Crewe face a week of questions over the direction the club is going in after another poor showing.
The club sits 19th in League One after a simply disgraceful 4-1 defeat at home to the bottom side Bournemouth. Whatever optimism fans had has now gone, it was a performance that shouted out relegation fodder.
Two years ago we were a Championship side. We were always assured that the aim for the club was to become a established mid table Championship club, and that we’d cope with relegation and push back up.
However, we’ve spent three, maybe four, years in decline and this weekend’s defeat highlights it. We are in our lowest league position for over ten years and currently have no sign of stopping here after a five game winless streak.
Steve Holland’s promotion to First Team Coach in the summer was supposed to be the start of a new era, but instead it’s posing even more questions every week. Personally, I have no doubt Holland is in charge of the team and that he’s choosing the 11 players to play in his formation.
However, I do wonder what impact Dario’s presence is having. He’s stood by Holland’s shoulder every minute of his reign so far, and whilst we knew Dario was going to be there to guide Holland, we still aren’t sure what effect it is having. Regardless of what they say, Holland, Dario and Baker don’t all agree on everything – and after 24 years of getting what he wants, is Dario really standing by allowing Holland to do as he wants to what Dario will see as his team and his club.
The body language is also interesting to observe, particularly at away matches. To say Holland & Dario stress about how much they discuss pre-match, there isn’t much discussion during the match. Regular away followers will have realised by now that Holland and Dario stand opposite sides of the dugout barking out instructions. Either there is a psychic link or, even after an early goal that changes the game, we never change our tactics.
They really don’t look like a team on the touchline, and haven’t done since Bristol Rovers away. It’s a ‘make of it what you will’ situation, similar as to why we’ve heard very little from Dario in the past week, with Holland doing pre and post match interviews for the radio – something he’s never done till now.
In between the two is Neil Baker. The assistant manager, and seemingly with as much input as the former two. He too throws instructions from the touch line at away matches.
So what do the players make of it? It surely can not be beneficial for the team to have three different voices bellowing from the touchline with three different opinions on how they should play. ‘Too many fingers in the pie’ is one phrase that could be used.
Saturday’s game was played by a bunch who lacked passion, fight and urgency. We sat deep and played the game at a slow pace before letting heads drop after the first goal. The team do have to shoulder some, if not most, of the blame for Saturday. They were lacklustre and no one came out of it shining.
There are serious holes in the team too. I think it’s general opinion that Ben Williams is no longer good enough, with two of Bournemouth goals being put down as a goalkeeping error. The goalkeeping situation was something that should have been rectified in the summer, but the management were reluctant to let any of the three keepers go.
The attack is also a major problem whilst the left side of midfield is also an ongoing issue. However, these two positions are ones that could so easily have been filled.
We knew we couldn’t replace Luke Varney instantly, but £2.5million was going to go a long way. We also received £300,000 for David Vaughan and £500,000 from Billy Jones – with more to come. That is potentially over £3million to spend on two players.
There is still a lot of unspent money in the bank from previous sales, this £3million is not absolutely vital to keeping the club running. If you want, you could cover two season’s losses and still have £1million to spend on players.
Of course, we are assured that the management do have the money to spend but they choose not to. Which begs the question, why?
We know we are a small club who pay small wages, and we’re an academy club who gives their youngsters a chance. However, when it’s clear the youngsters aren’t good enough and the relegation zone is staring us in the face after 10 games of he season – why should we stick by these principles?
Relegation to League Two would be a disaster and is not the direction the club should be heading. With a bit of forward thinking we are in one of the best positions to build a promotion winning team in the league. There are players out there to make a big difference and still come on the wages we pay. One example is Bury’s Andy Bishop, a player we tried to sign in the summer but were put off by a £500,000 price tag. It’s a fee we could afford whilst his wages wouldn’t have broken the bank – he’s also the type of striker we’ve spent two months looking for up and down the country.
More recently we’ve turned down an offer to take Michael Bridges from Hull. A completely baffling decision.
Lack of signings is just part of the problem though. The club needs a shake up all over, on the pitch and off it.
I think it’s now time for Dario to step away from the first team scene. No training sessions, no dugout appearances, no changing room speeches and less say on the players signed. Give Holland time and space to build his team under his full guidance, with his staff in the background. There are whispers of Neil Baker leaving the club soon, which I think would be a good move all round.
The board also need to take a look at where the club is going. Will they loosen the reigns and free up some money to spend? I don’t want to see us break the bank, but there is clearly enough money there to strengthen the squad significantly. Somewhere along the line, someone isn’t willing to write the cheques. The current regime is simply keeping the board safe and nothing more.
On the pitch, a goalkeeper, a left sided midfielder and striker are all needed. A serious review of tactics should also take place. We sit too deep and we look clueless once we go behind. We are in the same boat as last season in that we can’t keep the ball out of the back of the net, only this season we can’t put it in the net either. Going 1-0 behind last season wasn’t the end of the world last seson, as Varney and Maynard guaranteed goals.
Will we see any changes though? This next week will be telling, but I don’t hold much hope, and neither do most fans. Gates are falling rapidly, and I dread to think what the next home gate will be if we lose to Southend. So many fans are getting disillusioned with the club at the moment without any concern from the club.
There are questions that need answering;
Why are there 3 men effectively running the first team?
Where has the money gone from the summer? Why isn’t it being spent on the team?
How low do we go before the board are willing to make changes? Relegation zone? League Two? Conference?
How have we been allowed to slip from a Championship club to a less than average League One club without any problems financially or otherwise?