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