Date:Wednesday January 23 2008
Between 1983 and 2005, things at Gresty Road were exciting, history making and record breaking but it's now time to enter a new era.
There is no doubt in anyone's mind that what Dario Gradi, Neil Baker and chairman John Bowler have brought to the club is beyond what any dead end Division Four football club could dream of. All good things come to an end though and after three years of a sharp decline, maybe now is the time.
You can go back to New Year's day 2005 to find the defining moment. A 2-0 away win at Leeds had moved the Alex up to 8th in the Championship, we were just six points off the play-off spots with Dean Ashton, the league's top scorer by around 4 or 5 goals. Within a week Ashton had been sold to Norwich City for £3million, maybe not a major shock but certainly a major blow.
Some may say hindsight is a wonderful thing, but at the time I felt and knew it was wrong to sell him. I didn't feel it benefitted anyone at the time apart from Norwich. We lost the best striker in the league & Ashton joined a side who only had 4 months left in the Premiership.
Had Ashton stayed he would have been on for well over 30 goals that season, adding further to his value. The summer would have seen more established clubs move for him. His goals would have kept us not only in the league but possibly in the top half of the Championship; that then has a major knock on effect. It'd have been easier to sell the club to potential signings, it'd have seen more income from prize money and it'd have attracted more fans and season ticket holders.
As it was though, we struggled to even stay up that season. We won just one game after Ashton left, and that came on the last day of the season. In simple terms; we won 39 points in our first 27 games and we won just 11 points in our final 19 games. We avoided relegation by one goal. So you return to the knock on effect of that and see fans desert the club, the struggle to sign good quality players, less money to spend.... it goes on. Needless to say the following summer was a disaster, we failed to build a good quality team and relegation soon followed.
The decline still hasn't stopped, and why not? Last season was meant to be a transition period. A transition period that saw three of our better players leave the club and very little coming in to replace them. We made £3 million this summer just gone,£3 million in League One and we still stare relegation in the face.
Everyone appreciates football clubs can't run on nothing, there are bills to pay and a club to keep alive - but look at the facts. We've made just short of £9 million in the past 5 years and spent less than £400,000 of that on the playing squad. The apparent yearly losses add up to roughly £4.5 million in the past 5 years; so do we know where the other £4 million has gone?
It's not so much that the money needs spending though, something within the club needs changing; mainly the attitude. I'm not the only one who's sick to death of the club playing up to it's 'most admired' image, or the likes of Bowler and Gradi continually telling us how lucky we are, or Steve Holland telling us we're a good side. We're not.
Times change. We're grateful for what they've bought and maybe it was acceptable to be a proud Championship feeder club, but a League Two feeder club is not our ambition. If the academy can no longer keep us progressing then maybe it's time to look at it and decide if spending so much time, money and effort on it is best for Crewe Alexandra Football Club. Our football club, not Dario's toy which he decides who plays with it and how they play with it.
I do believe the academy can help us progress. The profits we make, even with the yearly losses, are huge for this level of football but it seems there are some inside the club far too scared to let go of those profits once in a while for the good of the club.
Bowler, Gradi, Baker and Holland need to ask themselves what they want from and for this club. The fans need to ask themselves the same. I doubt the answers match and something's got to give.
We're entering the final week of the transfer window and there are no signs of new players. I said in December, no new players will mean relegation. I stick by it, we will be in League Two without some significant signings this month.
We shouldn't be accepting it though, yet we do nothing but. IF we go down then what will happen this summer? Probably nothing, the above mentioned four will feed us some more interviews about how the club is 'progressing' and their aim is for promotion, and so on. We've heard it all before and none of it has any weight.
There are 91 football clubs whose fans force managers out, chairmen out and even force the sale of their club. At Crewe it seems the only forcing is done by the club; they're forcing fans to stay away through dreadful football and absolutely no vision of a future or ambition.
So how exactly do we stop the rot? I have no idea. Sack a couple? Trust them? Accept a natural end to the glory years? It's yet to be decided... it's yet to be even thought about. The club don't seem concerned one bit, there doesn't seem to be anything to be concerned about in their eyes.
I just want the club to take action somehow. The club clearly isn't right at the moment, we're in decline and heading for the basement. Whether it's ripping the structure apart and starting fresh, or spending £600k on 4 or 5 new players then it's got to be done because we can't sit here and watch us fall any futher.
The Gradi years were great and glorious, but maybe the dream is over and it's time to move on.
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Date:Wednesday January 23 2008
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