Crewe Alexandra fan view: Leyton Orient supporters should give Steve Davis a chance
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Railwaymen supporter Matt Withers discusses Steve Davis’ time at Gresty Road and why he could do well at Brisbane Road
The story of Steve Davis’ time at the helm of Crewe Alexandra is a play in two acts. The first runs from 2011 to 2013 and sees a hungry young manager take charge, rapidly improve a squad’s fitness and defensive capabilities and go on to two Wembley wins in two years.
The second features two last-day survivals, one relegation, a poor final half-season and, the final tragedy, the sack. In short, it’s complex.
In the brief period since Davis was appointed at Brisbane Road I’ve seen fans of Crewe, the club I support, take to the fans’ forums of Orient, now my local side, to warn them of the failings of the man they are getting.
I write this not to argue, but to add a little more nuance. Davis was, after all, at the time of his sacking the fourth longest-serving in the Football League, having won two trophies on a minimal budget and seeing his star players sold each summer.
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His record at his previous club, Nantwich Town, was outstanding, leading the largely unheralded club to two promotions in three seasons, an FA Vase and the brink of the-then Conference North.
At Crewe he hit the ground running. He moved quickly on improving the fitness of a squad talented but too often lacking physique – his very first move was to introduce mandatory communal breakfasts for players he discovered were training on empty stomachs.
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A defender as a player, his work on instilling shape and discipline on a side which too often tended to see that side of the game as beneath them bore results immediately
If I were to locate the end of this first act, the moment the curtain drops for the interval, I think it would be his interview for the Wolves job in 2013 when his stock was at its highest.
For some fans – curiously of a club accustomed to seeing its players move on to bigger and better things – to flirt so publicly with another club stuck in the craw. Others feel it was when he lost some of his mojo.
There’s no denying the following years weren’t much fun, although Davis cannot shoulder all the blame. Crewe are a club with a strict business model – bringing on younger players, selling them and investing the profit in the academy, not the first team – and he would routinely lose his best players.
Ashley Westwood, Nick Powell, Luke Murphy and the less-remembered Max Clayton were all moved on, most for big figures but Davis seeing little of it. And we struggled against League One clubs with Championship stadiums and budgets to match.
Steve Davis was at Crewe a long time, and it did not end well. But don’t most management careers end like this?
I am glad to see him back in the game and have a suspicion he and the new Orient might be a very good fit.
He knows how to work under a director of football. He plays the game right – he would not have lasted so long at Crewe had he played the agricultural football some fans now seem to remember.
And a bit of defensive discipline at Brisbane Road wouldn’t go amiss anyway. His contacts book is excellent and he knows how to play the loan market.
And his belief and trust in youth, and record in developing it, is excellent. The youngsters who showed so much bravery at the end of last season should be excited.
So, Orient fans, give him a chance and I think you have a very good manager on your hands. I hope the next act in Steve Davis’ career attracts rave reviews.