Director Of Football
Date of birth
Crewe Alexandra appointed Dario Gradi as manager way back in June 1983. His prime assignment was to keep Crewe in the Football League. 25 years later, Gradi is still at Gresty Road and has helped transform the club into one of the most respected clubs in the country.
Dario is one of the game's rare breeds - he never played league football, playing instead for Sutton United and Tooting and Mitcham before electing to become a PE teacher. In fact, Gradi turned down professional terms at Leyton Orient to concentrate on his teaching career at Loughborough University and regards FA Coaches Alan Wade, Charles Hughes and Dave Sexton as the biggest influences on his career.
Born in Milan, Gradi learned his coaching trade in London with Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Orient and Wimbledon before deciding to move to South Cheshire. He was Chelsea's assistant coach at just 29 years of age after gaining experience alongside fellow coaches Roy Hodgson, Ted Powell and Bobby Houghton at the Coaching Association in Surrey. He succeeded Allen Batsford as Wimbledon manager in 1978 and helped the Dons start their prominent rise to the top flight. It was Gradi's Assistant Manager Dave Bassett, who replaced him at Plough Lane, when Dario elected to follow Ron Noades to Crystal Palace.
Whilst at Crewe he has established a renowned Youth Academy where graduates such as Seth Johnson, Danny Murphy, Rob Jones and Dean Ashton have all moved on to Premier League clubs. Gradi also has the coaching ability to improve and rejuvenate released or non-league players. He turned David Platt from a Manchester United reject into the England Captain, Neil Lennon from Manchester City's reserves into a regular Northern Ireland International and Robbie Savage into a Welsh International.
Thanks to Dario and his back room staff, Crewe Alexandra now have a Youth Academy that is envied and respected throughout the footballing world. He is always prepared to give youth a chance and is a shrewd judge of character - installing complete discipline from his players.
Dario Gradi was the longest serving manager in English football and for his contribution to football he was awarded the MBE in January 1998. Over the years, Gradi has been linked to many clubs in England and abroad (he turned down the Benfica job at one point) but declares that the only job that really interested him was the FA's Technical Director position which finally went to Howard Wilkinson.
Of course, Dario Gradi led the club to promotion via the Play-Offs in 1997 and then again as runners-up in 2003, but his escapes from relegation in the Championship must rank as high in his list of achievements.
Against the odds, Crewe genuinely surprised everyone in football by playing eight seasons out of ten in the second tier of English football before their eventual relegation in 2006.
In July 2007, Dario Gradi became the club’s new Director of Football with Academy Director Steve Holland promoted to first-team coach but after 16-months in charge of the club, Holland was relieved of his first-team duties and the experienced Gradi was appointed caretaker manager in November 2008. He was once again placed back in charge following the departure of manager Gudjon Thordarson in October 2009.
After guiding the Alex through the next two years, and helping the next batch of the Crewe Alexandra academy find their feet in the first-team, Gradi opted to step down from first-team duties and return to his former role as the clubs Director of Football. Gradi was replaced by his assistant Steve Davis at frist team level in 2012, the season Crewe Alexandra won promotion back into League One.