Crewe Alexandra F.C.

Crewe Alexandra F.C.
Full name Crewe Alexandra Football Club
Nickname(s) The Railwaymen, The Alex
Founded 1877 (1877) (as Crewe)
Ground Gresty Road
Ground Capacity 10,153
Chairman John Bowler
Manager Steve Davis
League League Two
2015–16 League One, 24th (relegated)
Website Club home page

Crewe Alexandra Football Club is a professional association football club based in the town of Crewe, Cheshire, England. Nicknamed The Railwaymen because of the town's links with the rail industry, they play at Gresty Road. The team compete in League Two, the fourth tier of the English football league system.

The club was formed in 1877 and named after Princess Alexandra. It was a founding member of the Football League Second Division in 1892, but only lasted four years in the League. Since re-entering the competition in 1921, they have mostly remained in the lower divisions. Crewe's only major honour is the Football League Trophy which they won in 2013. They have also won several minor trophies, including the Cheshire Premier Cup and the Cheshire Senior Cup.

In recent decades, the club has been associated with manager Dario Gradi whose 24-year tenure between 1983 and 2007 made him the longest-serving manager in English football; he had a further two-year spell in the role from 2009 to 2011. Gradi is known for focusing on youth development and promoting attractive, technical football. Notable players brought through the Crewe youth system include former internationals Rob Jones, Neil Lennon, Danny Murphy, Seth Johnson and Dean Ashton. Other notable players to have made their name at Crewe in that time include Geoff Thomas, David Platt and Robbie Savage.


Early years (1877–1921)

Crewe Alexandra were formed in 1877 as Crewe Football Club, separate from the successful Crewe Cricket Club, and named after Princess Alexandra.[1][2] They were based at the Alexandra Recreation Ground and played their first match against North Staffs that same year, a match that ended 1–1. In 1883, Crewe Alexandra's first match in the FA Cup was against Scottish club Queen's Park of Glasgow, losing 10–0.[3] In 1888, the club reached the FA Cup semi-finals, defeating Derby County and Middlesbrough en route, before going out to Preston North End. Crewe were founding members of the Football League Second Division in 1892, having previously been members of the Football Alliance, but lost their league status in 1896 after only four seasons. The club left the Alexandra Recreation Ground shortly before the end of the 1895–96 season, and after playing at a number of different venues, including in nearby Sandbach, they moved to the first Gresty Road ground in 1897. In 1906 the current Gresty Road ground was rebuilt to the west of the original site.[4]


Chart of table positions of Crewe Alexandra in the Football League.

Crewe rejoined the Football League in 1921, during which season a record crowd of 15,102 packed into Gresty Road to watch Crewe entertain local rivals Stoke City, a game The Potters won 2–0. Crewe earned their first honours by winning the Welsh Cup in 1936 and 1937, before being barred from entering (not least since they were not in Wales). In 1936, Bert Swindells scored his 100th League goal for Crewe Alexandra.[5] He went on to score 126 goals for the club, a record that still stands today.[6]

1955 saw Crewe embark on a sequence where they did not win away from home for 56 matches. The dismal run ended with a 1–0 win at Southport.

One of Crewe's most famous matches took place against Spurs in the FA Cup in 1960. A new record attendance of 20,000 saw lowly Crewe hold Spurs to a 2–2 draw on 30 January, with Bert Llewellyn and Merfyn Jones scoring for the Railwaymen. On 3 February, Tottenham convincingly won the replay 13–2, which remains a record defeat for the club. Llewellyn and Nev Coleman scored for Crewe.[5]

1961 saw Crewe's most notable win in their history, Jimmy McGuigan's side defeated Chelsea 2–1 in the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge. That particular Chelsea side contained the former Crewe player Frank Blunstone as well as Jimmy Greaves, Peter Bonetti and Terry Venables. The Crewe goals were scored by Billy Stark and Barrie Wheatley. Spurs won by a more modest 5–1 in the Fourth Round. In 1963, Crewe gained promotion for the first time in their history with a 1–0 win over Exeter City. Frank Lord became the local hero, scoring the only goal in front a crowd of 9,807. Lord also holds the record for most hat-tricks for the club, eight during his time at Gresty Road.

In the 1964–65 season, Terry Harkin scored a record 35 league goals for Crewe. 1977 saw Tommy Lowry play his record-breaking 475th and last game for the Railwaymen. 1979 would see manager Warwick Rimmer's most notable signing when Bruce Grobbelaar joined Crewe and played his first match against Wigan Athletic. During the season he scored from the penalty spot against York City and kept eight clean-sheets in his 24 matches played. In the same year the club went a record 15 matches without winning at Gresty Road.

The period from the 1950s to the early 1980s was generally not a successful time for the club, and few would have argued with Michael Palin's comment, in the 1979 BBC Great Railway Journeys of the World documentary when, in a shot over Gresty Road filmed from the roof of the adjacent Rail House he described Crewe as "like those other railway towns, Swindon and Doncaster, possessed of a football team which is perpetually propping up the bottom of the Fourth Division". Indeed, between 1894 and 1982, Crewe finished in last place in the Football League eight times, more than any other league club.

Gradi era (1983–2007)

In June 1983, Crewe appointed Milan-born Dario Gradi as manager. At that time, Crewe had again just avoided being voted out of the Football League. Gradi quickly gained a reputation for developing young talent, allowing Steve Walters to become the youngest ever player to pull on a Crewe shirt: aged just 16 years and 119 days he played against Peterborough United on 7 May 1988.[7] Gradi's efforts paid off in 1989 when Crewe won promotion to the Third Division. They went back down two years later, but were promoted again in 1994. In the same year, Neil Lennon became the first Crewe Alexandra player to gain an International cap for 60 years when he was selected to play for Northern Ireland against Mexico. Gradi then led his charges to Division One in 1997, after victory over Brentford in the Division Two play-off final, and kept his team there until 2002, despite a club income on which many more lowly clubs could not survive. Meanwhile, Gradi celebrated his 1,000th game in charge of Crewe on 20 November 2001 – an away fixture at Carrow Road, the home of Norwich City.

After one season in the Division Two the club were promoted back to Division One at the end of the 2002–03 season, having finished in second place; the first time the club had finished in the top two of any division, and the club prepared for life in Division 1.

Although managing to retain their place in the Division 1 in the 2003–04 season, at the start of the 2004–05 season they were rated one of the likeliest teams to be relegated from the newly renamed 'Championship'. In the event, they put in a good showing in the first half of the season; comfortably in the top half of the table, but after selling Dean Ashton to Norwich City for a record £3 million in the January 2005 transfer window, Crewe failed to win any more games until the final match of the season, when they defeated Coventry City 2–1 and narrowly escaped relegation on goal difference. The following year they were not so fortunate. Despite a good run towards the end of the 2005–06 season, they were relegated to League 1.

Crewe were named the "Most Admired Club" in the 2006 Football League Awards, sponsored by The League Paper and FourFourTwo Magazine.[8]


By the summer of 2007, Gradi was the longest-serving manager in English league football; he had completed 24 years in sole charge of the club, although assistant manager Neil Baker took temporary charge between 22 September and 17 October 2003 while Gradi underwent heart surgery (Crewe only managed one point while Baker was in charge). On 20 April 2007 Crewe Alexandra announced that, from 1 July 2007, Gradi would take up a new role as the club's Technical Director while gradually allowing newly appointed first-team coach Steve Holland control of the team.

Holland's first season in this role, 2007–08, was a disappointment as the club narrowly avoided relegation after finishing 20th with 50 points.[9] That summer Holland spent half a million pounds on new signings, including Calvin Zola, Anthony Elding and goalkeepers Steve Collis and Adam Legzdins, while striker Nicky Maynard joined Bristol City for a club record fee of £2.25 million. However, despite a positive pre-season, including a win over Premiership club Hull City, Crewe took only nine points from their first 16 games.

Following pressure from fans, the board relieved Steve Holland of his duties as first team coach in November 2008, and re-appointed Gradi as caretaker manager. Gradi's first game back in charge was a 3–0 defeat at home to local rivals Stockport County. On 24 December 2008 the Icelandic former manager of local rivals Stoke City, Gudjon Thordarson, was appointed as Holland's successor, though Gradi remained in charge of the team for a further six days before resuming his Technical Director role. Thordarson's first game in charge was a 2–2 draw away at Millwall in the FA Cup 3rd round, but although Thordarson received the Manager of the Month award for February, the team suffered a poor end-of-season run, not winning for 10 games, and were relegated to League Two. On 18 June 2009, Steve Davis was appointed Assistant Manager to Gudjon Thordarson. Davis left his role as manager of Nantwich Town, where he spent five successful years, gaining two promotions. Davis replaced former assistant Neil Baker, who was moved to a new scouting role within the club.

Return of Dario Gradi (2009–2011)

On 2 October 2009, after nine months in charge, Thordarson was sacked after a run of poor results.[10] Dario Gradi was reinstated as caretaker manager in time for the following day's match against Rotherham. Despite lingering close to the playoff places for the majority of the season, another run of poor form saw the club finish in 18th place, only five places above the relegation zone. Gradi responded to this disappointment by refusing to take the team on a pre-season tour, stating that he "doesn't want to reward the players for what happened this season".

The club finished 10th in League Two in their 2010–11 season and also ended up with the League 2 golden boot winner: Clayton Donaldson scored 29 goals, but moved to Brentford in July 2011.

On 10 November 2011, the club announced that Dario Gradi had stepped down as manager and would return to his previous role as Director of Football focusing on youth development.[11]

Seasons 2011–2016

Steve Davis was appointed manager, and led the team to a 16-match unbeaten run in early 2012 up to 7th position, earning the club a play-off place.[12] Crewe defeated Southend United in the semi-final with a 1–0 win at home in the first leg and a 2–2 draw at Roots Hall, extending the unbeaten run to a club-record 18 matches[13] and securing a play-off final against Cheltenham Town at Wembley on 27 May 2012 which they won 2–0 and earned promotion.

Before the 2012–13 season started, Crewe sold Nick Powell to Manchester United, and on transfer deadline day (31 August 2012) captain Ashley Westwood was sold to Aston Villa. However, with new players coming into the first team, Crewe won the Football League Trophy, beating Southend United 2–0 in the final at Wembley in April 2013.[14] The team finished 13th in League One, ending the season by fielding a team whose starting 11 were all Crewe Academy graduates.[15][16]

On 22 February 2014, for 33 minutes of a match at Port Vale, two brothers played on opposite sides against each other – Crewe's Harry Davis and Joe Davis of Port Vale – while their father, Steve Davis, was manager of one of the teams (Crewe Alexandra).[17][18]

In March 2014, Crewe chairman John Bowler (elected chairman in 1987) was honoured with the Contribution to League Football Award at The Football League Awards 2014.[19] Dario Gradi had earlier won the same award, in 2011. In December 2014, it was announced that Bowler had, like Gradi (in January 1998),[20] been awarded an MBE for services to football.[21]

On 3 May 2014 Crewe ensured their place in League One with a 2–1 home victory over Preston North End ending the 2013–14 Season in 19th place four points above relegation. Although the season had not been successful for the first team, the Under-21s won the Professional Development League Two title with a 1–0 win over QPR on 30 April 2014; Max Clayton scored the goal.[22] The under-18s were runners-up in their Development League.

Crewe started the 2014–15 season poorly, accumulating just four points from the first 11 League games. Some sustained runs of better results pulled the club out of the relegation places, but, needing a home draw against Bradford City to secure safety, Crewe lost 0–1 and had to rely on favourable results elsewhere to ensure League One football for another year, finishing two points above the bottom four in 20th position.[23]

The following season started in a similar pattern, with the team winning just two of their first 15 league games, and crashing out of the FA Cup in the first round, defeated at Gresty Road by non-league Eastleigh,[24] forcing Davis to defend his position as the 'right man' for the job.[25] Crewe's relegation to League Two was confirmed following a 3–0 defeat at Port Vale on 9 April 2016, with five games remaining.[26]

Player development

During Gradi's tenure the club gained a reputation for its youth policy, and earned official status as an FA Youth Academy. By concentrating on developing its own players the club remained profitable (a rarity in lower division football at the time) by selling them on after they have gained experience with Crewe. The Academy is known to stress technical excellence, which accords with Gradi's aim to have his sides play attractive, passing football.

Players who passed through the ranks at Crewe include the England international players Geoff Thomas and David Platt, Welsh international Robbie Savage, and Northern Ireland internationals Neil Lennon and Steve Jones (Platt was the most successful, totalling more than £20 million in transfers and captaining the England team). All these were youngsters signed from other clubs, but Gradi also had considerable success in nurturing Crewe's own trainees – most notably full England internationals Rob Jones, Danny Murphy, Seth Johnson and Dean Ashton and Wales international David Vaughan.

In 2004 the BBC's Football Focus asked fans of all professional football clubs in England and Scotland to vote for their cult hero. For Crewe, Seth Johnson won with 59% of the vote; Danny Murphy came second with 33%, and Craig Hignett third with 8%.[27]


Main article: Gresty Road

Until 1896 Crewe played at the Alexandra Recreation Ground, located just to the north of the modern-day Gresty Road. After playing at a variety of venues in 1896 and 1897, including in nearby Sandbach, the club returned to the same area of Crewe to play at the first Gresty Road ground, located to the south-east of the original stadium. In 1906 the ground was demolished to make way for some new railway lines, and a new Gresty Road stadium was built on a site directly to the west.[4][28]

The ground is composed of four stands:

Supporters and rivalries

Crewe's fans were the first to sing the famous football song "Blue Moon" (with lyrics that do not quite match the Rodgers and Hart original).[30] The song was a response to the gloomy days at Gresty Road during the mid-1900s, and reflects the colour of the Alex away strip, which only the more steadfast and determined fans would travel to see. The song has since been sung by fans of Manchester City, although their rendition was highlighting the colour of their strips as opposed to simply copying Crewe's supporters which has been a trending ideology amongst Crewe followers.

Crewe's main rivals are fellow English Football League team Port Vale. The clubs have been involved in 73 games since 1892 (8 games against Burslem Port Vale); overall, Crewe have won 19 games, Port Vale have won 33, with the teams drawing 21 games.[31][32] The rivalry (known by some as the A500 Derby) intensified after the millennium, when both clubs were in League One and Two. Close encounters between the two clubs since 2010 have resulted in violence and arrests.[33][34][35][36] On 22 February 2014, Crewe beat Vale 3–1, at Vale Park and there was trouble before, during and after the game, with several arrests made, flares thrown on the pitch,[37] and a scuffle between rival supporters in the executive boxes.[38] The first meeting of the 2014–15 season saw Crewe beat Port Vale 2–1; again trouble flared with Cheshire Police confirming five arrests were made.[39] The sides met again in January 2015, at Vale Park. Crewe won the game 1–0 to seal their first league double over Port Vale. Two arrests were made at the game, with minor disturbances between rival fans after the match.[40]

Crewe also maintain smaller rivalries with Wrexham, Shrewsbury Town and Stoke City. There are also traditional local Cheshire derbies with Chester City and Stockport County. The Railwaymen's rivalry with Stockport intensified somewhat in 2009 when Stockport all but relegated Crewe from League One, after beating them 4–3 at Edgeley Park.[41] Crewe then returned the favour in 2011, when they beat County 2–0 at Gresty Road on 30 April.[42] This confirmed County's relegation to non-League football.


While on a pre-season tour in July 2013 seven players were arrested and bailed over an alleged rape,[43] though the police later said no further action would be taken.[44]

English football sexual abuse scandal

On 16 November 2016, former Crewe defender Andy Woodward revealed that he had been the victim of child sexual abuse by former football coach Barry Bennell (convicted as a paedophile in 1998) at the club in the 1980s.[45][46][47] The club was criticised for its lack of response to the Woodward revelations:

"Yet there are so many questions that have never been satisfactorily answered. ... What a cop-out, what a dereliction of duty, for the club, the directors and their media department to think this can be swatted away like a bothersome fly."[48]

Club chairman John Bowler finally responded to the revelations on Monday 21 November, by which time it was reported that six other individuals had contacted the police, and that the Football Association was setting up a helpline.[49] On 22 November, The Guardian reported that Crewe team mate Steve Walters had been another of Bennell's victims,[50] while Woodward criticised Crewe for failing to apologise:

"... not one person from Crewe Alexandra has ever contact me to see if I was OK or to say they were really sorry this happened at their football club. Even now, they’re still failing to say they are really sorry this happened. I need them to say sorry. Everyone who was involved – and there are people coming forward every day – will want them to say sorry but unfortunately this statement doesn’t surprise me and it feels like to me there is almost an air of arrogance on their part."[51]

As two players from other clubs, David White and Paul Stewart, made similar sex abuse revelations about Bennell[52] and an unnamed coach,[53] Dario Gradi was pressed by The Independent[54] and The Guardian "to say more about what he knew and when."[55] On 24 November, Gradi released a statement saying he knew nothing of Bennell's crimes:

I would like to express sympathy to the victims of Barry Bennell not only at Crewe Alexandra, but at other clubs in the North West. The first I knew of Barry Bennell’s crimes was when he was arrested in the United States in 1994. I knew nothing of his crimes before this time when he was employed by us. No-one at the Football Club knew of Bennell’s crimes until his arrest in 1994 and his subsequent prosecution in the United Kingdom. The football club also co-operated fully with the authorities in 2003. The club are in the process of a review and I won’t be making any further comment until this is finalised."[56]

On 25 November, Hamilton Smith, a director at Crewe Alexandra from 1986 to 1990 told the Guardian that the club heard an allegation that Bennell had sexually abused a junior footballer. However, Bennell was allowed to stay at the club, despite the then chairman, Norman Rowlinson, recommending that the club "get him out", so long as Bennell was not left alone with boys and was stopped from arranging overnight stays.[57] Smith said: "I'm incredibly angry the club continue to refute that they knew anything about suspicions of Bennell’s activities. This was discussed at the club’s top level."[57]

Smith said fellow directors did not want to rely on hearsay evidence and local gossip. Smith later met Tony Pickerin, the FA’s head of education and child protection and requested an investigation into the care of children at Gresty Road. However, he only received a three-line letter from Pickerin saying the FA had “investigated the issues and is satisfied that there is no case to answer.”[57]

On 26 November the club announced it would be holding an independent review into how they dealt with historical child sex abuse allegations: "an independent review, to be conducted via the appointment of external legal counsel, is the correct way forward".[58] On 27 November, another former Crewe player, Anthony Hughes, revealed that he too had been abused by Bennell.[59]



As of 21 February 2016[60]

Current squad

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Position Player
1 England GK Ben Garratt
2 England DF Oliver Turton
3 England DF Jon Guthrie
4 England DF Harry Davis
5 Wales DF George Ray
6 England DF Ben Nugent
7 England FW Ryan Lowe
8 Scotland MF James Jones
9 England FW Chris Dagnall
10 Wales FW Callum Saunders
11 England MF George Cooper
12 England MF Liam Smith (on loan from Newcastle United)
No. Position Player
13 Wales GK Dave Richards
14 Ivory Coast DF Zoumana Bakayogo
15 England MF Danny Hollands
17 Nigeria FW Daniel Udoh
18 England MF Billy Bingham
20 England FW Charlie Kirk
21 England MF Ryan Wintle
22 England MF Alex Kiwomya (on loan from Chelsea)
23 England DF Perry Ng
25 England MF Callum Ainley
26 England GK Kieran Harrison
36 England MF Tom Lowery

Youth Academy

Crewe Alexandra L.F.C

Full international players

1John Pearson is the only player to represent England at full international level (i.e.: not at schoolboy, under-17, under 21, etc.) while on the books of Crewe Alexandra.


Current management & coaching staff

As at 24 August 2015.[61][62]

Name Nationality Role
Steve Davis  England Manager
James Collins  England First Team Coach
Rob Sharp  England Head Physiotherapist
Andy Franks  England Fitness Coach
Dario Gradi MBE  England Technical Director
Alex Morris  England Assistant Academy Director (u21 manager)
Kenny Lunt  England Assistant Academy Director (u18 manager)
Lee Bell  England Assistant u18 Manager
Neil Baker  England Head of Recruitment
Phil Swift  England Academy Recruitment Officer
David Artell  England Academy Operations Manager[63]
Paul Antrobus  England Academy Admin Secretary
Nick Oakley  England Head of Academy Sports Science and Medicine
Charlie Owen  Wales Academy Sports Scientist
Charlie Ager  England Performance Analyst
Gerald Parton  England Performance Analyst

Past managers

As of 10 April 2016. Only competitive matches are counted.

Name Nat From To Record
W.C. McNeill
England August 1892 May 1894 50 12 10 28 24.00
J.G. Hall
England August 1895 May 1896 31 5 3 23 16.13
R. Roberts
England January 1897 December 1897 0 0 0 0 !
J.B. Bloomley
(Secretary-Manager to 1911
Honorary Secretary to 1925)
England January 1898 May 1925 169 56 44 69 33.14
Tom Bailey England August 1925 May 1938 578 223 113 242 38.58
George Lillycrop England August 1938 July 1944 45 20 7 18 44.44
Frank Hill Scotland July 1944 October 1948 102 45 19 38 44.12
Arthur Turner England October 1948 December 1951 149 56 39 54 37.58
Harry Catterick England December 1951 June 1953 74 31 11 32 41.89
Ralph Ward England June 1953 May 1955 96 25 28 43 26.04
Maurice Lindley England August 1955 May 1958 143 23 28 92 16.08
Harry Ware England August 1958 May 1960 100 36 22 42 36.00
Jimmy McGuigan England June 1960 November 1964 222 87 85 50 39.19
Ernie Tagg England November 1964 October 1970 273 105 69 99 38.46
Tom McAnearney Scotland October 1970 July 1971 34 14 7 13 41.18
Dennis Viollet England August 1971 November 1971 15 4 2 9 26.67
Jimmy Melia England May 1972 December 1973 70 16 23 31 22.86
Ernie Tagg England January 1974 December 1974 48 13 12 23 27.08
Harry Gregg Northern Ireland January 1975 May 1978 163 53 53 57 32.52
Warwick Rimmer England August 1978 May 1979 46 6 14 26 13.04
Tony Waddington England June 1979 July 1981 93 24 27 42 25.81
Arfon Griffiths Wales August 1981 October 1982 59 9 10 40 15.25
Peter Morris England November 1982 June 1983 33 8 7 18 24.24
Dario Gradi1 EnglandItaly June 1983 July 2007 1,235 460 474 301 37.25
Dario Gradi2 / Steve Holland3 EnglandItaly / England July 2007 November 2008 72 19 16 37 26.39
Dario Gradi4 EnglandItaly November 2008 December 2008 9 3 1 5 33.33
Gudjon Thordarson Iceland December 2008 October 2009 37 12 7 18 32.43
Dario Gradi4 EnglandItaly October 2009 November 2011 58 18 17 23 31.03
Steve Davis[64] England November 2011 current 233 74 58 101 31.76

1As sole Manager. Between 22 September and 17 October 2003, Gradi underwent heart surgery. Assistant Manager Neil Baker took charge of the team for this period (P6, W0, D1, L5).
2As Technical Director
3As First Team Coach
4As Caretaker Manager


  1. "1877 – A Football Club is formed in Crewe, as a separate organisation from the successful Crewe Cricket Club. They take the name 'Alexandra' after Princess Alexandra": from the club's official website
  2. Seddon, Peter (2004), Football Talk: The language and folklore of the world's greatest game, Chrysalis Books, London (ISBN 1-86105-683-4), p.174.
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  36. "Trouble at derby – Stoke Sentinel". Stoke Sentinel.
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  39. "Police make five arrests at Crewe-Vale derby". Stoke Sentinel.
  41. "Stockport 4–3 Crewe". BBC Sport.
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  46. Taylor, Daniel; James, Stuart (17 November 2016). "Associate of Barry Bennell also preyed on boys, two former footballers reveal". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
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  50. Taylor, Daniel (22 November 2016). "Second footballer reveals abuse by serial paedophile Barry Bennell". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
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  53. "Paul Stewart: I was sexually abused by my football coach for four years". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
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  56. "Crewe Alex director of football Dario Gradi: Statement". Crewe Chronicle. 24 November 2016. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
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  62. Who's Who At Crewe Alexandra?. Retrieved: 20 March 2015.
  63. "Artell Replaces Michael Jolley". 8 July 2014. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  64. Source: Soccerbase – accessed 11 January 2014

External links

Coordinates: 53°5′14″N 2°26′8″W / 53.08722°N 2.43556°W / 53.08722; -2.43556

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