If you want an example of a club in crisis then look no further than Crewe Alexandra. Relegated from League One last weekend with five games still to go, their record this season is abysmal: only 30 points gained, eight points adrift at the bottom and just six wins all season, with only one in the last 21 games.
This is the result of operating on one of the smallest playing budgets in the league, and with further reductions likely next season, things can only get worse. Indeed, Crewe fans are planning a protest against the manager Steve Davis before the Scunny game.
Crewe’s problems are many. This is a club with no benevolent chairman; they rely on young players coming through the academy which can later be sold on. In the past this has borne fruit in the likes Rob Jones, Neil Lennon, Danny Murphy, Seth Johnson and Dean Ashton, and brought success under the long-standing stewardship of Dario Gradi.
However, age has caught up with Gradi who has taken a back-seat role, and despite the big resources still invested in the academy, the latest crop of youngsters have not been up to the job of retaining the League One status gained in manager Steve Davis’s first season in charge in 2011/12.
Davis’s remit on taking over had been to keep Crewe in the Football League such was the pessimism at the club even then; promotion was a bonus but also a burden, as the following seasons saw them struggle against the drop until this season they finally succumbed.
So how does a team already relegated approach its remaining games? Play with unfettered freedom or resigned disinterest? By all accounts they were pretty shambolic in losing last weekend’s crucial game against local rivals Port Vale and we should expect to get at least a point from Saturday’s game. Though United manager Graham Alexander is taking nothing for granted. “We are in a professional sport,” he says, “and you have to commit to every single game. We have to make sure we are fully focused.”.
As for Davis, he is unworried by supporters’ protest against him; his thoughts have already turned to next season and he still thinks he is the man for the job. “It’s now about looking at how we can improve the squad with a small budget,” he says. “We have 14 players out of contract, we finished in the end where the budget put us and overachieved in previous seasons so in many respects you have to look for the positives as a manager.
“I know I’m fortunate to be in a position where I’m still in a job after relegation because most managers would either walk away or get sacked, I’m not that type of person, if the board decide there’s someone better out there to do the job then that’s their decision.
“But I feel I’m the right person, I did when I first took over and I’m still the right person to do the job now.”