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13 November 2014

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You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire > People > Profiles > Dario Gradi - Crewe's longest serving manager

Dario Gradi

Dario Gradi - Crewe's longest serving manager

In 2003, Crewe Alex manager Dario Gradi celebrated his twentieth year in charge of the club. His days in the dug-out looked over when he stepped down as first team coach in 2007. But following Gudjon Thordarson's sacking he's now back at the helm.

Loyalty isn't often a word you associate with modern football, but back in 2003, Crewe Alexandra manager Dario Gradi celebrated his twentieth year in charge of the club - becoming one of footballs longest serving bosses.

20 years of being a manager of one football club in the modern game is a landmark in itself, but to celebrate it with a return to the first division made it even sweeter for Dario Gradi.

In 2007, he handed over first team control and became the head of the club's academy - continuing his legacy of finding and developing great players.

The recent decline of the club, has seen it drop to mid table in League 2, and after manager Gudjon Thordason was sacked in September 2009, Dario was put back in charge.

Here, we take a look back at his career at Gresty Road.

Year Zero

Gradi swapped being a Southerner for life in South Cheshire back in June 1983 where he took over from Peter Morris.

Dario Gradi

Starting out: A youthful Dario Gradi

The first squad he assembled that season included such names as Dave Waller, Bob Scott, Steve Davis, Tony Cliss and Gary Blissett.

This was to be the start of a fantastic journey under one of the games most respected coaches both on and off the field.

The long term plan to work and develop talent which Dario and the board of directors adopted was now underway.

Platty arrives

After a settling in period which he quickly steadied a rocky ship, youngsters like David Platt, Geoff Thomas and John Pemberton were brought to the club as Crewe began to see an upturn in results on the field.

This coincided with an Astroturf pitch being laid behind the main wooden stand, a sign that his dedication for coaching players was beginning to have an effect.

Platt, Thomas and Pemberton by now had made great strides and had been sold to clubs in the top flight.

Young players were now beginning to emerge on a regular basis, Rob Jones and Steve Walters both gained England Youth recognition.


Then in 1989 came one of Crewe's finest moments under the Gradi years as they gained promotion at Tranmere on the final day of the season.

Craig Hignett

Craig Hignett, another Gradi graduate

The Alex were now fully on the road to recovery and the abundance of talent continued to shine through, Craig Hignett, Rob Edwards, Gareth Whalley, and Tony Naylor to name a few were now becoming household names with the fans as the great Gradi started to become a legend.

Unfortunately football as we know has its ups and downs... and relegation came in 91/92.

Wembley '93

However success was more of a norm, and May 93 saw Crewe become a ghost town as the red and white army headed for the twin towers of Wembley Stadium to meet York in the second division play offs.

It was not to be a fairytale story though on their first visit to the world's famous stadium as the play off final ended in a penalty shoot out defeat.

But one of the manager's great strengths is his coolness and one year on a win at Chester's Deva Stadium sent them into division two automatically.

By this time Crewe were well and truly on the way up as the fans were being entertained by the likes of Rob Savage, Neil Lennon, Ashley Ward, Wayne Collins, Dele Adebola, Mark Rivers, Shaun Smith and Steve MacAuley.

First Div again

If 1989 was a season to remember, 96/97 was mind blowing as Crewe Alexandra made it to the first division.

Gareth Walley and Shaun Smith

Gareth Walley and Shaun Smith celebrate

Wembley was again the venue for the playoff final, but this time against Brentford it was sheer delight as a terrific team performance and a goal from Shaun Smith sent the Alex fans back up the M1 ecstatic.

First division football, a redeveloped all seater stadium, plus training ground facilities to match any Premier league club - Followers of the Alex were in dreamland!

Danny Murphy, Kenny Lunt, Seth Johnson, Rob Hulse, Dean Ashton, Steve Foster, and David Wright, were the next crop of talented youngsters to become Gradi graduates, and while football was going through changing times the Alex's future remained healthy.


The maestro himself was rewarded for his services to football with a date at Buckingham Palace as he collected the MBE in 1998.

Crewe defied all odds as they stayed in division one for five seasons.
During that time Gradi became the first ever manager to complete one thousand games in charge of one club which he celebrated with a draw at Norwich.

With that, more honours followed. Gradi was made an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Crewe and Nantwich in 2003, and was then inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 2004 in recognition of his impact on the English game.

Production Line

In 2007, with the club back in League 1,  Dario Gradi announced he would step down, to become Technical Director. The plan was to gradually hand over to new first-team coach Steve Holland, with Neil Baker remaining as assistant manager.

Dario Gradi

Dario accepts another award

But in November 2008, Gradi was back on the touchline in a caretaker basis after a poor start to the season under Steve Holland left the club bottom of League One.

He was in charge for just over a month before Gudjon Thordarson was announced as his successor at Christmas 2008. Thordason himself lasted only 37 games as manager, and now Gradi finds himself at the helm again.

It's not yet known what the future holds for Dario and Crewe, but rest assured Alex fans know they've got the right man for the job of getting promotion out of League 2 - again!

last updated: 06/10/2009 at 11:02
created: 02/07/2009

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