The life of a Football League fan is never easy. Promotion, play-offs, 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 three 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: Seventeen 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: Sixteen 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: Eighteen 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 ten months time I can only dream that I will be able to say we’re sat top of the tree and ten 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