Team Of The 'Noughties': Goalkeeper
As the decade draws to a close we examine what we think are the best eleven players to have played in the red of Crewe since the turn of the millennium.
First up is the Goalkeeper.
Crewe Apps: 134
Crewe Goals: 0
Remembered for: His 20 clean sheets record in 2002/2003.
With Aussie keeper and all round Alex legend Jason Kearton winding down his career at Gresty Road in 2001 it left a usually trouble free position vacant. Nigerian 'stopper' Ademole Bankole flirted with the position but it was big Trinidad keeper Clayton Ince who was to make it his own.
Ince signed from Trinidadian side Defence Force in 1999 for just £50,000. For the first year or so he played understudy to both Kearton and Bankole before making his debut, playing the final minutes at Hudderfield Town towards the end of the 99/00 season.
After a loan spell at Dundee United in October 2000 Ince was transfer listed but it was after a move to Wrexham broke down and Jason Kearton announcing his intention to move back to Australia that Dario Gradi offered him a way back into the side.
Still playing understudy to 'George' Bankole; he had to wait his chance. He was given opportunities to impress in League Cup games as the 2001/20002 season got under way in the Championship and as Ince got more games under his belt the more Dario warmed to him as the new number one.
The big chance came for Ince in rather unfortunate circumstances. Bankole's nightmare at home to Coventry saw the Nigerian keeper hauled off on the 70th minutes - right after Coventry's 6th goal had hit the net. Ince replaced Bankole, thankfully ending further embarrassment, and it was to be the moment Bankole gave up his number one shirt.
Ince saw out the 2001/2002 season, playing his part in so nearly knocking Everton out of the FA Cup in the fourth round and keeping a further three clean sheets in the league.
Despite relegation to Division Two (now League One) Ince was to keep his position as Alex number one. The 2002/03 season was to be a huge success for both Ince and the Alex. Ince went on to help win the club promotion at the first time of asking as he kept 20 clean sheets in the one season, coupled with Ade Bankole's four cup clean sheets it was announced as a new club record.
His aerial dominance, long throws out of the box and breath taking saves had made him a true Alex fan favourite, his position in the team seemed untouchable.
Ince remained in goal for the Alex for much of the the Championship campaign in 2003/2004, keeping a more modest nine clean sheets. However, injury in March of that season was to prove the beginning of the end for Ince's career at Crewe.
Short on goalkeepers Dario moved to cover Ince by bringing in Manchester United loanee Ben Williams on loan. The young stopper proved a hit, arguably making saves that kept us in the league at the time. Despite returning two matches before the end of the season Ince found himself on the bench, not to make another appearance till November in the 2004/2005 season.
The permanent summer signing of Ben Williams saw Ince rather harshly demoted to second choice. Not seeing action in the first few months of the season, Ince watched on as Williams's early form slowly fizzled out. With injury to Williams in November came an opportunity for Ince and he took it once again.
Playing through November to February Ince helped the club rise to 8th in the Championship as Dean Ashton ran riot, a clean sheet in a 2-0 win at Leeds United arguably the finest moment of the decade for the Railwaymen.
But as we know all too well Dean Ashton's departure to Norwich City just days later saw the most dramatic of falls. Not a single win between New Years Day and the last day of the season saw the Alex scrapping for the Championship lives on the final day of the season at home to Coventry.
Ince lined up for the Alex for the last time on May 8th 2005 as Michael Higdon and Steve Jones secured the club's Championship place for the 2005/2006 season.
Talks of a new contract between Dario and Ince broke down in the summer of 2005, various circled rumours suggesting Dario didn't do enough to keep the Trinidad stopper as Coventry City pounced to snap him up on a free transfer.
Since his departure Ince failed to make an impact at Coventry, signing for Walsall just 12 months later. Establishing himself as a Walsall hero he has won various Player of the Season awards, broken the clean sheet record at the Bescot and remained first choice for the last three years. In 2006 he was part of the Trinidad & Tobago side at the World Cup, though he failed to make an appearance.
But it's Ince's achievements at Gresty Road that makes him an Alex legend and the goalkeeper in our 'Team of the Noughties'.
Win FREE pizza with Vital Football!
Select your team and get 50% off if they score twice.