Go Away: Crewe Alexandra

The front cover of an AtoZ of Crewe on a red background

In the cult 1984 drama Threads, Crewe was destroyed by a single megaton Soviet Union nuclear weapon. Remarkably true to life for its time the programme depicted a desolate wasteland bereft of humanity or hope… and then the bomb hit.

Widely known as a railway town, Crewe’s connections to the rails run deeper that its sizeable station and proximity to a major rail junction. The truth is that none of the town’s buildings are real constructions, but are instead spare Hornby accessories. Everything you can see once you leave the station is nothing more than a trackside novelty, deposited here in 1922, having been mistakenly manufactured to a 1:1 ratio during that year’s great zero shortage. Houses, pubs, churches, signal boxes – a lot of signal boxes – all of them made of plastic and carefully glued and painted by your dad after you gave up and had a strop after mistakenly painting a shop window red.

The celebrated travel author Bill Bryson once labelled Crewe ‘the armpit of Cheshire’, which is a particularly unfair and inaccurate depiction, as geographically it’s much nearer to being the county’s groin. Time for another railway-related fact; Crewe is also one of a select few places in the UK where the town is actually named after the railway station, a trait shared with Llandudno Junction in Wales, and the Cumbrian village of Dankobscureplatform.

Formed in 1877 Crewe Alexandra’s unique moniker is due to the club being named in honour of royalty of the day, in their case, Princess Alexandra. It’s a trait the club shares with fellow Cheshire sides, Northwich Victoria and the somewhat unfortunate Sandbach Prince Alberts. For years Crewe fans have hung a flag at matches that reads ‘Born in Crewe. Live in Crewe. Die in Crewe.’ It remains one of the most depressing things I’ve ever seen and I worked for a housing charity under the current government.

What’s it famous for?

One of the most famous people to come out of Crewe is Adam Rickett, which is arguably another damning indictment of the town. Otherwise, Crewe is of course famous for the railway, yet for a town whose whole existence rests on people going away from it as quickly as possible on land its residents remain impressively chipper.

How to blend in

Hang around the end of station platforms relentlessly pencilling numbers into a little book, occasionally pausing to drink from a flask or chuck half a bag of crisps down your front and engage in tedious conversations about points systems at Stafford with any ticket inspectors who’ve had the misfortune to wander into your vicinity.

What’s the stadium like?

These days Gresty Road is known as the Mornflake Stadium, not owing to sponsorship but as a dig at a local resident who went to London to see Queen Elizabeth II lying in state, but baulked upon seeing the size of the queue, the massive mourn flake.

Boasting a capacity of 7,000 crewe’s Main Stand was constructed in 1999 to serve as a monument to misplaced optimism. Not so much a case of ‘if you build it they will come’ more ‘if you build it, they will be able to see it as they hop on a train to go and watch Liverpool’. The stand isn’t used solely for football supporters; the top three rows are also used for the lesser known pastime of Cheshire Watching. Here, old men will come to sit and silently stare at the rest of the county, contemplating the futility of existence, and trying not to let the football spoil their solemnity. Look out for them on your visit.

Away fans are housed in the snappily titled Whitby Morrison Ice Cream Van Stand, so called because it is in fact a row of converted transits staffed by some particularly suspect looking men in grubby white coats who make inappropriate jokes to young mums about whether they want nuts.

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