Neil Baker left the club after 23 seasons at the Club
The Chairman, board of directors, supporters, management, players and staff.
I would like to thank you all for the messages received by mouth, text and social media. I have been completely overwhelmed by the number and the goodwill of people connected with the club and from within the football community.
As you can well imagine last Friday was a very emotional day for me. Saying goodbye to the players and staff at Reaseheath and at Gresty Road was such a touching experience and one that I’m not ashamed to say brought tears to my eyes.
I have made many friends over my time at the club which I value and will stay in touch with over the coming years. Our Chairman John Bowler has always been fully supportive of what we have tried to do and has led the club magnificently over a long period through some testing times and through some glorious achievements.
I have been fortunate to have worked with some top managers and coaches. Dario, it goes without saying heads this list. Under his guidance our club reached heights that could never have been contemplated when I first joined in 1994. Our spell in the Championship of eight years out of ten, I think it was, will be hard to emulate and I take great delight in reminding my mates that it was more than Stoke City in that period!!
I went to see Dario on Friday and we reminisced over our time together. He said to me, ‘We made a great team’. That is probably the greatest accolade anyone could ever have paid me and will stay with me forever.
I also worked alongside the present England assistant manager Steve Holland. Although his time at the helm wasn’t a particularly successful one, his work with the Academy made it what it is today, regarded as a model for others to follow.
It was obvious to me that he would go on to become a success in the game and this has been proved with his achievements elsewhere. We remain good friends.
Working with Steve Davis was another experience that I enjoyed. Promotion in our first season followed by the JPT win at Wembley was a fantastic start to his managerial career at the ‘Alex’. Unfortunately, we couldn’t sustain that and Steve has moved on and I’m sure you will all join me in wishing him well in his new venture at Leyton Orient.
The team is in good hands under Dave and Kenny and will go on and prosper. Our younger professionals will continue to get good advice and information from Alex. We have some very good young coaches in the Academy and with the knowledge and coaching skills of Jimmy Collins they will get better and who knows will eventually become first team management material.
I have worked with many fine players over the years. Some have moved on to become top class and represent their countries.
I’ve considered myself a very lucky man to have had involvement in their careers. Just as pleasing for me is the number of ex-players who have messaged me in various ways of their time at the club and the experiences we shared. I’ve been asked many times which players are the best you worked with at Crewe. For me, Danny Murphy, Dean Ashton, Seth Johnson and Nick Powell are the pick. One that made the best of what he had got, Rob Savage. They all had one thing in common, an incredible appetite for the game.
Last but certainly not least I must thank you, our supporters. You have made my time at the club a fantastic one. Though we have not always agreed, I have forged strong relationships with many of you. I was and still am a supporter of the game so know what you go through and what it means to be a ‘fan’.
I have many many great memories of my time at the club that have been shared with you. Promotions, Wembley triumphs, winning at the ‘Brit’ 2-0, beating the Vale away two seasons running are some of the highlights. I nearly joined you a few seasons back at Torquay (if Dave Artell hadn’t of rugby tackled me) when Nick Powell equalized late on!!
You haven’t seen the last of me. I will still come to games when my new job allows and visit Reaseheath to see you when the U23s play.
The club have gratefully awarded me a Testimonial game. We are currently putting together plans for a game at the end of the current season and a couple of functions during the year. I will keep you informed.
Thanks for the memories and see you soon.