AFC Crewe – Alex Exiles Steaming Ahead!

Gary McGraham, AFC Crewe Sports Correspondent 

The club has seen plenty of game time so far this season, but are already 3 games behind most teams in the league due to their exploits in the FA Cup, more on that to come. But it’s been an unbeaten start for the new club and one that has surprised many along the way however player manager Paul Howarth has been calming any early season overreactions:

“Of course we are delighted with the start, but we can’t afford to get to carried away at the same time! I think a few teams have underestimated us especially in the cup games, we will continue to fight for every match and see where it takes us come the end”


The league campaign started away to Nelson, Crewe started strongly passing their hosts off the park and took the lead on 19 minutes when player manager Paul Howarth tapped home from 6 yards to give them the lead. With half time approaching Dickie Pritchard managed to wriggle away with a loose ball before firing across the keeper to ensure a 2 goal cushion at the break, the second half saw a more composed performance from the hosts forcing Steve Phillips into a couple of decent saves but never really looked like threatening Phillip’s clean sheet. And on 80 minutes Howarth made them pay with his second of the game, a perfectly timed run from Paul saw him get on the end of Jake Treadwell’s through ball and slot home with ease. Howarth then returned the favor in the 90th minute as young Jake scored his first ever senior goal.

Then in the following game the Exiles hit 5 past Squires Gate before two tougher ties which saw them drop their first points of the season against Atherton Colls and also gain a victory over local side 1874 Northwich along the way.




With the results they have had Crewe topped the table up until their recent FA Cup involvement saw them fall behind in terms of games played as it stands they sit in 4th place 6 points off league leaders Runcorn Town.


As fantastic as the league is to look at, it has been the FA Cup that has really caught the eye so far this season concluding with an epic replay victory over Ilkeston, a team widely touted to humiliate this young side.

Beating Ascot was a bit of history the first FA Cup and competitive game in the clubs history one to tell the kids and grand kids ‘I was there’, but then came the preliminary qualifying round it suddenly felt much more real. AFC Rushden stood in the way, themselves a club who have started again from scratch. The hosts firm favorites to win albeit by a narrow margin as most predicted a 1-0 scoreline in the press area, a crowd just shy of 1,150 (58 away) watched on as AFC Crewe frustrated the hosts in a hostile atmosphere the home fans booing as the Crewe kids passed the ball around the pitch one man near me shouting ‘they are just kids get a grip!’ but those ‘kids’ played out a 0-0 draw much to the home fans disappointment.

798 (68 away) turned up for the replay on a warm but rainy Tuesday evening, the game was fraught from the start as the hosts looked to steal an early lead, Rushden seemed a little shell shocked by the early onslaught. After around 15 minutes the game evened out a little but just as Rushden thought they had gained some control they were hit by 2 goals in 2 minutes, first of all Howarth scored on 25 minutes, then impressive teenager Tommy Sidebottom hit them while the shock of the first was still sinking in. Their was one moment for the travelling fans to cheer when Crewe midfielder Ashley Gate was sent packing for a foul in the box on 90 mins, Nabil Shariff converted the resulting penalty but it was swiftly followed by the final whistle.

That set up a tie with Ilkeston a team 2 leagues above the Exiles and one that no one gave them a hope against, once again Crewe were on the road but the players refused to be affected by the occasion I think this is an advantage of a young team they almost have no fear at times. Ilkeston took a deserved lead on 12 minutes capitalizing on their early dominance Dexter Atkinson silencing the noisy 70 away fans (total gate 823). The young visitors then stepped up their efforts and started to knock on the door and on 32 minutes the pressure paid off as 17 year old Ronnie Garcia scored on his debut, the attacking midfielder ran to celebrate with the travelling supporters in which were his parents. Paul Howarth missed a 70th minute penalty as the keeper guessed the right way to palm his tame effort out for a corner but 5 minutes later the visitors shocked the hosts by going 2-1 up thanks to Reece Jackson’s shot from the edge of the area. Ilkeston then really got the bit between their teeth striking the post twice before finally getting back on level terms in the 84th minute through Ryan Head, and that’s how it ended meaning another replay for the Exiles at home.

Ilkeston had received some criticism for their performance in the 2-2 draw from manager Paul Holland and they started the match with real drive and determination after 24 minutes it was 2-1 to Ilkeston; Howarth scoring on 21 minutes in between goals from Anthony Dwyer 20′ and Matt Baker 24′ for the visitors. By the time the full time whistle went the score was 4-4 taking the game to extra time, Ilkeston soon gained the upper hand when Atkinson scored his second and their 5th in the 102nd minute, many including myself thought that would be that and they would at least see it out but the plucky Crewe ‘kids’ were far from done. Just 2 minutes later Jackson slotted home to make it 5-5. In total shock Ilkeston seemed to capitulate and 3 minutes later Paul Howarth completed his hat trick despite looking dead on his feet by then, and the veteran added his 4th on 113 minutes rather fortuitously when a clearance hit him and went in to the net! the game ended a remarkable 7-5 to the hosts in front of 754 (26 away) setting up a 2nd Round Qualifier against Folkestone again away from home . Following the game all supporters players and staff felt completely drained but we managed to speak to young starlet Tommy Sidebottom.player-focus

” We are all buzzing Gary, everyone wrote us off that doesn’t know us and we wanted to show them we may be young but don’t call us kids. We are all fast becoming men here at this club, it’s unique as are we … anyone who underestimates that will soon realize they have made a mistake.”

I’m sure you reading this will agree its been a very encouraging start to life for AFC Crewe, and long may it continue!

The Results So Far:




AFC Crewe -This Is Actually Emotional!?

Welcome back! I hope you all enjoyed the last post through the eyes of fictional journo Gary McGraham those will pop up from time to time to add a bit of diversity to the blog. The support I have received thus far has been fantastic and people have  commented that my personal reasons and emotions for doing this save have come across and drawn them in which is fantastic to hear, emotion is something I will talk about in a little while as we played our fist competitive game in the FA Cup. But first I have been working on the structure in terms of player and staff recruitment so lets run through who we have helping us mold the players into a decent side.

Paul Howarth, Player Manager



That’s me of course, and yes I said player manager! I have come out of retirement for now at least to help get the club get going. I added myself in the pre game editor when creating the club, I set my future roles all to 1 as that normally ensures the player leaves the game upon retiring. I went for the usual Sunday League experience and dropped my badges to National C to add to the challenge a little, in terms of positions I can play CD and ST pretty well and am ok in CM those are the positions I played as a lad so seemed natural to go with those.

Cameron Pearce, Director Of Football


Kevin Pelling, Assistant Manager


Neal Sharp, Head Of Youth Developement


Steve Phillips, Player GK Coach


Dele Adebola, Coach


Ronnie Putman, Head Physio


Oliver Christou, Physio


Danny Cooke, Chief Scout


Jason Pearson, Scout


Paul Townsley, Scout


As you can see no world renowned coaches here … yet! but a decent lot for this level of football, I am hoping to keep them together and help them progress to bigger things. Kevin Pelling has a ‘Manager release clause’ in his contract so he already has designs on becoming a number one in the future so I will do all I can to help  him get there,  he also boasts a Continental B Licence so is in game better qualified than I am !


So when I set the club up the only players we had were Steve Philips and myself, I sat looking at all the grayed out names and thought to myself ‘these could be the lads who came to the open trials, local fellas looking for a chance’ so I signed them all up! There are one or two that could do a decent job for us the rest will be fine stand in’s until we can really start recruiting from the leagues around us, I will give you a brief overview of the whole squad and single out some of the lads I like the look of.


Tommy Sidebottom, Central Midfielder


Young Tommy has awful stats but the kid doesn’t half put a shift in! seeing him in action during the pre season has filled me with the belief he is one of those crap stat great players FM tends to throw up from time to time, and those who have watched my YouTube videos in the past know I will give players like that ample opportunity to learn on the job so to speak.

Reece Jackson, Striker


Reece was actually the first real player to be signed on this save as Phillips and myself were there from the start, he came from Dorking and was advised to me by my DOF, after looking at his stats I went for the lad and have been pleasantly surprised thus far. His stats again are nothing special but that 12 for pace makes him look like The Flash against some players we have faced in pre season so far.

Adam Male, Left Back


Adam is another brought in quite recently as well, he joined just in time to play in the clubs first ever game. A former Hartlepool youngster, he is I’d imagine one of the best left backs in this division his decision making is 11 and at this level that’s a decent enough rating! although a young lad like the others he has experience at a league club and this will help going forwards.

We have already seen myself and Phillips so they don’t need looking at again, as for the others we will look at them over the course of the season but I will add don’t get to attached at this level players change clubs like I change underwear … at least once every couple of months (I am joking … I change mine at least weekly!)

Tactical Philosophy

Back in the days of Premier Manager 3 I was all about the 4-4-2, that seemed to get squashed over the years so I changed to 4-2-4 & 4-3-3 based tactics, but one thing that always stayed with me was the fluid, passing, attacking football I am known for on YouTube. this year I found that 4-4-2 was effective in the FM17 Beta and had great fun with it but now I use something different a 4-3-1-2 (basically 4-3-3) and it is a style that has so far been an amazing one for me! I am like a mini Pep I find a system and players/teams I manage have to adapt to it, that’s risky at times I know but it works brilliantly given time… for me anyway!


From the image you can see some players are definitely not suited to their roles but they will be in time, if not well they will be replaced by players who can adapt better. That said I am patient with players some would say to patient when it comes to tactical awareness etc. the shape is nothing abstract like some of the amazing ones around, it’s all very simple really! I have found on saves I have done that the Shadow Striker is the key to it all clicking going forwards, there is a lot of passing in the build up play but the final onslaught normally goes through him. on my Victoria Rosport save the Shadow Strikers have always been up there with both goals and assists, hopefully that continues here as well.


As for the instructions not much detail is needed, one thing I have learnt to do is quickly identify which teams are best to keep the ‘Work ball into box’ instruction on for and which ones to turn it off. If I notice they are crowding my players in the first few attacks I switch it off to allow the attackers more freedom, 9 times out of 10 this works a treat!


Just a quick look at these for now, we started with £35k in the bank, the idea from this was that the fans all chipped in to set up the club and raised around £50k some went on kits, registrations etc. leaving the £35k for the new season. Following the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round tie against Ascot, and beginning of season income this has risen as you can see.


Our Very First Match

Pre season was very much a work in progress we didn’t have a proper squad for a lot of it, but still it served a purpose for getting the players we had there fit-ish.


But then came the opening game of our competitive existence, Ascot in the FA Cup Extra Prelim. Round I actually felt like it was the real thing, that’s how FM can get you when you’re working on a save that has a real attachment to it. I imagine its how FC United or AFC Wimbledon fans felt the first time they got to play as their club on the game via a custom database, I know the club I have made does not exist and probably never will but I just felt like I was saying screw you to the board who never listen. I imagined them having a sly look at the results to see if we won or not and looking to see how many fans had gone to this game and the impact on their gate, the answer to that was a whopping 495! the total attendance was … 496 Ascot brought one lonely fan to cheer them on!


It took just 6 minutes for Reece Jackson to make history as the first player to ever score in a competitive game for the club, and the clubs first ever FA Cup goal. Then just 2 minutes later he slotted home his second of the day, we played some slick stuff Ascot struggled to cope with us for the entire first half. Then came my moment as another passing move resulted in me getting on the end of a through ball from Tommy Sidebottom and slamming the ball past the keeper. Midway through the second half I took myself and Adam Male off as we had both been booked, this changed the momentum a little and Ascot came into the game resulting in Phillips having to make some smart saves to help us see out the game.

I watched the game in 3D with the sound on, the new camera angles and pre match scenes made me feel like I was actually watching something happen rather than just pixels cocking up all over the place, I felt genuine pride in that win and hope to keep that going! due to the cup game our opening day derby was moved to later in the season. We now start away at Nelson (insert Simpsons HA HA here) and will look to use the momentum from this game going there.

Hopefully this hasn’t rambled to much for you and has gotten the information across well enough to make you feel part of the journey as that’s the aim! thanks for reading if you enjoyed hit the old like button it makes a huge difference.

See you soon, FMU/Paul




AFC Crewe -The Good News Rolls In For New Club!

With the new season closing in there is some fantastic news for the fan owned AFC Crewe, they have been accepted into the North West Counties Premier Division, this has also thrown up a tantalizing opening day trip to local side 1874 Northwich. It will be a tough ask for the newly formed club who had expected to start at a lower level, and looking at the caliber of team in the division a season of struggle is expected from the club.


Following their acceptance to the league the club also took a huge step in announcing their first ever manager, this came in the form of 33 year old Paul Howarth who comes in as a player manager. Howarth a former footballer who retired aged 21 after a serious foot injury is taking his first steps into management, he has however brought with him two former Crewe Alexandra players:



Steve Phillips, GK

Phillips comes in as a player coach, his vast experience as both player and coach will be vital in the clubs immediate future and should set the foundations for future players and coaches alike. Most recently Phillips has been playing for Bath City but has had a very successful football league career with clubs such as Bristol City, Bristol Rovers & Crewe Alexandra including several victories at Wembley.


Dele Adebola, First Team Coach

Adebola declined the opportunity to lace up his boots again but was keen to further his coaching experience with the club, recently Dele had been coaching at West Brom and Birmingham but jumped at the chance to help build something special. With a career like his the Nigerian will be a superb asset to the clubs coaching staff and will hopefully get the strikers firing on all cylinders come the opening day.

Trials are currently being held to give local talent the opportunity to represent the club, Howarth is also currently looking at candidates for the vacant assistant manager role.

A Place To Call Home


As the good news continues to roll in, AFC Crewe have also announced they will be sharing The Weavers Stadium home of Nantwich Town until finances allow them to build their own home, The Weavers is a fantastic little ground with great facilities for the level the club is currently at.

It’s a great place to play and train at, I have come here many times over the years and seen the place grow to where it is now. People say we don’t stand a chance in this league but I reckon this pitch and facilities evens the playing field a little. Paul Howarth, AFC Crewe Manager

And finally the club has released the final designs for their home and away kits for the season, they have decided against a shirt sponsor for the clubs opening season in existence.





I am sure you will join me in wishing the club all the best as they set off on their journey, and of course keep up with all the latest news from the club here.

Gary McGraham AFC Crewe Sports Correspondent. 

AFC Crewe – From The Ashes Of Burnt Bridges

So as many of you will know I support Crewe Alexandra, a team long renowned for it’s continuous production line of players. Sadly of late you will know them for the tragic and disgusting issues with child abuse in football due to them employing the man at the center of it all Barry Bennell in the 80’s. The way the club ignored the press when the story came out recently has angered many fans including myself, it’s more naivety and the woeful media/PR team we have at the club than anything else which caused the slow and quite frankly once it came awful ‘club statement’.

But this is not the sole purpose for fans anger, before this horrible news broke the fans had been voicing their discontent towards Steve Davis and the board for well over 2 years! this has fallen on deaf ears mostly and even goading from Davis himself with his ‘Real fans understand‘ comments to the local press when we struggled to even compete in League One, and his cupping of his ears when we won at Colchester away last season towards fans begging the board to let him go. This season we have sat in the playoff places for most of it, not bad I hear you say! well it is a false position to say the least considering we have won 2 of 16 games I believe it is now and were up until a week ago only 6 points off the bottom 2! There is a lot more that has gone on but I am keen to not rant for several hours about the problems with the board and management at the club.

So who are AFC Crewe?

Well as of now they don’t exist, but they soon will in the form of a new club created in Football Manager 2017, the premise of this is that some fans grew so tired of the club ignoring them, and then the latest issues arising that they decided it was time to form a fan owned club as many clubs have done previously. Starting from scratch in the lower leagues and hopefully passing the club they feel exiled from on their way to glory, doing things the right way and standing together up against the odds.

So whats the plan for this club?

We start as we mean to go on producing our own players, Dario Gradi once said ‘the club will go where our players take us‘ he was referring to the academy players and that is what we must strive to do. We will of course bring lads in from outside but the ability to produce our own will be key to financial stability, it is also something I am very into when it comes to FM and real life football.

I don’t want to just produce players but coaches as well bringing former players back and giving them the experience to become a manager etc. it is something I have always tried to do in the game as it brings me as much pride as seeing a former youth player play for England. With the money generated over the years we will look to create an academy which will of course improve the talent we produce and gain us higher transfer fees, this way we will hopefully rise through the divisions over time and gain a reputation as a club you want to be involved with.

So that’s what I plan to do here, hopefully not to rambling, or to short! this isn’t my usual; way of sharing FM and I am no writer (obviously!) but hopefully you enjoy what comes from this.