Tranmere are on an exceptional run of form with four wins and four clean sheets, three of those coming on the road. Thus, the SuperWhite Army go into Friday’s home game against Crewe with great optimism of carrying on their good run.
Ahead of the ninety minutes under the lights, I spoke to Crewe Alexandra fan Stuart, of The Railway Podcast, about all things Crewe followed on from their relegation out of League One in May.
The Railway Podcast provides Crewe Alexandra reviews, previews and club news with special ex player Thursday podcasts included but just to start things off, could you tell me a little bit about yourselves and how long you have been Crewe fans?
The podcast was set up by me, Stuart, I started going to The Alex in the mid – early 90s. I was a regular match goer in the championship years, unfortunately geography now means I watch every week on iFollow. Luckily though the podcast is built around our recurring cast of panellists that now number in the 20s, with all of them being match going regulars.
Last season, Crewe finished 24th as they were relegated to League Two. How do you look back on that campaign as a whole and how poorly does it rank in the seasons that you have experienced whilst watching the club?
Quite simply it was the worst season I’ve ever known as a Crewe fan. The whole season was watching game after game which we knew we were going to get beat in before they had even started. There wasn’t even any real point of hope throughout the entire season, it was just awful.
I’m now far enough removed from 2021/22 that I’m beginning to get over it, but I never want a season like that again.
This summer, nine players have been brought in as seventeen went the other way either on a permanent deal or a loan. Were you happy with the transfer business over the summer? Which positions do you believe need to be strengthened in future windows? How important was it that seventeen exited following the relegation?
I don’t know if we were happy with it over the summer as a lot of what we signed were unknowns for the vast majority of us, with the exception of Kelvin Mellow who has returned to the club.
There was a need to get rid of some of the players and there was a need to replace those players with better players, and also replace the players who were leaving that we might have wanted to keep.
Now the season is about a quarter of the way through, I’d say the recruitment has been mostly successful, with a couple of League 2 signings that have proven excellent, but the jury is still out on a couple more.
The squad is still thin, but we are restricted as Morris was not actually able to move out as many as he wanted in total.
At the end of last season, Dave Artell was sacked as Alex Morris, who was his assistant, took over. Morris had previously been manager of the club’s academy thus what are fans thoughts on him and his playing style? Also, was it the right time for Artell to leave?
I loved Dave Artell when he was at the club. He won us promotion as a player and as a manager. We were lucky enough to have him on the podcast a couple of weeks before his sacking and he was extremely good to us. For all of those reasons and the memories he helped us have, I can’t thank him enough.
All that being said, yes. I now look back in hindsight, and think that yes, his time was up at Crewe.
As for Morris I think the jury is still out. We made a strong start to the season and that obviously helped him get settled. However, we’ve not been on the best run recently and that coupled with a more direct style of play that Crewe fans don’t particularly like as it isn’t the ‘Crewe Way’ means there’s been the first few grumbles. Nothing serious yet though.
Charles Grant has been the owner of Crewe since August 2021. What are your thoughts on him and how much blame do you believe that he should take for the relegation, if any?
There’s two questions there, so I will answer them separately. Charles is a local businessman who has made his money and is now looking to help support his local football club. The Crewe Alex board is full of similar local successful businessmen, and I personally think that’s great. The other thing I think that Charles and the board have done really well, since they took over the helm, is involving more local businesses and really promoting them and the club together. Something I think we could say the old board didn’t really do, and can only be applauded.
In terms of the relegation I think there was a certain naivety, within the club, about firstly, how much Dave Artell was able to do by himself and secondly how difficult it was to replace the outgoing players before the start of the 21/22 season. So, whilst, Charles Grant shouldn’t take any of the blame for what happened on the pitch, that’s not his remit, I think, and hope that he and the whole club learnt valuable lessons last year, that means it hopefully won’t happen again.
Courtney Baker-Richardson is the club’s top scorer with seven goals in thirteen games after signing from Newport County in the summer. Who do you believe are your side’s key players and where do you believe the key battles will be played out on Saturday afternoon?
CBR has been excellent since he signed and is well on his way to becoming a fans favourite at the Alex. When we signed him, I was led to believe that he was an excellent target man who brought players in well, but struggled to score goals. He’s our top scorer on 6 already and one of only two players to have scored more than once.
So, he’s very important. Another of our summer signings is ‘Concrete’ Rod McDonald and his centre half partnership with captain Luke Offord has been another highlight of this team that’s still in transition.
What are your realistic targets for the season? Is this a campaign of just stabilising yourselves after the relegation?
Yeah, that’s probably fair. After the season started well I think there are now people a little upset to find ourselves currently in 13th. However, after last season a 13th finish this year, and looking upwards, not downwards, next year is probably something Crewe fans will accept. Not be over the moon with, but accept.
What is your score prediction for the weekend? The last time the two clubs came head to head was in March 2019 as Rovers won at Prenton Park with a James Norwood goal in the 72nd minute.
3-0 to The Alex. CBR hattrick!
On Tuesday night, the two clubs will come head to head again in PJT action at Gresty Road. How will Crewe address the game? How important do Crewe fans view this competition and what players are you most looking forward to seeing if they don’t normally get league action?
One of the best days of my Crewe supporting days was going to Wembley to watch Crewe win this tournament. This has now unfortunately become a joke competition at the beck and call of the bigger clubs who want to monopolise everything within football. I refuse to engage with it any longer.
If you have been keeping up with Micky Mellon’s Tranmere this campaign, what are your thoughts on them as The Whites have now found some form?
I think Tranmere have almost had the opposite start to the season that Crewe had. A slow start, and picking up some form. Despite my some-what tongue in cheek score prediction I think it will be a tough game, at a tough ground and I’m hoping for a big crowd, with it being something of a local derby.
Tranmere return to Prenton Park hoping to extend their current run of four wins and clean sheets.