A Case for the Defence
A Case for the Defence
Welcome to the start of what will be hopefully a weekly column from myself, motivation permitting!
It seems pretty certain now Dario will be in charge next season, in fact so much so Gradi has exempt himself from the last three games to go 'scouting,` or as I like to put it: 'Scouting whilst avoiding any more abuse from the supporters after the team`s record has declined on Gudjon`s since Gradi returned to the helm and since he didn`t deliver on the promise that he was brought back in to re-ignite our playoff hopes; he now proclaims he was our saviour from relegation to non-league which has dumbfounded and frustrated the paying supporters even more and added justification to those that choose to stay away until he is relieved of first team duties.` Not that he really cares what the supporters think anyway.
In all seriousness I hope Dario will be out scouting and blimey does he need to be if he is to keep his hand in first team affairs and try and avoid a public lynching and growing amnesia to all his previous achievements at the club!
Some boring stats now - The Alex have conceded 71 goals so far in the league this season, the second worst to rock bottom Darlington. Another record we are claiming the silver medal to Darlo in is clean sheets; again we have the second worst record in the league, only 7 to our name.
If the league went on goals scored we would be in the top 7! But nobody in the current playoff positions or above has conceded more than 50 goals, a position we should be aspiring to, according to Chairman John Bowler when Thordarson was sacked and to any Crewe player, officials and fan with any ambition. If you consider Torquay are currently one league place below us in 19th and have so far conceded 55 to our 71 goals, it shows which part of the Alex squad is in serious, serious need on an overhaul - the defence.
Dario has never been famed for his production of defenders or defensive tactical ability, for ten of arguably his most successful years at the club he only had to worry about filling two of four defensive slots; such was the reliability and commitment of Alex former greats Shaun Smith and Steve Macaulay.
The Alex haven`t had a half decent defence for years now though since Macaulay and Smith`s departure and it`s no coincidence it hasn`t improved since our descent from the Championship to League Two ignominy began. When there was money available then manager Steve Holland decided to spend it all on forwards, seemingly average ones in hindsight, again no surprise that our slide has continued.
More stats time, here are the league goals we have conceded over the last five seasons:
9/10 League Two (with three still to play) - 71
08/09 League One - 82
07/08 League One - 65
06/07 League One - 72
05/06 - Championship - 86
It makes grim reading doesn`t it; in fact it seems stupid that we haven`t tried to resolve the issue earlier and if in fact the club have made a concerted effort to suss our defensive incapability`s, they`ve made a poor job of it! But then we are in League Two so there are lots of people accountable I guess.
Enough with the stats, I`ve proven our defence is as generous to the opposition as the Crewe board were in giving Gudjon Thordarson the manager`s job. Basically we can`t defend with any competency or quality on a consistent basis, fact.
So what is Dario going to do about it, the self-confessed 'right man for the job?`
The great man has already admitted it was partly his fault we didn`t sign centre-half Craig Dawson before the season began. The same Dawson who has since joined Rochdale, aided in their promotion to League Two, taken the League Two Player of the Year award and subsequently attracted Premiership scouts and a rumoured £1 million price tag on his head. Admittedly he could have been a flop at Crewe, but you don`t ask, you don`t get.
If Dario is the man for the job and he is going to turn the first team on its head in one season, because surely even he at 69 can`t go on for more than one season as interim manager (Something that I will touch on in the future,) then the defence has to be overhauled just to give the rest of the team a fighting chance of a reasonable league finish, and to stop an unthinkable but not unlikely slide into non-league.
The current defence simply can`t cut it and whether they`re poor individuals or just poor as a unit, a shake-up is a must or the team as a collective is going nowhere fast.
John Brayford is the most consistent of the back four currently, not an accolade he will be proud of due to the lack of competition, but the lad has proven ability and does look a cut above in League Two. So that`s one place sewn up for next season right?
Well Nigel Clough at Derby started the rumblings a while ago that he wants to take Brayford to Pride Park and Dario has recently fuelled them saying they`re will definitely be good players leaving in the summer, with Clough recently re-affirming his interest, it seems a matter of when rather that if he leaves. Talk of Brayford playing at centre half in the remaining games is likely to be to add to his value for any watching managers and scouts, rather than earmarking him for a role he could play at Crewe next season.
Harry Worley looked good when he first came under Gudjon but since has looked half the player and it unlikely to be offered a contract, Danny O` Donnell isn`t nicknamed O`Dire by a section of Crewe fans in a playful way, at times that name has seemed kind to say the least to a player who has shown he has the quality on his day, but once every five games with the other four filled with gaffs isn`t what we need, he SHOULD be released, no doubt Gradi is readying his new contract as I type.
The two Histon boys signed last summer have had little to no impact. Mat Michel-King has been steady but his lack of league experience and an experienced partner next to him have shown up some of his failings, could be an asset if the right defensive partner can be found to compliment him, especially as he has shown he has the fight and leadership qualities we need.
Patrick Ada has hardly had a chance under Gradi since the disastrous performance by him and the team at York, he was made an unfortunate scapegoat from which he never recovered but such is Dario`s nature. He certainly has the heart and desire to succeed and may get his chance to impress in the final games of the season due to injuries. He needs to win over Gradi though and with his scouting schedule Ada may not get chance to show the man at the top what he can do; his pending departure in the close season seems likely if we found a suitor.
Full back on the opposite side to Brayford, Matt Tootle, looks certain for a starting berth next term. Currently playing on the left side, being a right footed player, in theory he could be moved over to fill the gap likely to be created by Brayford`s departure. Although his lack of height and power give him a significant disadvantage to most in League Two, the lad could be a big player for the club.
Carl Martin, another player somewhat victimised by Gradi will be looking to push for a starting place as well, his inexperience and already blotted copybook may mean his chances will be limited, to be honest experience is what we need, everybody can see it. Steve Davis` son Harry has been touted as a player to make his mark in defence next season but after a disastrous loan spell at neighbours Nantwich Town, where by all accounts he looked way out of his depth, maybe he will have to play a waiting game.
To finish, who knows what Gradi`s thinking is, he has identified the need for a defender to be able to head the ball out of our own box and score goals at the other end...Dawson has scored 9 at Rochdale this season just to add.
Three of those type of defenders and we might be in business but the physical, committed, experienced, tough tackling defenders we need aren`t in Dario`s remit and unfortunately his regular commitment to this attitude of no-physicality is one of Gradi`s pitfalls in his increasingly volatile relationship with Crewe fans.
If Dario has any ideals on getting promoted then the defence clearly needs an upgrade, the stats don't lie.
If he wants to turn the first team into a circus and parade his academy starlets then we have no chance and they'll be very few supporters left to see it, but that arguments for another time.
Plenty to consider for all concerned.
Look out for more ramblings soon...