The last time The Imps played tomorrow afternoon’s opponents Crewe Alexandra was on Boxing Day in 2018, and to say it was a dreadful performance would be an understatement. The Railwaymen won 2-1 that day in front of a crowd of 4,440 (910 Imps) at Gresty Road, with their goals scored by Chris Porter in the 47th minute and James Jones in the 72nd minute. Harry Anderson grabbed a consolation goal in the 7th minute of stoppage time.
Anyway, it’s time for the Q&A!
Thank you to Steve from Vital Crewe Alexandra for answering our questions!
How long have you supported Crewe Alexandra?
I’ve supported the club for 22 years with the anniversary of my first game happening last week.
Where did you finish last season?
When the season was drawn to a close after the COVID lockdown, we sat top of the league on goal difference from Swindon but finished in second place as they had played a game less.
What do you think of your Manager?
I like Artell a lot, both going back to him as a player during the back end of his career and even more so now he’s our manager. He brought a breath of fresh air (and some really funny quotes with the local media) when he took over the other year and he’s calmed down as a manager since picking up his touchline ban the season before last.
What are your hopes and expectations for the 2020/21 season?
I think that we’ll surprise a few people this season (that’s not saying that we’ll walk the league etc. that I’ve seen some fans claim about their teams in some social media chat groups) and finish comfortably mid-table, being safe from the drop with a few games to spare. I do expect that the league will be really competitive though with a smaller club finishing in the top 6 even if they don’t get promoted.
One(s) to watch?
Think I’ll choose the left-sided duo of Harry Pickering and Charlie Kirk. Earlier in the summer, Pickering’s output was compared to Premier League standards as he was linked to a move to Liverpool to be Andy Robertson’s backup (they’ve since signed a Greek left-back) [those stats can be found here – https://twitter.com/
Which teams you think will finish in the top six in League One?
I’m not one for making predictions like this normally, but think that Portsmouth, Sunderland, Doncaster, Blackpool, Peterborough and Oxford will make the top 6.
Which teams do you think will finish in the bottom four in League One?
Wigan if they don’t sort out their problems, Northampton, Gillingham and AFC Wimbledon.
What are your thoughts on Lincoln City?
Nothing stands out for me about Lincoln good or bad.
What do you think the score will be?
I’m thinking we’ll see a tight game with a goal win either way but 2-1 home win if you want a score prediction.
Who Will Make It Through To The Second Round of The Carabao Cup?
Random fact about your Club?
We were the first club to give a player has professional debut at Wembley Stadium in a cup final as former skipper George Ray came on late on in our 2013 EFL Trophy victory over Southend United.
If you could steal one Lincoln City player for your own team, who would it be and why?
Jorge Grant stood out while he was on loan at Notts County as a player who got into good positions, both to shoot and create chances.
What are your proudest and most embarrassing moments as a Crewe Alexandra supporter?
Proudest moments would have to be the Academy 11 victories against Walsall (2013) and Cheltenham (2018) while the most embarrassing moment for me was in a game under the previous manager Steve Davis where he told the local media that there was nothing between the two sides in a game where we’d lost by 4/5.
Who would you say is your most underrated player?
This time last year I’d have said Ryan Wintle easily here but his quality has been noticed during last season so I think I’d say Oli Finney, a young central midfielder who has added goals from midfield (he was averaging 1 in 4 in all competitions) to take the goalscoring pressure off the front 3, and I think he’ll establish himself as a first-team starter this season.
Do you have a Supporters Trust and what role do they play at the Club?
We have a Supporters Group [https://twitter.com/
Which was your favourite match involving Crewe Alexandra?
Coventry City 0-3 Crewe Alexandra, Ricoh Arena 5th February 2013 (EFL Trophy Northern Final 1st Leg). A sold-out crowd of over 31,000 with all but 1,500 looking forward to seeing Coventry get to Wembley quite easily with their social media streams being full of fans expecting that they would steamroll over us and take their rightful place under the arch. Except that wasn’t quite what happened as two second-half goals from Brad Inman (including a run from our half) before AJ Leitch-Smith added a third that saw us with one foot in the final ourselves. The second leg saw very little action before two late goals in second-half stoppage-time gave us a minute at the end of the game where things got a little nervous.
Which was your least favourite match involving Crewe Alexandra?
Have to pick another game against the Sky Blues where we lost 6-1 at home in 2002, it was that bad that our keeper was subbed off with 20 minutes to go as you could see that he was struggling from a mile away. The amusing thing about that is the sub keeper kept a clean sheet at Goodison Park the following week to the amusement of Joe Royle, doing co-commentary for the BBC in the game, who wondered how good the keeper was who had kept him out the team – if only he had watched that game.
Do you have a Former Players Association at Crewe Alexandra?
Not as far as I’m aware.
What is the best thing about Crewe?
The club! Probably the train station for the links that it has I think.
How will we get the best out of James Jones? Was it the right time for him to move on from Crewe?
Jones is a box-to-box midfielder who suffered an injury a few seasons back that saw a proposed deal to Preston fall through and him miss the majority of the following season as he would pick up niggles when trying to come back. As far as the right time to move on, he would have been a good option for us to have in the squad but had been a shadow of the player he was pre-injury – unfortunately, the lockdown ending of the season came at the wrong time for him as he was just starting to get his rhythm back after starting 4 or 5 games.
After three mediocre seasons, were you surprised by last season’s promotion?
A little bit if I’m honest looking at where the squad at the same point of last season. We had put together a really good run for the second half of the previous season (after the last meeting between our teams) where we had a run that was one of, if not the best, teams in the league. Last season saw us put everything together over a longer spell with the right balance of senior players with the experience of playing at higher levels alongside hungry, young players who could impose themselves on League 2 with their ability.
Given the obvious strength of League One this season, did you expect to see more transfer activity during the summer? Lincoln have only one player left from the squad that won League Two a year ago (although there was also a change of manager), and Northampton have shed 15 players so far.
So far we’ve made 3 signings over the summer with defender Donovan Daniels joining after a spell in the Championship with Luton last season along with strikers Mikael Mandron and Offrande Zanzala, both forwards offering different options if we aren’t relying on veteran Chris Porter. I’d be happier if we could get a combative midfielder in the squad or another experienced midfielder in the squad, should the budget allow it.
Taking players who have left into account, Crewe still appear to have a large squad from the club website (27 current players). Do you know how the corona shutdown has affected the club financially?
It’ll certainly affect the finances of most, if not all, clubs at each level although with our budget generally being smaller than most clubs in this league (I’m meaning away from the salary cap here) I imagine that it would affect the Alex less compared to teams with bigger fanbases in this league. You have to take into account that those 27 contracted players are all those that have professional deals and will be both the first team and Under-23s squads (quite a few of them won’t be on too much anyway). Those who currently have a squad number of 17 or higher (Owen Dale aside) are all in single figures for appearances for the first team, many of which haven’t made their debuts yet.
How do you expect the other promoted clubs (Plymouth, Swindon, Northampton) to fare in League One?
Not sure that Northampton have enough to stay in the league but think both Plymouth (especially after re-signing George Cooper, another of our Academy products, seeing as he was involved in plenty of goals despite playing at left wing-back) and Swindon will survive as a minimum and maybe one will finish just outside the play-offs.
When the COVID cancellations were announced, you were top of League Two on goal difference from Swindon. Under PPG average they took the title. Did that bother you or were you just happy with going up?
It’s a shame that we didn’t get the opportunity to play out the season to a conclusion as we have never won a League title in our history but I cannot complain about ‘just’ going up in that sense as both teams had played some really good football, despite in their case, in particular, missing a few key defenders.
Which team are you most looking forward to playing this coming season?
To be honest, yourselves. It’s been alright watching other teams play the game on TV (this is coming from someone who watches quite a lot of football anyway) but it doesn’t compare to watching your team play competitive games.
Who are your biggest local rivals in League One this season?
I’m not sure that we have any really, think that it would be Shrewsbury though if I was forced to give an answer.
Are you hoping for a Carabao Cup run, or would you rather have a few Tuesday nights off?
With the season being more compact by 4 weeks then having a few midweeks off would be beneficial if they were spread out a little more but with the first 4 rounds of the Cup coming before the end of the month, I’m not sure how much effect it’ll have by having a few of those without having games.
In your opinion, who is your club’s cult hero and why?
Former centre-back Adam Dugdale for me. Released at 18 and spent a few years playing in the non-league scene before rejoining the club around 2010. A player who would always give 110% as the old cliche goes, he would appear in both Wembley cup finals before leaving in 2015 having made just under 150 appearances for the club.
Who’s the next player to come out of your academy?
The next big player that will move on from the club that has come out of the Academy is probably Pickering for me, he’s currently our left-back but can also play in midfield or as a wide midfielder on either side if we go to a traditional English 4-4-2. He’s one of a number of players that scouts had been flocking to see at the Alexandra Stadium last season.
Who’s got the better lower league academy, Crewe or Exeter?
It may come across as being a little biased but I think it is ours. We have produced many players that have played at higher levels than our first team for over 20 years now and without looking I can’t think of anyone bar Ethan Ampadu (who was on loan at RB Leipzig from Chelsea last season) that is playing much above Exeter’s current level. I have a regular column after each matchday looking at our Academy Alumni and can tell you that we have one player playing in the Premier League this season (Ashley Westwood) and 3 players who will be playing in the Championship.
Do you know which team beat you 11-1 on September 29th 1951?
Considering I was looking at the head-to-head results for the match preview on the Crewe site, I have no idea haha. It was yourselves.
If you haven’t already had a go at our quizzes, this is a great way to learn some random information about the Football Club, as well as helping us generate much-needed page views: Quiz No.1, Quiz No.2, Quiz No.3, Quiz No.4, Quiz No.5, Quiz No.6, Quiz No.7, Quiz No.8, Quiz No.9, Quiz No.10, Quiz No.11, Quiz No.12, Quiz No.13, Quiz No.14, Quiz No.15, Quiz No.16, Quiz No.17, Quiz No.18, Quiz No.19, Quiz No.20, Quiz No.21, Quiz No.22, Quiz No.23, Quiz No.24, Quiz No.25, Quiz No.26, Quiz No.27, Quiz No.28, Quiz No.29 and Quiz No.30.
— Vital Lincoln City (@VitalLincoln) September 4, 2020