Finishing School: Crewe's Superb Academy

The name Nick Powell might not mean much to fans of clubs higher up in the Football League, but they may not be waiting too long to find out. The highly rated 17-year-old from Crewe Alexandra has been linked with Tottenham and Arsenal, whilst Ipswich have already had a bid rejected for him. His profile has been raised significantly after winning December’s Football League Young Player of the Month award and has thus thrust the Crewe production line back into the limelight. Dario Gradi has spent the majority of his managerial career pushing young talent into the first team at Gresty Road (now the Alexandra Stadium), a move that has produced some top players in the English divisions over the years. Here are the Top 10 acadamy products to come from Crewe:

  1. Nick Powell – Just 35 first team appearances have thrust this talented attacking midfielder into the eyes of many a Premiership scout. Having starred for England U17’s since 2010, he seems destined for the big stage. Whether he continues his development in League Two or at a Premiership big boy it remains unclear, but Powell is certainly a name to look out for in the future.
  1. Max Clayton – Another 17-year-old who featured for England at the U17 World Cup, the striker has broken into the Crewe first XI in 2011. Although just registering 1 goal in 13 appearances, his name has also been linked with Premiership clubs, as Tottenham andLiverpool have already noted their interest. It could well be Clayton and Powell could face each other for years to come in England’s top division and perhaps rekindle their partnership in the white shirt of England. But let’s give them a chance to develop first!
  1. Danny Murphy – The former England central midfielder made 132 appearances for the club between 1993-97 at the start of his career. Fans still regard Murphy as somewhat of a club legend, despite his step up to greater things. He won 9 caps for England and was a key part of Liverpool’s Treble winning side of 2001. Still playing regularly for Fulham despite being 34, Murphy is one of the more successful Crewe graduates having enjoyed a long career in the top flight.
  1. Dean Ashton – The bulky striker made an explosive start to his career with the Railwaymen, scoring 61 goals in 159 games. His ability to find the back of the net earned him a move to Norwich as their record signing at £3 million. Good form followed and so did a move to West Ham United for £7 million where he reached the FA Cup final in 2006. Despite making a solitary appearance for the Three Lions, he broke his ankle in England training and never fully recovered, retiring in 2009 aged 26. It was shame for everyone in football, indeed Ashton himself had been linked with a move to Manchester United, whilst the rest of the country had to see Emile Heskey fill the target man role upfront earmarked for Deano.
  1. Seth Johnson – The hard working midfielder cut his teeth in the Red and White, making 91 first team appearances. His impressive ability on the ball earned him a £3 million move to Derby County and a chance to stake his claim for an England spot. Johnson did win a cap against Italy in 2000, but followed this with a disastrous £7 million move to Leeds United, where he became symbolic for the club’s reckless spending in the Ridsdale era. Although Johnson staged a comeback at old club Derby, a knee injury put paid to his chances of reappearing on the Premier League stage and he drifted into obscurity.
  1. Robbie Savage – Despite coming through the Manchester United academy, Savage was released without ever making the first team whereupon Crewe picked him up and continued his development. The tough-tackling Welshman forged his reputation with a series of impressive displays before he moved onto to Leicester City and became a decent Premiership midfielder. 39 caps for Wales followed and after a long spell at the top of the game, Savage retired this summer from Derby to try his hand at punditry.
  1. David Platt – Possibly the most successful of Crewe’s academy products, Platt began his career during the early stages of Dario Gradi’s time in charge. The midfielder turned out 134 times for the club, before moving onto Aston Villa. From there, his career really took off; becoming one of England’s better exports to Italy during spells at Bari, Juventus and Sampdoria. His return to England coincided with Arsene Wenger’s transformation of the club and he won the Double there in 1998. Having won 62 caps for his country, some of which as captain, he also scored 27 goals including that famous volley against Belgium in the 1990 World Cup. Having totalled over £20 million in transfer fees, Crewe fans can be truly proud of Platt’s achievements.
  1. Geoff Thomas – Crewe picked Thomas out of obscurity from Rochdale, but he quickly went on to be a favourite at Gresty Road. After 138 appearances for the club, he moved onto Crystal Palace where he racked up 249 appearances and won 9 England caps. Although Thomas flittered around the Football League after his departure from Palace, he has won many admirers since retirement for his charitable work after being diagnosed with Leukemia. He won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Award in 2005 after completing the Tour de France and continues to work hard to raise money.
  1. Neil Lennon – Despite joining Manchester Cityas a trainee, Lennon then joined Crewe in 1990, making 147 appearances in 6 years at the club. His move to Leicester City made him a household name in the Premier League, before he moved north of the border where he won 9 major trophies in the green and white of Celtic. 40 caps for Northern Ireland secured his status as one the country’s greatest central midfielders and he is forging his way in the dugout managing the Scottish giants.
  1. Rob Jones – Jones made his name as a stalwart in the Crewe defence, appearing 75 times for the club. Liverpool secured his signature for just £300,000 and he went on to carve out a successful career at Anfield, winning 2 England caps in the process. Unfortunately after signing for West Ham United, his career was cut short after suffering a recurrence of a serious knee injury.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s