NCM L2 Predictions - 16th
Feature by Jacob Daniel
Updated Thursday, 23rd July 2009
Crewe AlexandraIt's time for our 16h place prediction, Crewe Alexandra. We'll warn you before we start, this page is mainly going to be taken up by criticising Gudjon Thordardson, well deserved though I think you'll all agree.
The second of the relegated teams to appear in our predictions, Crewe came far closer to surviving in League One than Cheltenham Town as Thordarson came in and did a fantastic job before bottling it completely (sound familiar?) and leading the Railwaymen down with a whimper. Steve Holland started the season in charge and never managed to step out of the shadow of his former boss, Dario Gradi. Holland shelled out most of his transfer budget on forwards Clayton Donaldson and Anthony Elding, both of whom flattered to deceive in their first season at Gresty Road. He did make one shrewd purchase in the form of Burton Albion full back John Brayford, who looks set for a move to Nigel Clough's Derby County this summer.
The Railwaymen coughed and spluttered along at the bottom of the table before Holland was sacked, with Thordarson becoming the surprising choice to replace him in the hotseat. Surprising for a number of reason. Firstly, Thordarsson failed spectacularly in his last English job (oh how we know), and in his previous two he flattered to deceive with a large amount of capital at his disposable. Secondly because his dull as dishwater tactics and refusal to give youth a chance go directly against Crewe's ethos, but there we go. It did seem to work for a bit as Thordarson gavlanised the side and led them on an impressive run and seemingly to safety, although he did fall out with talented midfielder Michael O'Connor along the way. Then, in true Thordarson style he bottled it completely and the Railwaymen plummeted back into the relegation zone, courtesy mainly of an inexcusable home defeat to all but already relegated Cheltenham Town.
Former County 'manager' Gudjon Thordarson, as we've already alluded to. The Iceman's career in Iceland is exemplary, there is no doubting that, but in England he has hardly been the complete success story that some seem to think. At Stoke City it took him three tries to get Stoke City into the Championship despite their talented squad and huge riches relating to the third tier. At Barnsley he started well but, like at Stoke, wasted good resources on an impressive amount of deadwood and was sacked after Peter Ridsdale took over at Oakwell. Meadow Lane is the real blemish on his record, however, with the Icelander coming the closest of all to taking the world's oldest league club into the non-league. He started well of course, and we lead the table at the end of August, but Thordarson's rag bag squad of journeymen and non-league no hopers fell apart ridiculously (in no small part to Thordarson's falling out with leading scorer Glynn Hurst and talented youngster Ruben Zadkovich, and their subsequent releases) after this and 1 in their last 16 meant that it took Oxford United's defeat to Leyton Orient for the Magpies to stay up. Thordarson soon resigned, and we presumed no English club would be stupid enough to have him back.
But we were wrong, and he leads Crewe into the new season. He's had a bittersweet reign at Gresty Road so far, with a stunning run after his appointment seemingly leading the club to safety, and the subsequence collapse actually leading them to relegation. He fell out with Northern Irish international Michael O'Connor, one of Crewe's most talented and important players, a decision which could have cost the Alex like similar clashes cost the Magpies in his time here. O'Connor has since been sold to Scunthorpe United, while Thordarson has brought in a young 'keeper and two non-league defenders and nothing more.
The current squad at Crewe isn't exactly scary material for clubs in this league, with the odd stand out player and a lot of dross. In goal David Button has joined from Spurs on a long term loan, Thordarson seemingly overlooking his disastrous spell at Bournemouth last season which saw one of the campaign's comedy moments when he tried to dribble past Matt Harrold, and failed spectacularly. In defence former Exeter man and captain Billy Jones just isn't very good and nor is Daniel O'Donnell. Defensive due Patrick Ada and Matthew Mitchel-King, both signed from Histon, are unproven at this level and Gudjon's non-league signings at Notts were hilariously bad (Liam Needham and Andy White, anyone!?!). Former Notts captain Julien Baudet has left to join Colorado Rapids, and the excellent Danny Woodards has joined MK Dons.
In midfield the loss of O'Connor means there is a large, creative midfielder sized gap in the squad while will have to be filled by prodigious youngster Danny Shelley, assuming he doesn't fall out with the manager. Steven Schumacher, formerly of Bradford City, is a decent box to box option at this level but numbers in the centre seem very thin for the Railwaymen, with youngsters James Bailey and Luke Murphy the other options. Winger Joel Grant has failed to set the world alight since his move from Aldershot last summer but will be hoping to find his feet again a level lower. Upfront is where the Alex look most adept, Anthony Elding can be superb at this level but is a volatile character who won't and doesn't suit Thordarson's management style and found himself frozen out and loaned to Lincoln last campaign. Clayton Donaldson will be looking to refind the form that saw him rated as a top striker at York City while Calvin Zola is an African target man formerly of Tranmere Rovers (worryingly like Eugene Dadi). Shaun Miller will also be hoping to cement his place in the team, while Tom Pope has been sold to Rotherham for £150,000.
There is a bit more quality in the current Crewe squad than Gudjon had whilst at Notts, so they should be safe enough, but probably despite the Icelander rather than thanks to him. The likes of Donaldson, Shelley and Elding should excel at this level and provide the ammunition to keep Crewe in mid-table. The defence looks worrying and should Mitchel-King and Ada not make the step up then the goals could be flying in at the wrong end. This may all seem very anti-Gudjon, but he simply is not a man who should be managing Crewe. He's an old school disciplinarian who sets out to concede less than he scores and doesn't encourage creativity and flair, he seems to have a phobia of giving youngsters a chance and falls out with any challenging personality within days. He should be the Railwaymen's anti-christ, we can't see this match made in hell lasting the season.