Your Views - Champagne Charlie
FOR CREWE ALEXANDRA 2008 READ MANCHESTER UNITED 1969...
I can`t imagine there have been too many comparisons made between the Alex and Manchester United down the years but I think the one I`m about to make is relevant to the Alex`s current position . I`d even go as far as to say it could give us a few answers to some of the questions that are being asked about what the future holds for Crewe Alexandra Football Club.
First of all we need to rewind almost 40 years to 1969. Lily the Pink was top of the hit parade, Richard Nixon was on the verge of becoming the 37th President of the United States and the Beatles were just a fortnight away from performing on the roof of Apple Records in London. Meanwhile, back up north, Sir Matt Busby announced that he would be stepping down as manager of Manchester United.
Busby, then a weary-looking 59 year old, had been at the helm at Old Trafford for almost a quarter of a century when he decided it was "time to make way for a younger man". The man given the unenviable task of filling Busby`s huge boots was Wilf McGuiness, a former United player and reserve team coach. After a stint as senior coach at the club, McGuiness officially took the managerial hot seat in June 1970 - by December of that year he had been sacked and was back coaching the reserves.
Granted, Steve Holland has already lasted a little longer than poor old Wilf but he must realise the difficulty he faces in establishing himself as the main man at Gresty Road. At Thursday night`s AGM, it was notable that a rather subdued gathering of 250+ supporters only came to life when a certain Dario Gradi entered the room. It`s my belief that there is one good reason for that: Dario Gradi IS Crewe Alexandra.
Now I know as well as anybody else that no one person is bigger than a club, but the impact that Dario has had in his 25 years at Crewe is nothing short of extraordinary. 1983 is a long, long time ago - I was only 4 years old myself - but I know the history of the club well enough to know that we`d never had it so good and, truthfully, may never again.
Going back to Man United for a moment if I may, they were European Champions in 1968, 6 years and 3 managers later they were relegated from the top flight for the only time in the post-war history of the club. Granted, they bounced back, finally winning the league title some 26 years after Busby had achieved it with Best, Charlton, Law and Co. That it took a club of United`s size 16 years to find the right man to replace their legendary manager doesn`t bode well for the Alex. United could, and did, attract the cream of football management but the ever looming shadow of Busby was too much for any of them to handle until Alex Ferguson arrived.
So we find ourselves with a bit of a dilemma I guess- Is Crewe Alexandra better off with or without the services of Dario Gradi MBE? Is his presence, as Busby`s was for the best part of 20 years at Old Trafford, going to stop us from making progress under a new manager? Or, as was mooted at the AGM, do we need Dario around to continue to attract a certain calibre of player to the club?
It`s a toughie, I know, but the evidence of the season so far suggests we could be better off without Dario lurking behind the scenes. To win over the Alex faithful is a difficult enough task for Holland as it is without the added pressure of a living legend sitting in the background.
So for me, it`s got to be a big thank you to the man who dared to dream that Crewe Alexandra could play in the second tier of English football and who made that dream a reality with a stylish brand of football to boot. But, like all good things, it has to come to an end. Dario`s successes are now in the past and, as hard as this might be to take, for the club to move forward his tenure at the club has to be too.Champagne Charlie