With a playoff spot out of reach and their League One status comfortably secured for another year, Crewe Alexandra boss Steve Davis took it upon himself to field a starting eleven consisting entirely of the club’s academy youngsters, turning the dream of Crewe legend Dario Gradi into reality.
The opportunity presented itself for Crewe who entered the final day of the season with nothing left to play for aside from pride as dictated by a season of mid-table mediocrity in League One, having secured promotion from the Football League’s bottom tier via the Playoff Final last year.
Crewe Alexandra have always been synonymous with youth player development and are responsible for producing England internationals David Platt, Danny Murphy and Dean Ashton under the stewardship of Dario Gradi.
Gradi gained fame as one of British football’s longest serving managers having overseen the Railwaymen between 1983 and 2007 and 2009 and 2011 and he has since been recognised for his contribution to the club with the award of an MBE and by being inducted into the Football Hall of Fame.
Now a Director of Football at the club, Gradi has constantly spoke of his wish to see Crewe field a starting line-up of eleven players who were developed and nurtured at the club. On Saturday, his wish came true and poignantly, the academy players treated Gradi and the watching Crewe supporters to a 2-0 victory.
Former Crewe graduate Nick Powell, who this summer secured a move to Manchester United on the back of a series of impressive performances in League Two last season, is testament to the continued success of the youth development program at the Alexandra Stadium.
With Dario Gradi still inevitably pulling the strings, few should be surprised if several other prodigious footballing talents evolve out of Crewe Alexandra in the near future.