It is no secret that Barcelona and Ajax have world renowned youth academies. Barca’s La Masia is well known for being one of the greatest places for young talent to be nurtured, and rightly so. La Masia is prolific when it comes to creating professional players, and so is Crewe Alexandra.
Crewe’s academy is one that has produced a host of internationally capped and Premier League players. In 2013 they fielded a starting 11 made up entirely of academy graduates. Among that 11 was Luke Murphy, now of Leeds, and Max Clayton, an England youth international who is now playing for Bolton.
Those two names are just part of a long list of players who have graduated to play at a higher level. The quality of the Crewe academy can be put down to one man: Dario Gradi. Gradi has been involved with Crewe since 1983. He focused much of his time on bringing through an influx of young players into the first team and the all academy 11 in 2013 is something that has been called Gradi’s dream. Gradi’s emphasis on youth has also paid dividends for Crewe financially, between 1997 and 2008 five players left for more that £1.5 million each, something which shows the reputation that Crewe academy graduates carry.
Danny Murphy is one such name. The former Liverpool and Fulham midfielder made over 400 appearances in the Premier League and scored 52 goals. He managed to get nine caps for England in his career and won three domestic trophies. Murphy’s long and illustrious career goes some way to showing the quality that the Crewe academy is capable of. The academy also helped to nurture the careers of former England internationals Geoff Thomas and David Platt as well as Robbie Savage and Neil Lennon.
Dean Ashton, Seth Johnson and David Vaughan are all players who have come through the Crewe Academy and gone on to gain international caps. It is this ability to create quality players consistently that has seen Crewe themselves produce England youth internationals even before they move to higher levels. Goalkeeper Ben Garrett, still at the club, and Clayton both gained England under 19 caps while still plying their trade for The Railwaymen.
In recent years the Crewe academy has produced players who have gone on to command big fees when they depart the club. Nick Powell and Ashley Westwood both left for seven-figure sums when they moved to Manchester United and Aston Villa respectively. The club’s academy is clearly still thriving and, at a time when Financial Fair Play is prominent in the mind of clubs, it is clear that Crewe is able to reinvent themselves through their academy in a cost effective manner.