Defence : Team Of The 'Noughties'
We continue our look at Vital Crewe's Team of the Noughties. Yesterday Clayton Ince was named as goalkeeper, now it's time to look at the back four.
Crewe Apps: 213
Crewe Goals: 3
Remembered for: Consistently steady performances for seven years.
David Wright was always the unsung hero of the Alex side. Never bursting onto the scene like a Dean Ashton or Nicky Maynard, Wright's rise from the Academy to the first team was steady in the late nineties.
He became pretty much a permanent feature in the Alex side from 2000 to 2004 occupying the right back slot. His calm assured defending made that position his own and whilst he doesn't possess blistering pace he got forward well on attacks.
Wright was also part of the 02/03 promotion winning side, playing over 40 games as vice captain he helped secure promotion back to the Championship at the first time of asking.
Improving year on year, his performances were getting him noticed once the Alex returned to the second tier. His man of the match performance at West Brom in December 2003 saw him score a rare goal, helping the Railwaymen secure a unlikely 2-2 draw at the Hawthornes and saw Dario heap the praise on his captain.
In summer 2004 Wigan Athletic followed up their interest in Wright with a £500,000 offer. Accepted, Wright went on to help Wigan get promotion to the Premiership.
Whilst the Premiership may have been a step too far for the Warrington born defender Wright went on to sign for Ipswich in 2007 where he remains a regular in the side and occasional captain for Roy Keane's men.
Crewe Apps: 11
Crewe Goals: 1
Remembered for: Classy loan spell that kick started his top flight career in Britain.
Whether Madjid 'Magic' Bougherra can be included in such a feature is up for debate but it speaks volumes about how much of an impression he made in his short time at Gresty Road.
He arrived on loan from French club Gueugnon in January 2006 till the end of the season after his agent had recommended him to the club. It took over a month before Dario gave the 23 year old Algerian his debut at the heart of Crewe's defence but once he did there was no doubting Bougherra would make a name for himself in British football.
Whilst his 11 performances weren't enough to save the Alex from relegation the fact we only lost three games in that spell was no coincidence. His flawless defending and impressive surges into the opposition half made him an instant fans favourite and a certain target for all visiting scouts.
He went on to earn Gueugnon £300,000 with a move to Sheffield Wendnesday in the summer of 2006 before moving to the Premiership with Charlton just six months later for £2.5million. In the summer of 2008 he made the move to Glasgow Rangers where he went on to become a key figure in their Champions League side.
Whilst he's not earned the Alex a penny, nor was he ever truly our own player, we saw enough of him to know he's one of the best - if not the best -defenders we've had this decade.
Crewe Apps: 242
Crewe Goals: 18
Remembered for: Being the heart of the Alex defence for the first half of the decade.
Stephen Foster is possibly the forgotten legend of CAFC in the past 10 years. With over 200 appearances for the Alex he is in the top 20 of the most played Alex players in the club's history.
Whilst Foz was never destined for the big time he came from virtually nowhere to being ever present in the Alex side for the 2000-2001 season, making his home debut as a sub against Blackburn Rovers in August 2000 alongside a young David Vaughan. He went on to score his first Alex goal days later, against Bury in the League Cup.
In 2001/2002 Foster had made one of the centre back positions his own partnering the likes of Dave Walton and Efe Sodje at the back. It was also the season he started adding goals to his game and for some reason he always scored the vital ones. A last minute header at home to Preston secured a 2-1 win for the Alex and a similar goal at Stockport that season brought home the points. Goals against Sheff Utd, Sheff Wed and Burnley also proved decisive in those games and took his tally for the season to six.
With relegation to Division Two (League One) for the 2002/2003 Foster became a big player for the Alex, making up a strong defensive line that including David Wright, David Vaughan, Efe Sodje, Dave Walton, Richard Walker and Clayton Ince, a group of defensive players that broke club records by keeping 20 clean sheets.
The departure of David Brammer in 2003 saw Foster named club captain for the new season at the age of just 23. As captain he guided Crewe to safety in the 2003/2004 season but things turned slightly sour in the 2004/2005 season when Foz made clear his intentions to leave the club once his contract expired.
He was stripped of the captaincy, with Kenny Lunt taking the armband, and an improving Foster ended his 10 year time at the club with a relegation back to League One. He went on to sign for Burnley in summer 2006 where he spent a torrid year before making the £100k switch to Barnsley.
Now a the captain of the Barnsley side and a fan favourite at the Yorkshire club his promotion season in 2002/2003 with the Alex remains his only venture outside of Championship football.
His presence in the Crewe defence for six years however make him a club legend in our eyes. Whilst he was never the star player at the club he was a steady defender and a great servant to CAFC, deserving his place in the history books.
Billy Jones (MK1, now at Preston)
Crewe Apps: 138
Crewe Goals: 9
Remembered for: His first Alex goal - a rocket volley vs Wigan.
This was a rather tough choice. We haven't been blessed with the greatest of left backs since Shaun Smith's retirement. Anthony Tonkin took the role briefly whilst David Vaughan was played out of position to cover the spot and in recent times Billy Jones mk2 has held the position... but did any impress in the role? Or were any deserving of being named in team of the noughties?
Not as much as Billy Jones MK1 in our opinion. Bursting onto the scene as a 16 year old in 2003, Billy was THE next big thing. Liverpool, Man Utd and the whole of Europe had (apparently) wanted him from the academy side and there was much hype.
He was thrown into the side in November 2003, making his full home debut in a memorable 3-0 win against Sunderland. From that moment on he was classed as a first team player at the club.
Playing beyond his years Billy was simply unflappable, whether he was asked to play left back, right back, centre back or in midfield he would go out and put in a performance. He could simply do no wrong for the first season as a first team player, his goal on his 6th start was confirmation. A superb volley from the edge of the area in off the cross bar was named goal of the season.
By the start of the 2004-2005 season Billy was considered a big part of the Alex first team till injury and illness ruled him out of most of the second half of the season.
In 2005/2006 Jones announced that he would leave Crewe at the end of the season once his contract had expired, refusing to extend in order for the club to get a bumper transfer fee. He was ever present in the side at right back and in midfield for 05/06, scoring seven goals for a side relegated to League One.
Internationally Jones has captained all England youth levels to the England U-20s and it helped Crewe argue for a bumper fee once Billy agreed to sign for Preston North End. So far Preston have paid £750k for Jones with another £250k payable if Preston are promoted to the Premiership, there is also a 20% sell-on fee.
Upon leaving the Alex Jones made a parting shot at the club, suggesting you could get away with playing 'half pace' at Gresty Road.
Needless to say there is not much respect left for Billy in Crewe fans eyes and with him now stuck in an average Preston side, and his career stalling; you wonder if another year or two under the guidance of Dario would have seen him reach his full potential?
Whilst not the most pleasant of personalties to wear the red of Crewe, you cannot argue that he hasn't been one of the better players at Gresty Road in the past 10 years and deserves his place in the Noughties Top 11.
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