Imagine a world where aspiring young footballers could be taken in as pimple faced teens with a tad bit of bum fluff on their chins and nurtured into complete and successful professional footballers with their airbrushed faces on billboards in countries they have never considered frequenting while they sip cocktails in Ibiza with their significant other, who just happens to be an aspiring supermodel… Well dear friend and reader, such a world does exist in the football realm; although many in our fraternity tend to behave as if young stars pop up at random like a cannabis plant and bring euphoria after being allowed the opportunity to light the scene up. We at GSV have roped in your mate Uncle Bob and asked him to dust off his PhD in Development Football and become the Dean of our newly founded School Of Academies, where we enlighten, inform and entertain you with all the insight he has on development sides across the fraternity. In no particular or meticulous order, for that matter, we present to you The GSV Institutions List.
Crewe Alexandra Football Club
Location: Gresty Road, Crewe, Cheshire; England
Head of Recruitment: Neil Baker
Technical Director: Dario Gradi MBE
Notable Graduates: Owain Fôn Williams (GK), Rob Jones (RB), Matt Tootie (RB), Billy Jones (RB), Harry Davis (CB), Rob Edwards (CB/ DM), David Wright (Defender/ Midfielder), James Bailey (DM), Lee Bell (DM), Seth Johnson (DM), Gary Roberts (DLP), Steve Walters (CM), Neil Sorvel (CM), Danny Murphy (CM), Michael O’Connor (CM), Kenny Lunt (CM), Luke Murphy (CM), Ashley Westwood (CM), David Vaughn (Winger), Byron Moore (Winger/ Forward), Mark Rivers (Winger/ AM/ Forward), Nick Powell (AM), Dele Adebola (CF), Rob Hulse (CF), Dean Ashton (CF), Shaun Miller (CF), Michael Higdon (CF), AJ Leitch-Smith (CF), Nick Maynard (CF) & Max Clayton (CF)
Fresh Out The Oven: Ben Garratt (GK), George Ray (CB), Jamie Jones (CB), Joe Kearns (CB), Perry Ng (CB), James Baillie (RB), Joe Howell (CM), Toby Mullarkey (CM), Ryan Colclough (AF), Fraser Murdoch (AF), George Cooper (CF), Callum Saunders (CF), Andre Brown (CF) & Liam O’Neill (CF)
Training facilities: C-
Training methodologies: B
Opportunities for growth: B+
Dean’s Comment: If I told you of a football club that has continually seemed to find a way to exist against the odds and actually be profitable in the Lower Divisions of English football, you would find it hard to believe; yet Crewe Alexandra are such a football club, and The Railwaymen have continued to achieve great off-field success through a youth development academy that seeks to keep the club well fed with good quality young footballers that are home-grown.
The relatively uneventful fortunes of Crewe Alexandra were forever changed on June 1st, 1983 when an Italian born Englishman named Dario Gardi arrived in Crewe after returning from a minor managerial sabbatical which was brought about by his resignation from Crystal Palace in the 1981-82 season, where he departed after failing to meet the clubs’ mandate of promotion; a legendary football man with a relatively continental approach to football, Gradi wasted no time revolutionising the ideology of the then makeweight Fourth Division football club with his developmental philosophy that centred around producing good professional footballers that have the technical dexterity to play his brand of continentally-inspired attacking football, a brand of football that once saw them also attain some eye-catching on-field results which translated into promotions up the Football Leagues.
A football genius with a mind that conceived strategies that were largely before their time; Dario Gradi helped to ensure that The Alex will always be able to develop their own talent using their relatively limited resources while affording themselves the maximum opportunity to benefit off the sales of some of their more promising young players, which is a profitable and purposeful business in an age where good home-grown talent is so scarce that the British Talent Tax has risen astronomically over the past two decades.
The Crewe Alexandra “Centre of Excellence” has produced a staggering number of players for their first-team squad while also providing a fair share of footballers for other clubs in the football leagues, as of today, an approximated 75 former academy lads have graduated from the developmental nest into the first-team squad at Crewe Alexandra over the years, and that number rises with each passing season, at a healthy rate I might add; the level of commitment shown to youth development by the club is the living legacy of a man who dared to do things differently, the thought of Dario Gradi will surely pop into the mind of any football purist that watches a Crewe Alexandra academy graduate blossom into a fully fledged professional footballer.
Judging by the current rosters’ average age of 21.5, something of an unheard of feat in league football across the realm, Crewe Alexandra will continue to stick to their great ideology that holds steadfast in a modus oparendi that promotes the development of good young footballers into good professional footballers that add value to the art of football; one prays that this great determination will be rewarded with even more promotions up the leagues and an addition to their Football League Trophy win in due time. Any modern football club that can start a league game with a full starting XI of academy graduates is more than deserving of its place on the GSV Institutions List and Bob’s your mothers relatively football obsessed brother.