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Kit chaos at Stevenage as Crewe's latest star shines

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Paul Fletcher | 20:55 UK time, Saturday, 4 September 2010

At Broadhall Way.

I had not been inside Stevenage's stadium for long before I realised all was not quite going to plan.

There was just over an hour until the newest addition to the Football League was due to meet Crewe for their first competitive fixture and in many ways everything looked to be in good order.

A milky September sun beamed down on the superb playing surface and the fans slowly started to make their way through the turnstiles as Stevenage prepared for their third home fixture as a League Two club.

But close to the the middle of the pitch, a circle of officials and club representatives in the midst of a very serious discussion told a different story.

The problem, it turned out, concerned Crewe's away strip. The referee thought it was too similar in both colour and design to Stevenage's white and red home kit.

Crewe warmed-up wearing red socks and shirts with orange shorts, a very funky combination, but the referee was still not satisfied and so when the Alex appeared for kick-off they were sporting Stevenage's yellow away kit.

Crewe (left) and Stevenage take to the field at Broadhall Way

Crewe (left) wore Stevenage's away strip for their match at Broadhall Way

It was a slightly farcical start to the afternoon but the 400 or so away supporters saw the funny side, making the most of the opportunity to chant "yellows" in support of their team.

I heard someone suggest that it was an embarrassing sequence of events ahead of a professional football match and it is hard to disagree.

But I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon at Broadhall Way and there were many qualities that I sometimes think have been permanently lost at higher levels of the game.

The ground, now officially called the Lamex Stadium, benefits immensely from the fact that one side and end are terraced. The Stevenage fans packed the terraced side and created a cracking atmosphere.

There is an intimacy at grounds like Stevenage's that I don't think you have at many of the architecturally fantastic but somehow slightly soulless modern stadia. I almost stumbled into several of the Crewe squad as I made my way into the ground and there was none of the separation between players and fans that I think slightly deadens the experience at the top level.

I could hear the instructions and frustrations that emanated from the management teams in the dug-outs, while the vociferous opinions that came down from the stands must surely have reached the players. The home supporters sat in front of me made it very clear that Crewe wideman Clayton Donaldson was slightly too enthusiastic in his desire to embrace the admittedly lush-looking playing surface.

I noticed that Crewe boss Dario Gradi spent a good 10 minutes chatting to two Stevenage supporters as his team went through their warm-up routine, while the veteran manager chatted at length to another fan after the match.

In truth it was a largely ordinary contest, with lengthy passages of scrappy and dis-jointed play. The referee did not help as he was far too quick to blow his whistle, but the contest had plenty to admire.

Crewe defender David Artell suggested afterwards that Stevenage had been very physical in their approach but I felt the home team showed great desire and commitment to hold on for a 1-1 draw after Stacy Long was sent off with half an hour remaining.

Veteran Crewe boss Gradi reckons it is too early to tell whether his side are capable of pushing for promotion. They now have five points from five games and lacked a cutting edge on Saturday that Gradi admitted was a concern.

But the Crewe boss was undoubtedly buoyed by the incredibly promising performance of substitute Nick Powell - a youngster who is apparently already wanted by some of England's top clubs.

Crewe manager Dario Gradi

Gradi believes that Powell has a big future in the game

The 16-year-old was recently a member of the England Under-17 team that won a round-robin tournament involving Australia, Turkey and Portugal.

And at Broadhall Way the young forward played with a skill and confidence after his 66th-minute introduction that suggested he has a bright future in the game.

Just about his first touch was a sublime flick that wrong-footed an opponent while his time on the pitch featured step-overs, dribbles and two crisp left-foot shots that drew decent stops from Stevenage keeper Chris Day.

Powell almost won the match for his team with a late low strike that caught Day flat footed which narrowly missed the target.

"I have known him since he was 10 and he has always been confident," said Gradi.

"He was a little boy with quick feet and was temperamental as a youngster but he has a lot going for him.

"He is not an easy player to pin down to a position because he likes to go where he wants to go, a little bit like Steven Gerrard.

"However, he is not the same kind of player as Gerrard, he has got more tricks and flicks and is a cleverer player than Gerrard although he does not have his power.

"He is best playing behind the front striker, he is two footed and good in the air."

Powell is one of a trio of Crewe players in the England Under-17 set-up, along with goalkeeper Ben Garratt and forward Max Clayton.

Garratt and Clayton have yet to figure for Crewe's first team, while the match at Stevenage was Powell's second substitute appearance.

The kit fiasco meant that Powell had the name of Ronnie Henry on his back on Saturday afternoon.

But in years to come, it might just be that there will be no confusion about the name of the youngster who made such a good impression after coming off the bench at Stevenage.

You can follow me throughout the season at


  • Comment number 1.

    Glad someone has picked up on young Powell. I know the lad through 2 of his brothers and wish him well in what will hopefully be an exciting career. At least more exciting than the 2 Powells I know anyway! :)

  • Comment number 2.

    is there any pictures of these matching kits so i know what the commotion is about

  • Comment number 3.

    Call me cynical but wasn't you awfully lucky that the fourth tier game you happened to be at had such newsworthy incidents AND just so happened to have a substitute appearance by a highly rated young player?

    Let us be honest if the ref hadn't decided that the kits clashed and if the lad had stayed on the bench the blog would have been mighty boring.

  • Comment number 4.

    jojomarchliverpool - I don't unfortunately, although I am trying to get hold of one. Stevenage boss Graham Westley felt that it was just plain wrong that a team played against its own badge.

    oozatden - are suggesting that I have the super power to make events like these happen? I wonder what you would have said if I had gone to the nine-goal thriller at Gigg Lane.

    I actually think your comment is pretty insulting to fourth-tier clubs, as you seem to be suggesting that we should not expect any newsworthy incidents at League Two level.

    Even without the kit clash or Powell's cameo I think there would have been plenty of material. I wanted to talk a little bit more about Stevenage adjusting to life as a Football League club and had done an interview with chairman and owner Phil Wallace.

    Then there is Dario Gradio, who is coming in for some stick from Crewe fans - again another interesting talking point.

    And don't forget the whole issue about the community feel and intimacy you get at grounds like Broadhall Way, something that I feel should be preserved.

    All in all, plenty to talk about.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    "There is an intimacy at grounds like Stevenage's that I don't think you have at many of the architecturally fantastic but somehow slightly soulless modern stadia. I almost stumbled into several of the Crewe squad as I made my way into the ground and there was none of the separation between players and fans that I think slightly deadens the experience at the top level."

    Brilliant! I couldn't agree more. As a Wednesday fan I am so proud of our Hillsborough, albeit the events of 1989 somewhat tarnish it for many, but nevertheless it is a ground that I would not swap for any. You look at the likes of the Walkers, St Mary's, the Ricoh, the Stadium of Light, the Madjeski, to name but a few, if it wasn't for the colour of the seats you'd be hard pushed to distinguish them from the inside! Lower league grounds and lower league football is what the game is all about and I'd rather read a hundred blogs about teams like Stevenage Borough and Crewe then the same old nonsense about the likes of Rooney and Ashley Cole playing 'away from home' so to speak.

    Well in Paul, another fantastic article by yourself!

  • Comment number 7.

    I was at the game (disclaimer- I'm a Crewe fan) and was surprised that Stevenage didn't choose to change kits. I know they were at home, but strikes me as the most obvious course of action. Having said that, as Paul notes, it's rather embarrassing that a professional team like Crewe didn't have a change of kit- can't really imagine Lampard playing against Liverpool in a shirt with Gerrard's name on the back...

  • Comment number 8.

    Nice article Paul

    As a Stevenage fan myself i'm still not used to us getting written about like we have been since we came into the League.

    I must admit it was a surreal experience watching from the main stand yesterday.....almost like watching Stevenage v Stevenage reserves and i fully understand what Graham Westley was saying when he mentioned "Playing against the badge".

    Im glad you liked the atmosphere we create in North Hertfordshire Paul, can i ask what your thoughts on Stevenage as a team were? Also i'm interested to find out where you think our shortcomings may be?

  • Comment number 9.

    I was likewise at the game not as a neutral however and to be honest i was quite appalled about how stevenage went about their business. they seemed dead set on kicking 10 shades of blue out of crewe players rather than playing football, and at the time when powell was brought on i thought the lad could get seriously injured by stevenages tactics.

  • Comment number 10.

    I'm sure I once read in 'You Are The Ref' about a similar situation to this. And the answer was that teams weren't allowed to wear the oppsoitions away kit due to sponsorship reasons. So whoever Crewe's shirt sponsor is, they surely will not be happy that they were not on display at this match, despite having payed money to do so.

  • Comment number 11.

    Matt Owen (post 5) - yep, I was very surprised that Dario Gradi started comparing Nick Powell to Steven Gerrard. He was not prompted about it or asked to name a player that Powell could one day emulate. I guess that Gradi has such a good record of bringing on youngsters that we must assume that he knows what he is doing.

    Lucifer38 (post 8) - I have read a lot about Stevenage and their style of play. They were certainly not afraid to put in a firm challenge and a couple of Crewe players said they felt Boro were too physical. The home fans close to where I was sitting seemed to think that some Crewe players were going down too easily. Put it this way, I don't think that was the case. Having said that, I thought Stevenage played some decent football and to label them as bullies would be wrong.

  • Comment number 12.

    @ oozatden - the blog makes a great point about the community feel of the lower league and non-league clubs. I am a Chelsea fan since 1967 and the memories of the old stands and the greyhound track represent a time when the club and the players were more approachable. When the Sky money came in, that feeling largely disappeared and I, for one, became very disillusioned with the way football had become big business.
    Since the start of the Premier League, I have seen matches at various levels of the Pyramid at local non-league clubs wherever I was living at the time and the fact that players are part of the community and you may actually work with them at your workplace makes a pleasant change to the distant attitudes and arrogance of many top-level players and indeed the clubs. It might be a bit nostalgic - no doubt, back in the day, the top clubs were more involved in the community - but it all adds to make up the REAL flavour of football, in contrast to the over-hyped and overpaid modern players.
    Good blog, Paul, trying to give us a flavour of the way football is through the leagues.

  • Comment number 13.

    Paul, it would be very interesting to discover exactly how much of an attendance boost the lower leagues recieved on a weekend without any Premier League or Championship action?

    I agree with yourcomments regarding the often unique atmosphere generated at 'littler grounds' with the added intimacy created between clubs and supporters producing a level of intensity only really found at smaller venues. In a way I suppose that's why Wales are trying to switch their home game against England from the Millenium Stadium to the Cardiff City does have an effect!?

    On the kit change issue, it's required that managers in Sunday league football phone ahead to their opposite number the week before to make sure there's no colour clashes on game day. It's odd that at 'higher levels' ;) their lines of communication don't seem up to scratch?

  • Comment number 14.

    Great article on lower league football. It's just much more unpredictable and therefore more exciting I reckon.

    I'd love to see another article on lower league football, maybe even Stockport one day ;)

  • Comment number 15.

    Mr Fletcher there were no insult meant to clubs plying their trade in the lowest level of league football - after all being a follower of Tamworth FC the fourth tier for me would be the promised land.

    Like I wrote it just seemed that it all landed in your lap just as it was needed, no need to analyse my comment beyond that.

  • Comment number 16.

    JoC - Interesting point. I saw a few England shirts at Stevenage and so I presume they might have been missing had England played on Saturday afternoon and not Friday night.

    simonSFCCeaton - hello mate, I'm pretty sure that there were a couple last season.

    oozatden - fair enough, but if what you say is true then should you really be suggesting that lower league football needs stuff like kit chaos and promising performances from young players to make it worth talking about?

  • Comment number 17.

    I was there too, as a travelling Crewe fan.
    Not a bad game, and it was my first glimpse of Powell. On that evidence, if he's still playing for the mighty reds when he's 18, we will have done very well. Stevenage were physical, no-one in their right mind can argue with that. We counted Powell himself being fouled or brought down at least 5 times in his brief appearance. The fact was he was too quick-minded and fleet-footed for the opposition. He has a future for sure.

    Don't agree, Paul, with your thoughts on the ref. I thought on the whole he had a steady game. Notable especially by the number of times he would call players back once he'd observed advantage had not been gained - he tried to give the game a chance. It was just unfortunate that some players didn't help him out.

    My final point - what outstanding home support. It's not often at that level that the home support out-shouts the away following. It made a good atmosphere for what was little over a 3,000 crowd. I'm told Accrington Stanley fans, (the Ultras?), are like this. Fair play to any home support that can do that. Man Utd fans could learn a thing or two from these guys, and transform OT from the morgue it is presently! :-)

  • Comment number 18.

    A local team I played for had a kit problem. Half of the players wore black shirts with white stripes, and the others wore white shirts with black stripes. As a result, our passing was terrible.

  • Comment number 19.

    That's the Crewe away kit.

    That's the Stevenage home kit.

    Why can't we just go back to the days when away strips were only used if there was going to be a clash of colours? Surely the point of an away stip is to avoid the farce that went on.

  • Comment number 20.

    Agree with TTT.
    Also, and I meant to add this earlier, it was so ironic that it happened because we were only discussing before the game what kit Crewe were going to wear. I'd seen some Boro fans with red and white stripes, and others with the white with red trim, and at that stage I wasn't sure which one was more current. I even recalled to my friend that I'd read about an away team wearing the opposition strip already this season and finding it beyond belief that it could ever happen. So imagine our looks when it came true here .....??!!

    Having said all that, why can't we just mix kits? If Crewe had worn their home red shirt, with away orange shorts and socks, you'd have to be blind not to tell them apart!!!!

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    I remember a similar incident happened at the Daggers a while back, our players offered to wear our away kit, which is a far better solution. It may have even been Crewe

  • Comment number 23.

    post 10 - i was also suprised by the answer in 'You Are The Ref' as i remember going to a game between watford and oxford in the mid (possibly late) 90's where oxford brought the wrong kit with them and ended up playing in watford's away kit.

  • Comment number 24.

    Crewe were not allowed to play in red shirts, orange shorts and socks combination by the referee. Perhaps because of the white trim on the shirt?


  • Comment number 25.

    So top clubs are interested in Nick Powell, I guess he'll be sold on as so many other promising players have been. Crewe will get nowhere as long as they keep selling their best players, several years ago they were on the verge of the play-offs to the Premier League when Dean Ashton was playing for them, they sold him in the January transfer window and that was the end of Crewe's challenge.

  • Comment number 26.

    Now then,

    People seem to be at a loss when working out how the kit issue came about. I would suggest they are not on their own.

    Anyhow, I have stuck a still image of both teams coming out of the tunnel towards the top of the piece. I know that the image quality isn't exactly the best but it should give you some idea of what the two teams looked like on Saturday.

    I imagine that Stevenage were quite pleased in a way because they have different sponsors for their home and away strips.

  • Comment number 27.

    Love the comment about the intimacy of the ground. As a non-league supporter, albeit in exile having to watch other teams, I can't imagine having to sit down or buy a non-bovril drink

  • Comment number 28.

    My son and I are "groundhopping" this season, starting with League 2, and then, over subsequent seasons, we will be moving "up" through the ranks. We chose Stevenage for today's game, and loved every minute of the experience. We also noted the quality of the playing surface. Had to say, I was impressed by the home support. Some of the chanting, accompanied, it seems, by some fine drumming, was quite unique and impressive. Three games now this season, three 1-1 draws, at Gillingham, Bury and now Stevenage. I previously did this in 1994/95, visited about 15 stadia, and STILL have not seen the home team win. Anyway, good luck Stevenage.

  • Comment number 29.


    Have you got anything interesting to add, or just childish comments. Just read the article and make a comment on the players or something not make a point and then even when you get a reply keep going. For most the prospect of a future England player and some info on the game is positive and interesting!

  • Comment number 30.

    Paul, firstly; great blog as usual. I was at Crewe’s pre-season friendly at Kidderminster Harriers – I must confess I don’t know if Nick Powell played any part – but another youngster, AJ Leitch-Smith (sp?), caught my eye as a prospect, so it would appear Gradi’s production line is still in full flow.

    I would be interested in your views on whether youngsters like Powell and others actually have a chance of ‘making it’ any more. As a Tranmere fan, we used to live off the windfalls of selling the Koumas’s, Humes and Ryan Taylors of this world to bigger clubs, while they had a crack at a career at a higher level. Nowadays, clubs and players have ways around it costing them much to move from us ‘smaller’ clubs (don’t get me started on the tribunal system!), while ‘bigger’ clubs snap up prospects before they’re developed and sling them in the reserves – John Bostock being the most high-profile. Do you think this is a sign of things to come or is there still hope for the likes of Powell?

  • Comment number 31.

    # 30. dannytrfc

    I like the points you make. I think that maybe the parent club should be guarenteed a minimum amount of games from the player, or that the first contract any youth player signs should be for 3 years and they have to honour the entirety of that deal, unless the club decides to sell (in the case that the team falls a few divisions)

    Look, I had this problem when I was manager of Watford on Championship Manager 99/00.

    After having given Tommy Smith a good run of games in which he played well, the interest mounted and eventually I was unable to keep him. It was back to the drawing board for me, I brought in a young icelandic forward called Andri Sigtorsson. Again, excellent displays, but then Chelsea took him away from me.

    Talking from my experience I know how dmoralising this can be for a manager, it took me a while to get over each transfer and be able to motivate my team.

    Eventually I was forced into chossing Michel Ngonge, and me and him just didn't get on. His age was a problem, I was 12 at the time but he was 33! We finished the season relegated with my reputation in tatters. Had I been able to keep my younger players, i'm convinced we could have stayed up. We had a great team spirit but unfortunately that was not enough.

    11 years on, I still bare the scars

  • Comment number 32.

    Glad you enjoyed your trip to Broadhall Way Paul, the atmosphere has been great this season, and although it did go flat at points during the game on Saturday I thought on the whole it was still a good one.

    Stevenage need to improve the creativity of their passing and their movement to be consistently successful at this level. Crewe need their strikers to be a bit more definite and decisive. What the game needed most of all was better refereeing, every shoulder to shoulder was given as a free kick when the Crewe player fell over (and I'm not saying you were cheating Crewe, Stevenage should have been smarter quicker and changed their game, but I'd prefer to see shoulder to shoulders allowed as they should be.) It was disappointing to see Griffin climbed all over every time he tried to jump and never getting anything at all.

    @ post # 6, I still love Hillsborough too. Only get back a couple of times a year now I live down south. Only thing I'd like to see is a decent screen installed, the old one hasn't changed since I started watching 20 years ago. While they are at it they could replace the grumpy boo boys who always sit behind me with some proper fans and then the atmosphere would be like the good old days!

  • Comment number 33.

    Is the kit mix up really that much of an outrage? It's not like it happens every week, the referee thought they were too similar and told them to change, it's bound to happen every few years, no big deal.

  • Comment number 34.

    Hi Paul, good blog as per usual.

    A similar scenario happened this pre season at boundary park, when we played wigan. Their new second kit wasn't ready for the date of the match, so oldham played in their away kit at home. This would have been the more practical thing to do. Would have thought that it is a bit of an simple admin check that someone from each club should decide which kit is to be worn on matchday, and any potential clash. Also wonder if you could tell me if it is now written in stone that kits are used as the away kit even if the first choice kits don't clash, or just the salesmans idea ?

  • Comment number 35.

    I seem to remember the kit thing happening in the 1978 world cup. Maybe with the French team. It is pretty unusual. That is the good thing about Blackpool. Unless we play either the Dutch or Barnet we are pretty safe.

  • Comment number 36.

    Cracking blog-I'm with you on the atmosphere point. Or maybe that's just nostalgia for the old days?
    And I scored at Stevenage (off my knee) in 1987-but I don't suppose Royston Town counts for much...


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