Liverpool’s visit to Crewe Alexandra for a friendly today is a part of the special relationship that exists between the two clubs. Today’s game is completely sold-out and although it won’t feature any of the Reds players involved in the World Cup, it will still see some excellent players running out onto the field in Liverpool shirts. White Liverpool shirts like last week – the new home kit is to be revealed on Monday.
Crewe’s manager, the long-serving Dario Gradi, spoke of how Liverpool and Crewe have had close ties for many years: “We had an alliance with Liverpool a few years ago, which was designed to help both parties and I think it still works well. People said we were a feeder club for Liverpool but that wasn’t true. Liverpool are always the first port of call we make if we are thinking about loaning someone in and if we have a player I think could be good enough for them then I will tell. That was the case when Danny moved and I suggested Dean could be an option for them when he was ready to move on.”
Grady was referring to Danny Murphy, ironically one of the first players to be sold by Rafael Benitez, and Dean Ashton, one of the West Ham scorers in May’s FA Cup final. Loans to Crewe in recent years from Anfield have included Stephen Wright, Jon Newby and Crewe’s current right-back Jon Otsemobor, who’s now a permanent player for the club.
Speaking to the official Crewe website, Grady said that Liverpool’s youngsters also benefit from the partnership: “When the Academy need a fixture then we try and sort something out with them. If Hugh McAuley rings up and wants a game then we try and do our best to sort something out.”
Grady is on good terms with Liverpool’s Chief Executive, Rick Parry: “I’ve known Rick for many years and we get on well. I first met him when I went to the FA over the FA Technical Director’s job and he was one of the chief men there. We had a good relationship when Peter Robinson and Roy Evans were at the club and that carried on when Gerard Houllier took over. I’ve not met Rafa Benitez yet but I would imagine we will have a chat at some point.”
Rafa will no doubt try and find time to chat to Dario today after the game at Crewe’s Gresty Road ground. Maybe it will allow the two clubs to rebuild the links they once had. According to Crewe’s assistant manager Neil Baker the link isn’t what is once was: “We might not have the sort of link we had with Liverpool before, but we do get to know about most of their young players and how they are doing. Myself and Glyn Chamberlain go to see most of their youngsters in the reserve games there so we do keep tabs on that.” Chamberlain is Crewe’s chief scout.
Baker says that despite the absence of the likes of Alonso, Carragher and Gerrard, it will still be some opposition they have to face: “We know Liverpool’s World Cup players won’t be playing, but there will still be some good players on show. It will be good to see Craig Bellamy play and there will be some terrific talent for the supporters. It will be nice to play a very good side in front of a good crowd, but we will certainly have to do a bit more running without the ball.”