Date:Saturday April 15 2006
If football were played in a dictionary Crewe Alexandra would always finish above Crystal Palace. Thankfully league tables rarely resemble the A B C past the opening day of the season. Despite their alphabetic proximity there is little neighbourly love lost between the two clubs.
Antagonism has emerged from an exchange of opinion between Crewe manager Dario Gradi and Palace chairman Simon Jordan. Gradi attacked Jordan’s managerial hiring and firing policy saying he would never leave Crewe for Palace, that no self-respecting person would work for Jordan and anyone wanting to do so would have to be “desperate.”
Not surprisingly Jordan felt aggrieved at these statements and used his column in The Observer to question Gradi’s desire. “Fair enough that someone who has spent 22 years at a feeder club might find ambition frightening, but I’d never even met him,” he said. Gradi spent a swift and forgettable spell as Palace manager in the early eighties under Ron Noades before joining Crewe. He has been in charge at Gresty Road since June1983.
If rumours are to be believed this angry spat turned physical in the 2004 January transfer window. With Palace looking to increase their firepower in a bid to stave off relegation Gradi is thought to have blocked their moves to sign Dean Ashton. Irrespective of any malicious intent Palace saw a player that would have greatly improve their squad move to Norwich.
Palace have enjoyed a fruitful relationship transfer relationship with Crewe in the past. Geoff Thomas, a player with a special place in Palace history, was picked up off the Crewe conveyor belt. The latest player ready to move onwards and upwards from the production line is Billy Jones. This Gresty Road graduate might sound like one of the Bashstreet kids but he has attracted numerous admiring glances from Premiership clubs.
Jones started his career at centre back but has acquitted himself more than creditably playing in midfield this season. West Brom were strongly linked with a bid earlier this year – it is likely that Jones will be playing in the Premiership in the near future.
Dario Gradi has made a unique contribution to English football. While he might not hold a personal desire to manage at a higher level he has imbued numerous players with the requisite ambition to represent England. For this he deserves admiration not derision. For whatever reason he appears to have little time for Crystal Palace. It is to be hoped that the Eagles make his trip back to the land of railway sidings an unhappy journey by taking the points at Selhurst Park this afternoon.
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