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Who will be the next Crewe manager? Verdict on Alex Morris, Richard Walker and David Unsworth

Alex Morris has been placed in interim charge of Crewe
Alex Morris has been placed in interim charge of Crewe

After Crewe’s relegation was confirmed, the Alex parted company with club legend David Artell as manager.

Who will replace Artell permanently?

Assistant Alex Morris, who takes interim charge, is odds-on to lead them into League Two next season, Richard Walker is available at 3/1 with BetVictor, while David Unsworth is the closest outsider at 12/1.

EFL pundit Gabriel Sutton talks us through the candidates...

Alex Morris

In an ideal world, Alex Morris would have spent more time working with the senior team under a more experienced manager, before taking on the baton.

Instead, he has only spent a month assisting Artell after stepping up from the Under-23s, so the timing is not perfect.

However, Morris has spoken with great dignity after the club legend’s exit and where his predecessor looked genuinely drained by the pressures of the job by the end, the 38-year-old could bring a new dominant voice and a different energy into the dressing room.

Not only that, Morris understands the Crewe ethos and has good relationships with the Under-23s and youth setup.

Where most clubs look to the transfer market to strengthen the squad first and then go to the academy to fill the remaining gaps, the Railwaymen broadly do the opposite.

Morris has a part to play in bringing the next generation of talent further along the conveyor belt and making them ready to be saleable assets for the club in future.

It will be difficult for Crewe to offload as many players as they need to this summer, and get everything right straight away with their new Head of Recruitment, so it could help having a head coach willing to blood the young lads.

Zak Williams would be one of the first names of the teamsheet next year if he signs a new deal, but slightly further back on the conveyor belt are Nathan Woodthorpe, Connor O’Riordan, Lewis Billington, Joel Tabiner, Joe Robbins, Tyreece Onyeka and Connor Salisbury, who should take up squad places as the club prepares for a transitional campaign.

If the club were to make an external appointment, it is likelier that the head coach in question would have more difficulty being brave with youth than Morris, who has worked day in, day out with these players.

Plus, having at least four or five youngsters fresh from the Development Squad in every match-day squad, as opposed to one or two, means the club can put more resources into the quality of their recruitment rather than the quantity of it.

Next Crewe Manager Odds

Richard Walker

Richard Walker already has a connection with Crewe fans, having played for the club for seven years as a defender, and it is important that the next manager is somebody who supporters can get behind.

More importantly, though, the 41-year-old has knowledge of the local youth scene, having started working at Stoke with Under-11s age group back in 2009 up to his current role of Under-18s Manager, which he has held for four years.

On the one hand, Walker knows how to get the best out of young players, which is a huge advantage given the size of the task of producing another golden generation, after Perry Ng, Harry Pickering, Ryan Wintle, Owen Dale, Charlie Kirk and Tommy Lowery will have all departed within an 18-month period.

Equally, there will be some players who have slipped through the net at Stoke in recent years due to the size of their senior squad or the height of their immediate ambitions, who could still be good in League Two or above.

Plus, there will be some Walker has come up against as part of the youth competitions, who he may remember from that period – and part of his remit involved going to Nantwich or Kidsgrove, clubs that loaned teenagers from Stoke, where he would have gained some knowledge of the non-league scene too.

In some respects, Walker would help Crewe continue to develop players but also get better at identifying players to recruit, which is hugely important after the mistakes that have been made over the last 12 months.

David Unsworth is leaving Everton to pursue a managerial career
David Unsworth is leaving Everton to pursue a managerial career

David Unsworth

David Unsworth has spent the last nine years at Everton, coaching the Under-23s.

Although the former defender has not been managing in League One or League Two, he will have kept an eye on those divisions, watching players out on loan: like Lewis Gibson for Sheffield Wednesday, or Lewis Warrington for Tranmere.

Plus, Unsworth has already gained the experience of working in high-pressure scenarios, having managed Everton’s first team in a Premier League relegation battle for over a month as caretaker – not to mention scoring a crucial penalty for Wigan in 2006-07!

What Unsworth would have over Morris and Walker is a bigger reputation within the game and more contacts higher up the ladder, especially at Goodison Park.

Warrington, for example, is proving an inspired loan signing for Tranmere and Crewe, another local(ish) club, could benefit from a similar deal for forward Charlie Whitaker or defender Reece Welch, who have already worked under Unsworth.

Crewe do not want to become a club that relies on loan deals, but it will take time for the next crop to catch fire – it might be 2024-25 before Woodthorpe, Tabiner and co. are established key men and by that point, the Alex might not even have a league club – so they may need to find short-term quality while the incoming generation bubble under the surface.

Unsworth would help the Railwaymen thrive in the loan market: plus, he’s already worked with Chris Long and Bassala Sambou, as well as probably being familiar with the capabilities of Tariq Uwakwe and Dan Agyei.

The Sack Race’s Verdict

If Alex Morris can get a reaction from this group of players in the remaining four games, get the team producing echoes of the football seen in previous seasons and galvanize the fanbase, then he deserves a huge amount of gratitude for giving supporters something to grasp hold of.

Morris has a huge part to play next season, either as a number one or as an extremely reliable number two and somebody the new boss must lean on and include as much as possible.

There may be, from the board’s position, a temptation to hand Morris a five-year contract, commit the long-term future to him and find some stability in the dugout at such a difficult time for the club, as part of a process to integrate the next generation.

However, this would be a huge gamble because we do not know whether the likes of Woodthorpe, Onyeka and Salisbury will be good enough in senior terms to base the next managerial appointment on getting everything out of them.

And, if the forthcoming crop do not justify that faith, then a relegation battle is likely and the decision to give Morris a long-term contract would merely represent the illusion of stability, rather than stability itself.

For that reason, we at TSR would advocate a more conservative move which would be to appoint David Unsworth for the top level contacts.

This would not mean Crewe relinquishing their ideals of blooding youngsters (although it would mean compromising them, up to a point), but rather blooding youngsters in conjunction with high-quality recruitment, as opposed to compensating for poor recruitment.

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