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Team of the Noughties: Midfield

Ince, Wright, Foster, Bougherra and B.Jones MK1 make up the defensive line but who is in midfield for Vital Crewe's Team of the Noughties?

Right Side:

Rodney Jack

Crewe Apps: 188

Crewe Goals: 42

Remembered for: His pace and a couple of wonder goals

There are few players who brought pure excitement to Gresty Road like Rodney jack did. Signing in 1998 for a club record 750k he was an instant fan favourite and in his five years at the club justified every penny of that fee.

At his peak in the early noughties he was possibly one of the fastest players in the football league making him a big threat on the wing for the Alex. It wasn't just his pace however, few fans will forget his 30+ yard volleys against the likes of Bolton in the late nineties.

The Noughties for 'Rodders' were quite short at Gresty Road but very sweet. With his injury record cleaned up he was always one of the first names on the team sheet he terrorised defenders throughout the Championship/Division One.

Possibly his finest moment was his final season of his original spell at the club. With Dean Ashton, Rob Hulse and Steve Jones he helped dismantle any defence that got in their way. Sixteen goals that season equalled Dean Ashton's tally, and there were special ones in there - two against Port Vale, the winner at Stockport and of course a first minute goal against Premier League Man City in the League Cup.

It's a shame that Jack stalled on a new contract offer in summer 2003 leading to the club withdrawing their offer and Jack departing for Rushden & Diamonds. Whilst he was not getting any younger, Jack left with plenty more left in him and it was a shame to see it wasted at free-falling Rushden.

Jack left Rushden just 12 months later to sign for Oldham where he spent 18 torrid months, starting just five games in that period. In a surprise move he made a return to Gresty Road in the summer of 2006 at the age of 34.

Despite arriving as back up to the younger players Rodders went on to start 19 games in League One, making 11 substitute appearances. Whilst he was a little shorter on pace he occasionally showed he still had the skill, none more so than his appearance from the bench against Gillingham in 2006. Coming on at 3-1 down with 25 minutes to player, Jack turned the game on it's head, scoring and helping the Alex to an unlikely 4-3 victory.

Released in the summer of 2006 Jack now plays for neighbours Nantwich Town in the Unibond Premier.

Without a doubt the best Alex winger of the decade.

Centre Mid:

Kenny Lunt

Crewe Apps: 418

Crewe Goals: 37

Remembered for: Being ever present in the most successful Alex side ever.

You can have your David Platts, Neil Lennons and Seth Johnsons but Kenny Lunt is one player who will never lose his status as a Crewe Alexandra legend.

After breaking into the first team as a 17 year old in the late nineties, a Crewe side without Kenny Lunt soon became unimaginable. He led the club through it's most successful period with 8 years in the Championship as player and as captain.

His position in the Alex midfield was made his own by the noughts. Whilst not big in frame and not one to throw himself into crunching tackles Dario always had a fondness for Lunt, with Dario believing him to have the best footballing brain he's ever worked with.

'Ever present' doesn't come close to describing Lunt's time at Crewe. Only in his second season did he make under 40 League appearances in an Alex shirt and five straight seasons, between 00 and 05, Lunt missed just one of the 230 league games in that time. By the age of 26 Lunt was the fourth most 'capped' Crewe Alex player in history.

The Noughties saw Lunt become Crewe's ultimate set piece specialist. If he wasn't bending it like Beckham then he was planting it on Rob Hulse's head inside the six yard area. His strike of the ball and ability to read the game also made him lethal in general play too. Clocking up countless assists, his play with Rob Hulse and Dean Ashton arguably made up the best Alex side in history. In 2002/2003 Lunt topped the Division Two (League One) charts for the most assists with 20, six ahead of any other player in the Football League and only three behind Thierry Henry in the Premier League.

He was without doubt up there with the likes of Hulse and Ince in securing promotion in 02/03 and he without doubt brought the best out of Dean Ashton in the following 18 months or so. Kenny and Ashton struck up a match winning partnership following Hulse's departure for West Brom. With Ashton's movement a cut above the rest of the division there needed to be a midfielder with vision to capitalise on it and that's where Lunt came in. In Ashton's final season, where he notched up 19 goals by New Years Day, Lunt finished just second in the assists table with 14 - a large amount of those coming in the first half of the season.

Despite his clear ability however Lunt has never particularly been a fan favourite. His final season in 05/06 strangely saw more boos than cheers when Lunt took to the pitch - some fans simply looking for a scape goat for The Alex's quick demise whilst some rather annoyed at Dario's apparent favouritism. Lunt made the surprise decision to leave in summer 2006, two seasons short of making it a decade in the first team. Dario's attempts at convincing Lunt to stay failed and Lunt went on to sign for Sheffield Wednesday.

But like so many players who jump ship seem to be finding these days, the grass wasn't greener. Despite a relatively good start to his Sheff Wed career things quickly turned sour, playing just four games in his second season in Sheffield. Lunt made two loan returns to Gresty Road under Steve Holland in the 07/08 season and Dario (as caretaker) in 08/09 but with the appointment of Gudjon Thordarson Lunt spent five months on the sidelines as Thordarson refused to play the Alex legend. Now a major part of Hereford's League Two side, a 30 year old Lunt may not be the player he once was but his time at Crewe will be remembered for a long time - and who knows, maybe some day he'll return as much more than a player?

Centre Mid:

Dave Brammer

Crewe Apps: 103

Crewe Goals: 6

Remembered for: Captain fantastic

Brammer signed for the Alex in the summer of 2001 from Port Vale for the hefty fee of 500,000 just days after a pre-season friendly with the Valiants.

He made his debut on the opening day of the 2001/2002 season, coming on for the final 15 minutes in the 1-0 defeat at Grimsby. It was to be the last time he was sat on the Alex bench however. The then 26 year old went on to be the rock of the Alex side, his no-nonsense performances and captain-like tendencies made him a huge hit amongst Alex fans - despite his past with Wrexham and Port Vale.

Helping the side reach the fit round of the FA Cup in 2002, Brammer limped off in the fifth round replay against Everton at Gresty Road in February, it was ultimately his last appearance that season. His absence from the side was noticed, many fans still to this day contributing his injury to the relegation that followed in May 2002.

Upon Shaun Smith's retirement that summer Brammer was unsurprisingly named the new club captain, captain to lead the side back into the Championship at the first time of asking. Over his injury troubles Brammer played virtually every game of the campaign in the centre of the field alongside Kenny Lunt and Neil Sorvel. He undoubtedly proved himself as one of the best midfielders in the league at the time with arguably only Cardiff City's Graham Kavanagh challenging for such title.

It wasn't all love between the Crewe faithful and Brammer however. As nerves jangled in the final weeks of the season so did the relationship between fans and players. Not happy to stumble over the line to Promotion, fans started demanding more and the response they got was not too pretty. Away to Barnsley, just a couple of games before the end of the season, Brammer's frustrations started to show as he gestured to the Alex fans in the away end.

In the end all was forgotten as Crewe clinched promotion with Brammer and Dario together celebrating in the Main Stand amongst the Alex faithful. Brammer remained captain for the club's return to the second flight and vital part of the team, scoring within eight minutes of the new season at Wimbledon on day one, but pelvic injuries meant he was to make no more than 18 appearances in the entire season as he underwent the knife in a bid to cure his long standing injury.

Playing out the final month in the Alex midfield in April 2004, the only problem remaining was the small matter of a contract. With Brammer's contract up in July 2004 the summer seemed to drag and drag as Brammer talked to Dario, Dario talked to Brammer, Brammer talked to the media and the media talked to fans. There was no guessing the outcome but on July 9th 2004 Brammer signed for fierce rivals Stoke City, snubbing a new contract from Crewe.

Needless to say things between Alex fans and Brammer soured, even more so as Brammer left with a parting shot: 'I've joined a club that I feel can match my ambitions and it wasn't all about the money.'

Whilst some Alex fans will never 'forgive' Brams for his departure there is still no denying he was simply one hell of a player whilst he was with us. He went on to play over 100 games for Stoke, although the Clayheads never took to the former Vale man, before his career took a nose dive. A up and down period at Millwall was followed by a final spell at Port Vale in the 2008/2009 season before he retired in summer 2009.

Left Mid:

David Vaughan

Crewe Apps: 209

Crewe Goals: 20

Remembered for: His crazy little runs.

David Vaughan is probably not one of those players who instantly sticks out in your mind when you think of the Noughties, which is a shame considering his impact. In his seven years a professional at the club following his progression through the academy Vaughan played over 200 games in red, scoring 18 times.

'The Welsh Wizard' made his debut right at the start of the decade, a surprise inclusion as Blackburn Rovers made the visit to Gresty Road. It's fair to say that a 16 year old Vaughan struggled with the pace of the match and the strength of the Blackburn side, Vaughan was substituted at half time not to make the first team again for another 16 months. In December 2001 Dario re-introduced Vaughan to the first team picture and Vaughany was soon making his mark.

After a substitute appearance against Walsall on Boxing Day 2001 Vaughan made the starting line up for the following game at Millwall. He fast became a real part of the first team, playing a part in the FA Cup run, starting both games against Everton and a further 11 league games.

The following season Vaughan played over 30 games in the 02/03 promotion season, using his versatility to switch between a problematic left back spot and the left wing. Whilst he at one time became the club's first choice left back it was on the wing that Vaughan looked most comfortable. The same season saw Vaughan break into the Wales international set up, progressing from the Wales U-19s he played several times in the Under-21 squad before his big break in May 2003, starting for the Wales senior team in a friendly in the USA.

The 2003 summer arrival of Anthony Tonkin allowed Vaughan to vacate the left back spot and play his more natural role on the left wing. The move produced some stunning runs from Vaughan, in particular one in a 2-4 victory over Derby in 04/05 in which he beat up to 7 Derby players the length of the pitch only for a great save to deny him a great goal.

By 2005 Vaughan had become a regular in the Wales international set up, playing in their World Cup 2006 qualifying campaign. Surprisingly however that wasn't enough of an advert to tempt anyone to prise him away from Gresty Road. He remained for the return to League One where he endured an injury hit season, playing only 29 league games.

With his contract only having a year to run in August 2007 Vaughan made a surprise departure from Gresty Road when Spanish side Real Sociedad, then managed by Chris Coleman, offered 300,000 for the Welshman. Vaughan completed the switch a week into the new season but there was no real fairytale in Spain; Vaughan made just nine appearances in his 12 months at Sociedad before his return to Britain where he signed for Blackpool. Now a big part of Blackpool's Championship side Vaughan seems to be on top of his game.

Whilst Vaughany's write up is far from as spectacular as the likes of Ashton or Lunt, he remained steady eddie throughout his time at the club and with six years of first team action at the Alex he is definitely not one to be forgotten.




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The Journalist

Writer: Dink Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday December 18 2009

Time: 6:04PM

 

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