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