Crewe signalled their intentions for the up and coming League One campaign with the signing of defender Mark Ellis from League Two side Torquay United. The former Bolton Wanderers trainee rejected a new deal at Plainmoor to join Steve Davis’ men, however due to Ellis being under the age of 24 a fee has to be settled between the two clubs which the BBC states is around £80,000.
This signing comes only a few weeks after it was announced that influential skipper David Artell was released by the Railwaymen after two years in South Cheshire. I was slightly disheartened when the retained/released list was announced by Crewe in May with first team players Carl Martin, Lee Bell and Artell all leaving the club after helping with the promotion push. This meant that new signings are a must with big gaps to fill in the squad.
Having already missed out on the signing of former Swindon Town left back Callum Kennedy (who joined Scunthorpe United on the 20th June), things were looking bleak over South Cheshire, however the signing of Ellis has certainly restored my faith in Davis’ way of thinking and the 23 year old will compete alongside Adam Dugdale and Harry Davis for that starting place in central defence with Matt Tootle, Kelvin Mellor, Ollie Turton and Andy White all competing for the full-back positions.
So my main question is- Is Ellis a suitable replacement for the vastly experienced Artell?
We will have to wait and see on that one, however the former Bolton man has Football League experience as well as putting in some impressive displays against the Railwaymen in recent years, most notably when he scored two goals for the Gulls in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Crewe during the 2010-11 campaign
Crewe have also taken positive steps in bolstering the defence with the signing of Gregor Robertson on a free transfer following his release from Chesterfield. He would potentially slot into the vacant left back slot for the League One season with experience at this level and the Football League with spells at Nottingham Forest and Rotherham United. The former Scotland Under 21 says that Chesterfield team mate and former Crewe player Jamie Lowry helped him with his decision to join the newly promoted Railwaymen.
So who else is on Davis’ radar? The defence is pretty much sorted now with the introduction of Ellis and Robertson but maybe a bit more cover would help the side compete in League One. As for the midfield I think that there is a definite need to replace the departing Lee Bell and reports have suggested that former loan midfielder Jamie Lowry is set for a return to the Alex following his release from recently relegated Chesterfield.
The Alex have also been unsuccessful in bringing former loan player Billy Bodin to the club as he joined League Two side Torquay United after he impressed at Plainmoor in first half of the 2011-12 season. I still think another winger would be good for the club, especially with the possibility of Byron Moore leaving after stalling on signing a new contract.
As for a striker, I think that Shaun Miller’s time at the club has run its course and a move away could reignite his career that has hit a stumbling block in recent months however a good pre-season could be enough to find his goal scoring form again and he could be a vital puzzle piece in helping Crewe stay in the league. This leaves young Max Clayton, older brother Harry, Ajay Leitch-Smith and Brendon Daniels. I think a big target man wouldn’t go a miss somebody in the same calibre as Rene Howe or Adebayo Akinfenwa, somebody who can hold the ball up for the likes of Max Clayton and Leitch-Smith.
Dele Adebola has been linked with a return to Crewe in recent weeks and this could be a great signing for the club, providing the ageing former Coventry striker stays fit. He has already shown he can still play in at this level after a short loan spell with Notts County towards the end of the 2011-12 season.
Meanwhile Steve Phillips has signed a new two year deal, combining his playing duties with coaching the academy, this leaves Phillips and England Youth international Ben Garratt to battle for the number one spot with former Scotland Under 21 ‘keeper Alan Martin stalling over a new deal in South Cheshire.