Crewe have a talented squad and are financially sound - so why is Richard Chandler so pessimistic?
Alex will flatter to deceive again, says Richard
February 14, 2006: "Hey - you don't mind if we celebrate tomorrow do you? We're at home to Ipswich tonight."
That's how it used to be. I reckon I missed one home game in nine years and that was only because I wasn't in the country. I looked into the logistics of coming back from Spain for a couple of hours to watch a 0-0 draw with Chesterfield but in the end I chose not to. I felt guilty about it for the next three years.
April 10, 2010: I'm about two-thirds of the way through the drive from Chester to Crewe to watch a home game with Shrewsbury. My phone rings. "Hello mate. It's the hottest day April has ever seen AND it's the Grand National. Do you fancy a few beers by the river before we watch the race?"
One three-point turn later and I'm on my way back to Chester for an afternoon (and evening. And night!) that is way more enjoyable than watching a 0-3 home loss. And yes, I do have a season ticket!
I think it's fair to say that times have changed. The glory days are gone and I don't see them coming back any time soon. I even read an article the other day where a Lincoln fan was having a pop about our lack of firepower. I mean look at Lincoln's goal-scoring prowess last year and they are having a pop at us! We really are in trouble.
As you can probably guess, I'm not coming into this season with much optimism, despite some good signs in pre-season.
We have a 100 per cent record in friendlies at the time of writing, we've strengthened in the areas that we were previously weak and the defence looks stronger, both on paper and on the field.
Allegedly, we have the best crop of youngsters we've ever had, with Nick Powell and Max Clayton attracting interest from top Premier League clubs. We also got the best part of a million pounds from Derby for two players who weren't worth anywhere near that. And we could have 3,000 season-ticket holders!
Bucking the trend
But then the signs are there every season. We have a good infrastructure in place. The finances are in good shape compared to many of our League Two rivals, and as a result, we can pay higher wages and generally nab some of their best players. We also have an army of forwards who would all fancy their chances of scoring goals in the league above.
But for about six consecutive years now, the signs and the reality have not matched up. Inexplicably, we've just got gradually worse, and if that trend continues we could end up fighting to stay in this league!
Don't get me wrong. I don't actually think we will be in a relegation battle. I think the club is doing all the right things this summer and the squad we have should be more than capable of beating Port Vale, Aldershot, Morecambe and the like to a play-off spot.
But somehow, even though it's all there, I just don't believe it's going to happen. Even though we have addressed all the problem areas, I find myself wondering what next year's "new" problem areas will be.
But, hey, I'll still be there next season hoping that Ashley Westwood can run the show in midfield. Hoping that Clayton Donaldson can stay injury free and rack up the 25-plus goals his talent should produce. Hoping that David Artell can turn around the worst defence in the Football League. And hoping that Crewe rejects don't keep scoring winning goals against us.
And despite my reservations, I'll be in the ground (for most games) getting behind the lads whatever happens. So come on Crewe fans, let's get behind the team for a change! Come on the Alex!