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Friday, October 02, 2009

Crewe have trouble finding Mr Right

Crewe Alexandra are known as the Railwaymen, but after 24 years of management under Dario Gradi, it's been more a case of London Buses with two managers coming and going in under two seasons.

Friday's sacking of Gudjon Thordarson with the Cheshire outfit languishing 15th in League Two wasn't particularly surprising.

Four straight league defeats for a side expected to challenge for promotion always left the 54-year-old under pressure.

Unfortunately for the man from Iceland, the harsh reality is that Alex fans have very quickly turned cold towards him.

Brought in at the end of last year with the club staring relegation from League One in the face, the former Stoke boss helped engineer a remarkable recovery, appearing to have saved them.

However, a poor end to the season, where they failed to win in their last 10 games, condemned them to relegation to the bottom tier for the first time in 15 years.

The fact that Thordarson's reign had seen the club move away from the footballing principles instilled by Gradi in favour of a long-ball approach always left him open to criticism.

Fine when the side were battling against the drop, fine even when Alex won four of their first six League games this term. However, when hopeful percentage balls are being played in defeat after defeat, and patience was never likely to last.

Crewe's problem stretches deeper than Thordarson however. After such an unprecedented tenure under one manager, everyone at the club is having to adapt to the reality of 21st century football. Time and patience is at a premium. Instant results are the order of the day.

Thordarson was in charge at Crewe for just nine months

They're also suffering from being spoiled under Gradi. They punched above their weight by staying in the second tier for so long, and were always treated to attractive football to watch, even if the team lost more than it won.

They are discovering that replacing a long-standing manager is even more difficult than they ever imagined it could be. Crewe and Gradi are synonymous with one another. However, is that part of the problem?

After 'moving upstairs' to accomodate his successor, Steve Holland, Gradi returned as caretaker before Thordarson's arrival. Similarly, he will take charge of tomorrow's game against Rotherham and remain at the helm until a new manager is found.

It would be churlish not to recognise that someone of his experience and wealth of knowledge can only be beneficial to a club who have survived and prospered off the back of their successful Academy system.

However, does Gradi's prescene have an unwitting negative effect on the actual first team manager?

Does any manager really want a club legend lurking in the shadows, knowing if he fails to succeed supporters will be clamouring for the former manager to return as caretaker - again?

The appointment of Holland was the club's hope to begin a new era - a young manager, well versed in the Crewe way, who would remain at the club and help keep the conveyor belt of talent going.

Thordarson's arrival smacked of a short-term measure to help them stay up, going against everything the club stood for.

The club must not be put off by the failure of the Holland experiment though. It was the right decision in all but the man they actually chose. Too often a coach cannot make the tranisition into being a manager.

Now Crewe must look for a young manager who has already shown his capability in the lower divisions. Somebody who can get the team playing the kind of football the fans expect. Somebody who will be willing to commit to creating the kind of dynasty and stability Gradi brought to Cheshire.

The sort of thing Accrington's John Coleman has done at Stanley for the last decade. The Liverpudlian ticks all the boxes Crewe need.

With the reality too that he has taken the Lancashire club, who are struggling financially, as far as he can, perhaps he requires a fresh challenge. Whether he would leave them in their hour of need is unclear however.

If so, Crewe should have in on the first train down.


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