WEM­B­LEY WON­DERS

Crewe and Southend eye up JPT fi­nal glory

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Chris Dunlavy

WEM­B­LEY holds mixed mem­o­ries for Crewe boss Steve Davis. In sum­mary, there’s the good, the bad and the one that never was.

As a player at Burnley in 1988, Davis was on the re­ceiv­ing end of a 2-0 beat­ing by Gra­ham Turner’s Wolves in the Foot­ball League Tro­phy fi­nal, a match that drew an in­cred­i­ble 80,841 to the old Twin Tow­ers.

“It’s still a record crowd for the com­pe­ti­tion,” says the 47-yearold, who will make his fourth ap­pear­ance at Wem­b­ley when he leads his side out for to­day’s JPT fi­nal.“But we got beat so I can’t say I re­mem­ber it too fondly!”

Then, af­ter start­ing his man­age­rial ca­reer at Nantwich Town, Davis led the tiny Cheshire out­fit to the fi­nal of the 2006 FA Vase, a cup com­pe­ti­tion for clubs out­side the top four tiers of Non-League.

But hav­ing been pen­cilled in as one of the very first games at the New Wem­b­ley, a cat­a­strophic de­lay in build­ing work meant the game was switched to St An­drews’, the home of Birm­ing­ham City.

“Yeah, that was pretty dis­ap­point­ing,” ad­mits Davis, whose side beat Hilling­don Bor­ough 3-1 that day.“It was sched­uled to be at Wem­b­ley un­til pretty late in the day – I think it was Fe­bru­ary by the time they ad­mit­ted it wouldn’t hap­pen.

“Play­ing at St An­drews wasn’t quite the same but a vic­tory is a vic­tory. And a day at Wem­b­ley is quickly over – we got to keep our win­ners’ medals for­ever.”

Davis’ luck did even­tu­ally turn, how­ever. Hav­ing taken charge of Crewe from his old mate Dario Gradi in Novem­ber 2011, Davis’ gal­vanis­ing ef­fect saw the team storm into the League Two play­offs on the back of sen­sa­tional late-sea­son.

To­day’s op­po­nents Southend were dis­patched in the semis be­fore Nick Pow­ell’s screamer put Chel­tenham to the sword and gave Davis some Wem­b­ley joy at last.

Now, hav­ing en­sured sur­vival in League One, the former cen­tre­half is hop­ing that ex­pe­ri­ence will en­sure more success in the cap­i­tal.

“It was a great day,” he says. “And come Sun­day I will be lean­ing on the lads who were there to help the oth­ers through. We went down to the sta­dium on Fri­day to do the tour, just so they could get a feel for the place. It’s a tow­er­ing sta­dium and it’s easy to be over­awed.

Hoodoo

“We wanted them to have a look around, take their pho­to­graphs and find out where their fam­i­lies will be sit­ting – all those lit­tle dis­trac­tions so that on Sun­day they aren’t think­ing about any­thing but the game.”

Crewe de­fender Mark El­lis, mean­while, is still wait­ing to break his Wem­b­ley hoodoo.The 24-yearold was at Torquay when the Gulls reached the FA Tro­phy fi­nal in 2008, but his loan from Bolton ex­pired 13 days be­fore the show- piece. “You do think to your­self ‘Will I ever get there again?’” he ad­mit­ted.“Per­haps it’s just my luck that I’ll never play at Wem­b­ley. So I’m go­ing to grab this op­por­tu­nity with both hands. I’d be heartbroken if I didn’t get on the pitch this time.”

El­lis re­jected a new con­tract with Torquay to join Crewe this sum­mer and has made the jump to League One with ease, mak­ing 46 ap­pear­ances and scor­ing an im­pres­sive six times.

“The main rea­son for me leav­ing Torquay was that I wanted to play higher” he says. “If Torquay had gone up, maybe it would’ve been dif­fer­ent. But that wasn’t the case and it’s turned out to be a bril­liant move.

“Peo­ple talk about how tough it is to make the step up but truth be told it’s been a lot eas­ier than I thought. I’ve en­joyed it im­mensely and this is a great way to cap it off.”

JPT FI­NAL PRE­VIEW:

WE’VE DONE IT: Crewe man­ager Steve Davis cel­e­brates with the League Two play-off fi­nal tro­phy

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