The latest instalment of our club-specific previews sees Crewe Alexandra fan Russ Fearn in the hot seat.
What is your name, Twitter or site address and how long have you been a fan of your club?
Russ Fearn, @ManOnFutbol and themanonfootball.wordpress.com. I’ve been a fan for nearly 9 years (since I was 12).
Sum up last season for us from your perspective.
Last season was the best I have personally ever seen at Crewe Alexandra. There is an incredible crop of homegrown talent that have come through the ranks that have excelled under David Artell’s leadership from the dugout. We struck the perfect blend of youthful exuberance and older heads that provided leadership and experience. Going forward, we scored the most amount of goals in League Two – 67 – and looked incredibly exciting when attacking. Our midfield is solid. Arguably the best midfielder in League Two last season, Ryan Wintle, sits perfectly alongside the more diminutive, creative, Tommy Lowery, and the experience of the now-departed Paul Green was extremely complimentary in the trio. Defensively, it can be a mixed bag. Some poor results were simply down to messy defending. At full-back, we have two brilliant players in Perry Ng and Harry Pickering, but the issue laid at centre-back. A lengthy injury for Eddie Nolan coincided with an iffy spell around Christmas, and it could be argued that that is the reason we only finished Runners-Up.
The traditional Crewe Alex passing style is back for The Railwaymen, but we’ve evolved. We’ve learnt that it is not just about blowing teams away, but also winning in a scrappier method if necessary. Last season Crewe evolved into a formidable team.
What has your transfer business been like this summer?
The best bit of business so far has been keeping hold of a young gems. The likes of Ng, Pickering, Wintle, Lowery and the league’s joint-top assister, Charlie Kirk, had scouts prowling around Gresty Road last season. Keeping hold of them so far has been excellent. Artell has successively strengthened in the few key areas too. The ageing Chris Porter has got some more competition with the signings of League One experienced strikers, Offrande Zanzala and Mikael Mandron. After Blackpool kept Michael Nottingham for the new season (we had him on loan from January and he rescued our defence), then we had to look for different options of a similar mould. Artell added Donervan Daniels to the squad, and it looks to be the perfect fit. All we need now is someone to replace the Boston United-bound Paul Green. Former academy man, Luke Murphy has been training with the club and has feautured in a handful of friendlies. The general census between the fans is that signing Murphy back is the final piece of the puzzle.
How has pre-season been for you?
Pre-season is forever important for the Alex. It is where the new crop of youngsters get the game time with the first XI – and we’ve seen some excellent performances from the fringe players so far. The new strikers have really settled in nicely too, and have bagged a lot of goals between them already. A recent 0-3 away win at a strong Bolton Wanderers side has breathed a lot of confidence into the club’s fans.
Have you tried our Leading Scorer Quiz yet? Just identify these players who all scored ten or more L1 or L2 goals last season
Which players are looking like they’ll stand out this season?
It is really hard to say, there are so many that are on a path of great growth. If I was to pick two, then left-winger Charlie Kirk has been the key man at times over the past two seasons. 42 goal involvements of the last two seasons, from the wing, is a truly excellent return. He’s certainly capable of making the step up in divisions too. Perry Ng is another. He’s a real showboater. Check any League Two Team of the Season and he is there. The captain had another great season, as he became even more defensively solid, and also more effective in the final third. Watch out next season as he might rainbow flick your left-back on your byline. A cheeky third would be Offrande Zanzala. He comes with a brilliant attitude, and has already bagged a bunch in pre-season, I feel like this season could be his real break-out year.
Any players likely to explode onto the scene from nowhere for you?
Again, hard to say as they all start quite young anyway. Owen Dale is an incredibly skilful, fast and direct winger, if he adds some better end product to his game then he could go right to the top of the sport. We lost to Aston Villa heavily last season, but Dale had Matt Targett in knots until he got injured turning, trying to follow our winger. He can be a really special player on his day. It could be worth noting down the names of Josh Lundstram, Regan Griffiths and Tyreece Onyeka too – all three youngsters could make their mark on the squad this season.
Which matches are you most looking forward to this season?
Obviously playing against some big clubs like Sunderland, Portsmouth and Hull City, will be exciting. But all in all, they’ll feel very underwhelming due to the lack of away fans at the grounds. Shrewsbury should be a good game too, there isn’t too much rivalry there, but they’re just the otherside of the Cheshire-Shropshire border, so bring it on!
What can teams expect from you this season?
Excellent passing and attacking football. I’d like to say that we aren’t scared of any opposition, so we should be trying to attack at all times. Also don’t be too surprised if you find we’ve accidentally given you the ball on the edge of our own box – that happens, annoyingly. We could be a mixed bag. A 6-0 win followed by a 0-1 defeat wouldn’t surprise any die-hard Alex fans.
Where do you think you’ll finish?
I think a solid mid-table finish. 13th.
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