Can Crewe Alexandra seal promotion to League One?
Background Image Via: Andrew Smith. CC BY-SA 2.0.
Former Liverpool defender and Match of the Day pundit, Alan Hansen, infamously remarked “you can’t win anything with kids”, well Crewe Alexandra provide an exception to this rule.
The Railwaymen currently sit 2nd in League Two with a squad build around a strong core of academy graduates. They are a single point behind table-toppers Swindon Town with 11 games left to play. Crewe's sights are firmly set on a return to the third tier after a painful four-year absence.
Their manager, David Artell, knows the club inside-out having spent time as a player at Gresty Road. He was handed their manager’s job in January 2016 with Crewe desperately out of form. The Englishman has since steadied the ship, then turned the team into one that can challenge for promotion.
Artell has placed a strong emphasis on playing youth and has helped develop Alex’s academy players into first-team regulars. His backroom staff are Crewe through and through with his assistant, Kenny Lund, Head of Coaching, Jamie Collins and Under-18’s manager Lee Bell all having turned out for the club during their playing days. This has helped mould the community spirit around the place, ensuring everyone is pulling in the same direction this season.
Crewe are no strangers to producing players who have gone on to play at higher levels in the past. Manchester United paid them £6million to sign Nick Powell in 2012, fast forward to now and he is at Stoke City. Burnley midfielder Ashley Westwood, Bolton Wanderers’ Luke Murphy and Charlton Athletic goalkeeper Ben Amos are all ex-Alex youngsters. Digging deeper into the records, former Premier League duo Danny Murphy and Rob Hulse also started their career with the Cheshire side.
Chuma Anene's strike was January's winner, but which strike will win February's vote?
@charliekirkx's late heroics at @OfficialOAFC? Or how about @Ste_Walker9's first goal for #CreweAlex
Vote below! 👇 https://t.co/jDez3vu3Ii
Today’s stars of the present day will be looking to follow in the footsteps of their processors. Defender Perry NG has been ever-present for Alex for the past four seasons and is amongst the first names on Artell’s team sheet. The 23-year-old has been on their books for 10 years now and his form this term is attracting the interest of clubs higher up the Football League.
Tricky winger Charlie Kirk is a name to keep an eye on. He has scored eight goals in all competitions this season and is well on the way to beating the 11 he got in the last campaign. The 22-year-old is also one of their main creators with 15 assists to his name. Will they be able to keep hold of him?
There are plenty more academy graduates worthy of mention. Left-back Harry Pickering, midfield quartet James Jones, Callum Ainley, Oliver Finney and Tom Lowery, as well as forward Owen Dale are all playing massive parts this season. Added in with the know-how of Chris Porter, Eddie Nolan and Paul Green, Crewe has seemingly mastered the blend of (mainly) youth and experience.
The big question is, can the Railwaymen stay on track to promotion? They are two points inside the automatic promotion places and their place in the play-offs looks sealed, barring an astonishing collapse. Artell needs to keep his players focused and carry on the performances they have sustained since August. There are some big games still to come against teams around them like Exeter City, Port Vale and Northampton Town which will have big implications on who gains promotion to League One in May...