Although David Artell is one of a number of coaches in League Two with just one full season in management to his name, he can boast over 500 first-class games and international experience as a player. Cynics would point out that his 7 international caps came for Gibraltar – qualifying through his Gibraltar-born father – and that his first cap came at the age of 33; but winning an international cap is something that top club players like Mikel Arteta, Paolo Di Canio, Steve Bruce, Jimmy Case and Bert Trautmann never did. Experience is experience, the more the merrier.
Artell began his playing career with hometown club Rotherham, making his debut in 1999 at the age of 18. It was a good time to be at Rotherham, as Ronnie Moore’s side won promotion in 1999-00 and 2000-01 to move from the fourth tier to the second in successive seasons. Although he made 40 appearances in the second of those promotions, he never appeared for them again, failing to be selected for a single game the following season in the First Division and spending the whole of the 2002-03 season on loan at Shrewsbury. Having been released by Rotherham at the end of his loan period, he joined Mansfield and helped the Stags to the League Two play-off final in 2003-04, where they lost to Lincoln’s semi-final conquerors Huddersfield. He started the following season in the side, but lost his place in November following the departure of manager Keith Curle and never played for Mansfield again.
Moving to League Two Chester City on a two-year deal, he made his debut for his new side in a 2-2 draw at home to Lincoln on the opening day of the 2005-06 season. He also ended his Chester career against Lincoln on the final day of the 2006-07 season, in a 2-0 defeat at Sincil Bank. He then joined Football League newcomers Morecambe, forming a solid defensive partnership with current Morecambe manager Jim Bentley, and enjoyed three good seasons which culminated in 7-2 play-off semi-final defeat to promotion-winners Dagenham & Redbridge in 2010.
His first association with Crewe came in the summer of 2010 when he signed a two-year deal under legendary Alex manager Dario Gradi. Artell hardly missed a game for two seasons as he captained Crewe to promotion in 2011-12, beating Cheltenham 2-0 in the Wembley play-off final. Despite this achievement, he was released by Crewe the following week. He then had the unusual experience of joining Port Vale in July 2012 and leaving a month later without kicking a ball for them – he refused to agree a revised contract when Vale failed to exit administration on time. A short spell at Northampton followed before he dropped down to the Conference with Wrexham on loan to the end of the season. By a strange quirk of fate, both Wrexham and Northampton reached their respective play-off finals, with Artell appearing for Wrexham in their 2-0 final defeat to Newport. He signed a one-year deal with Wrexham at the end of that season, but they unexpectedly struggled near the foot of the table and Artell departed when his contract expired in the summer of 2014.
In July 2014 he returned to Crewe as Academy Operations Manager, and chose to combine the day job with short spells playing part-time football with Bala Town, Port Talbot Town, Kidsgrove Athletic and Droylsden. In January 2017 he was appointed to the Gresty Road hot seat following the departure of manager Steve Davis, with Crewe sitting just 7 points above the League Two relegation zone. Winning just 1 point from his first 4 games, the gap at the bottom had slipped to 4 points by the time Crewe thrashed Grimsby 5-0 with four goals in the opening 29 minutes. Form continued to be inconsistent, but following a warning to his players that they were heading for Conference North for £200 per week wages, Crewe eventually struggled up the table to finish 9 points clear of relegated Hartlepool.
At the start of 2017-18 – his first full season in management – he warned his players that seventeenth would not be good enough. It appeared for much of the season that the players had not been listening, as Crewe sat third from bottom in the middle of February. An impressive run of twenty-three points from their remaining fourteen games carried them to safety, although the final position of fifteenth was hardly what Artell intended at the start of the season. Some excitement was generated in the FA Cup second round tie away to League One high-flyers Blackburn. Three goals down after twenty minutes, Crewe managed to force an unlikely replay; unfortunately, they lost that by a single goal.
It is a safe bet that Artell has already told his players that fifteenth will not be good enough this season. Crewe are renowned for manager loyalty, so he may well have time on his side as he tries to build continuity at Gresty Road. But if things do not work out in football, Artell should be perfectly comfortable in the outside world: he is one of that rare breed of educated footballers, holding a degree in forensic biology.
P = Promoted; R = Relegated; SF = Lost in play-off semi-final; F = Lost in play-off final; PO = Won play-off final; D = Demoted.
Figures are league games only; cup matches and playoffs are not included.
League position shown is either the position at the end of the season or the position at the time of departure.
— Vital Lincoln City (@VitalLincoln) July 16, 2018