- David Vaughan
- Edwin Williams
- Bruce Grobbelaar
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.
Sexual abuse scandal
On 16 November 2016, former Crewe defender Andy Woodward revealed that he had been the victim of child sexual abuse by former football coach Barry Bennell (convicted as a paedophile in 1998) at the club in the 1980s. The club was criticised for its lack of response to the Woodward revelations:
- "Yet there are so many questions that have never been satisfactorily answered. ... What a cop-out, what a dereliction of duty, for the club, the directors and their media department to think this can be swatted away like a bothersome fly."
Club chairman John Bowler finally responded to the revelations on Monday 21 November, by which time it was reported that six other individuals had contacted the police, and that the Football Association was setting up a helpline. On 22 November, The Guardian reported that Crewe team mate Steve Walters had been another of Bennell's victims, while Woodward criticised Crewe for failing to apologise:
- "... not one person from Crewe Alexandra has ever contact [sic] me to see if I was OK or to say they were really sorry this happened at their football club. Even now, they’re still failing to say they are really sorry this happened. I need them to say sorry. Everyone who was involved – and there are people coming forward every day – will want them to say sorry but unfortunately this statement doesn’t surprise me and it feels like to me there is almost an air of arrogance on their part."
As two players from other clubs made similar sex abuse revelations about Bennell and an unnamed coach, Dario Gradi was pressed by The Independent and The Guardian "to say more about what he knew and when." On 24 November, Gradi released a statement saying he knew nothing of Bennell's crimes:
- I would like to express sympathy to the victims of Barry Bennell not only at Crewe Alexandra, but at other clubs in the North West. The first I knew of Barry Bennell’s crimes was when he was arrested in the United States in 1994. I knew nothing of his crimes before this time when he was employed by us. No-one at the Football Club knew of Bennell’s crimes until his arrest in 1994 and his subsequent prosecution in the United Kingdom. The football club also co-operated fully with the authorities in 2003. The club are in the process of a review and I won’t be making any further comment until this is finalised."
On 25 November, Hamilton Smith, a director at Crewe Alexandra from 1986 to 1990 told the Guardian that the club heard an allegation that Bennell had sexually abused a junior footballer. However, Bennell was allowed to stay at the club, despite the then chairman, Norman Rowlinson, recommending that the club "get him out", so long as Bennell was not left alone with boys and was stopped from arranging overnight stays; it was later (February 2018) reported that Rowlinson had sought police advice about Bennell and had been advised to "move him on". Smith said: "I'm incredibly angry the club continue to refute that they knew anything about suspicions of Bennell’s activities. This was discussed at the club’s top level."
Smith said fellow directors did not want to rely on hearsay evidence and local gossip. Smith later met Tony Pickerin, the FA’s head of education and child protection and requested an investigation into the care of children at Gresty Road. However, he only received a three-line letter from Pickerin saying the FA had “investigated the issues and is satisfied that there is no case to answer.” Smith's allegations were considered in a statement from the club in March 2018; the club expressed concern that, despite Smith apparently being aware of Bennell's offending in 1988, he did not report this to the police until 2016 or the FA until 2001; Smith was also interviewed by the police who, according to the club, concluded "there was no evidence to corroborate that the club was aware of Mr Bennell's offending".
On 27 November 2016, another former Crewe player, Anthony Hughes, revealed that he too had been abused by Bennell. Wales and Manchester United youth player Matthew Monaghan and Crewe trainee, later Wimbledon and Northern Ireland international Mark Williams also alleged abuse by Bennell.
Bennell was tried at Liverpool Crown Court in early 2018, and convicted of 50 offences of sexual abuse against 12 boys (and on 20 February 2018 was sentenced to 30 years in prison). After the guilty verdicts on 15 February, victims including Andy Woodward and Steve Walters read statements outside court. Crewe Alexandra expressed its "deepest sympathies" to Bennell's victims, saying it was not aware of any sexual abuse by Bennell nor had it received any complaint about sexual abuse by him before or during his employment with the club. This has been disputed: the Guardian said Bennell had to leave Crewe following a complaint against him, having been identified as a risk long before joining Crewe, amid a cover-up at Manchester City. Lord Carlile, the barrister who prosecuted Bennell in 1998, accused Crewe of 'brushing the scandal under the carpet'.
Following complaints from other former players, mostly from Manchester City and Crewe, Bennell was reported to be likely to face a further trial. In September 2018, it was reported that the police and Crown Prosecution Service regarded some of allegations, particularly the rape of minors, as serious enough to warrant criminal action, potentially in 2019.
On 25 February 2019, The Guardian reported on a nine-page statement from Gradi about what he knew regarding Bennell. Gradi admitted to encouraging a close player-coach culture and to not making detailed background checks about Bennell because Crewe was trying to poach him from Manchester City "on the quiet". Club chairman John Bowler said Crewe had not appreciated the dangers of football being used as a means for a paedophile to prey on young boys ("documented procedures that are now in place for the protection of minors were not in place at that time"), while Gradi had not made detailed inquiries into Bennell's background ("He did not have any specific coaching qualifications but none were required and at the time the FA did not publish any guidance on child protection”). However, former club secretary Gill Palin had been uncomfortable about Bennell. Three days later, Steve Walters accused Crewe of showing "no humanity" and "victim blaming" in a bid to avoid compensation payouts, and of claiming Walters had waited too long to report abuse. The club said Walters's claims included (unspecified) "fundamental inaccuracies". Walters and at least one other former Crewe player have each launched High Court damages claims of upwards of £200,000 against the club.
On 19 March 2019, the Guardian reported Crewe Alexandra planned to contest victims' claims, using specialist lawyers – appointed for the club by Football League insurers – with experience of defending child sex abuse allegations involving the Roman Catholic church. The lawyers argued the club should not be liable for alleged incidents from the 1980s and 1990s that were not committed as part of Bennell's official club duties (Bennell allegedly also ran a feeder team, Railway Juniors, set up by parents) and also argued that, under the Limitation Act 1980, the incidents should be disregarded as victims has not reported them years earlier. However, on 27 March 2019, the Guardian reported an apparent U-turn in Crewe's approach; it had agreed an out-of-court financial settlement with one of Bennell's victims. Andy Woodward had unsuccessfully sued Crewe for damages in 2004. In May 2020, it was reported that two of eight men sexually abused by Barry Bennell, who were pursuing damages claims against Manchester City, were also bringing claims against Crewe Alexandra; an eight-week trial is listed to start in October 2021.
On 26 November 2016 the club announced it would be holding an independent review into how they dealt with historical child sex abuse allegations: "an independent review, to be conducted via the appointment of external legal counsel, is the correct way forward".
Fifteen months later, in February 2018, the club had not started this review, claiming an unnamed authority told them to hold off until the criminal case was over. On 2 March 2018, the club issued a statement saying that, as it had fully supported and co-operated with the police's detailed and comprehensive investigations, it did "not intend to commission a further independent investigation to duplicate the thorough enquiries that have already been undertaken," and the police's report had also been supplied to the FA review headed by Clive Sheldon.
Crewe's decision to shelve its own investigation was criticised by local MP Laura Smith (daughter of former club director Hamilton Smith) who said victims deserved nothing less than a thorough investigation which "should be transparent and leave no stone unturned." The club was also excluded from the NorthWest Football Awards, was criticised by MP Damian Collins, chair of the DCMS select committee, and by Crewe Town Council, and was called to reconsider its decision by the Professional Footballers Association's Gordon Taylor. In March 2018, Clive Sheldon warned clubs they must hold their own investigations into abuse claims or he will do it, putting pressure on Crewe to reconsider its decision not to hold an inquiry.
Dario Gradi was also the subject of allegations that, as Chelsea's assistant manager, he tried to "smooth over" a youth player's complaint of sexual assault against Chelsea chief scout Eddie Heath in 1974. On 6 December 2016, the Football Association announced Gradi would be among the first to be targeted by its inquiry over the 'smoothing over' allegation. In connection with these allegations, on 11 December 2016, the FA announced that it had suspended Gradi. Gradi subsequently said he had been notified by the FA of his interim suspension from football on 25 November, and reiterated "that I will do everything within my power to assist all investigatory authorities." In February 2017, it was reported that Gradi planned to appeal against his FA suspension from football, feeling he had been left "in limbo". In August 2019, Chelsea's board apologised "unreservedly" for allowing Heath, a "prolific and manipulative sexual abuser", to operate "unchallenged". The apology followed an inquiry led by barrister Charles Geekie QC, who was also critical of former assistant manager Gradi. He was accused of failing to tell senior club staff about a sexual conduct allegation concerning Heath made by the parent of a young player.
On 5 January 2017, the FA suspended former youth coach Paul McCann, who volunteered at Crewe in the 1980s and 1990s and was an assistant coach of the club's youth team. Almost a year later, on 2 January 2018, McCann, 57, was charged with non-recent sexual offences including indecent assaults. At Chester Crown Court on 31 January McCann denied the charges and was released on unconditional bail ahead of an October 2018 trial; on 18 October 2018 McCann was found not guilty of all charges against him.
In October 2018, The Guardian reported that a Crewe coach, Carl Everall, had been suspended because of a safeguarding issue, and was subject to an FA investigation. After pleading guilty to grooming a teenage girl, in May 2019 at Chester Crown Court, Everall was ordered to go on a sexual offenders treatment programme, given a three-year community order, a 35-day rehabilitation activity requirement and a sexual harm prevention order, and was ordered to sign the sex offenders register for five years.
Honours and achievements
Football League Second Division (3rd tier)
- Winners: 2013
|Highest league finish||1997–98 First Division (second tier), 11th|
|Best FA Cup finish||1887–88, semi-finalists|
|Highest home attendance||20,000: vs Tottenham Hotspur, 30 January 1960, FA Cup|
|Largest league victory||8–0: vs Rotherham United, 1 October 1932, Third Division North|
|Heaviest league defeat||1–11: vs Lincoln City, 29 September 1951, Third Division North|
|Most capped player||Clayton Ince: 31, Trinidad and Tobago|
|Most appearances in all competitions||Tommy Lowry: 482, 1965–77|
|Most goals in all competitions||Bert Swindells: 137, 1927–37|
|Most goals in a season||Terry Harkin: 35,|
|Highest transfer fee paid||£650,000: Rodney Jack from Torquay United, August 1998|
|Highest transfer fee received||£6,000,000: Nick Powell to Manchester United, 2 July 2012|
- As of 9 February 2021
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
Out on loan
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
- As of 31 March 2019.
|Kenny Lunt||England||Assistant Manager|
|Will Ryder||England||Head Of Coaching|
|Lee Bell||England||U18 Manager|
As of 9 February 2021. Only competitive matches are counted.
|August 1892||May 1894||50||12||10||28||24.00|
|August 1895||May 1896||31||5||3||23||16.13|
|January 1897||December 1897||0||0||0||0||—|
(Secretary-Manager to 1911
Honorary Secretary to 1925)
|January 1898||May 1925||169||56||44||69||33.14|
|Tom Bailey||August 1925||May 1938||578||223||113||242||38.58|
|George Lillycrop||August 1938||July 1944||45||20||7||18||44.44|
|Frank Hill||July 1944||October 1948||102||45||19||38||44.12|
|Arthur Turner||October 1948||December 1951||149||56||39||54||37.58|
|Harry Catterick||December 1951||June 1953||74||31||11||32||41.89|
|Ralph Ward||June 1953||May 1955||96||25||28||43||26.04|
|Maurice Lindley||August 1955||May 1958||143||23||28||92||16.08|
|Harry Ware||August 1958||May 1960||100||36||22||42||36.00|
|Jimmy McGuigan||June 1960||November 1964||222||87||85||50||39.19|
|Ernie Tagg||November 1964||October 1970||273||105||69||99||38.46|
|Tom McAnearney||October 1970||July 1971||34||14||7||13||41.18|
|Dennis Viollet||August 1971||November 1971||15||4||2||9||26.67|
|Jimmy Melia||May 1972||December 1973||70||16||23||31||22.86|
|Ernie Tagg||January 1974||December 1974||48||13||12||23||27.08|
|Harry Gregg||January 1975||May 1978||163||53||53||57||32.52|
|Warwick Rimmer||August 1978||May 1979||46||6||14||26||13.04|
|Tony Waddington||June 1979||July 1981||93||24||27||42||25.81|
|Arfon Griffiths||August 1981||October 1982||59||9||10||40||15.25|
|Peter Morris||November 1982||June 1983||33||8||7||18||24.24|
|Dario Gradi1||June 1983||July 2007||1,251||464||301||486||37.09|
|Dario Gradi2 / Steve Holland3||/||July 2007||November 2008||72||19||16||37||26.39|
|Dario Gradi4||November 2008||December 2008||8||3||1||4||37.50|
|Gudjon Thordarson||December 2008||October 2009||37||12||7||18||32.43|
|Dario Gradi4||October 2009||November 2011||110||38||23||49||34.55|
|Steve Davis||November 2011||January 2017||272||84||71||117||30.88|
|David Artell||January 2017||current||206||82||39||85||39.81|
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
Notes and references
- Abraham also supported the formation of the Cheshire Football Association in 1878, being appointed secretary, and was an umpire in the first Lancashire Senior Cup final, held at Darwen in 1880. He refereed the first Liverpool Senior Cup final, also in 1880, and travelled extensively to umpire Crewe Alexandra's matches. He also made a significant contribution to amateur athletics, helping organise annual events at the cricket club's ground in Earle Street, as well as becoming a long-standing official of the Northern Counties Athletic Association and the Amateur Athletic Association.
- Crewe drew 2-2, and lost the replay 3-2, but successfully appealed against the result in respect of the size of the Swifts' goals (the crossbars were too low). Crewe won the replay played at a neutral ground, Derby County's Baseball Ground, 2-1.
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- "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 Archived 5 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine
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