Dario Gradi MBE
, 8 July 1941
) is a football manager
and former player, currently technical director of Crewe Alexandra
Gradi is notable for his 24-year spell as manager of Crewe, between 1983 and 2007. He stepped down from his managerial role in 2007, handing first-team responsibilities to Steve Holland, and became technical director. At that time, Gradi was the longest serving manager of an English football league club.
Over his career Gradi has become one of English football's most respected managers and coaches. Born to an Italian father (who died when Dario was a small child) and an English mother, he moved to London when his mother returned after the Second World War.
He trained as a teacher of physical education at what is now Loughborough University
between 1960 and 1963 and his first teaching position was at Glyn Grammar School
– the school which he himself had attended. As a footballer, he played for Sutton United
, playing in the FA Cup
tie against Leeds United
in 1970, and Tooting & Mitcham United
. During that time Gradi also owned and operated a sportswear and equipment shop in Ewell
After a period of teaching, Gradi turned to football coaching, becoming Assistant Coach at Chelsea
in 1971 at the age of just 29. This was followed by coaching and management posts at Sutton United
, Derby County
, and a two-year spell as youth-coach at Leyton Orient
He took over as manager of Wimbledon
in January 1978, and on leaving Plough Lane had an unsuccessful spell as manager of Crystal Palace
between February and November 1981. He eventually settled at Crewe
, where he was appointed manager
of Crewe Alexandra F.C.
in June 1983, when they had finished near the bottom of the Fourth Division
. His first signing was Mike Woodward from Watford
and gradually the club moved forward. In 1989 they won promotion to end 25 years in the league's basement division. They went back down again two years later, but in 1994 won promotion to the Division Two
and three years after that they reached Division One
for the first time in their history. Shortly after the 1994 promotion, Gradi became the League's longest-serving manager, long outlasting others in such jobs. By 2002, he was one of just two managers to have held their position since before 1990. He has since joined the club's Board of Directors
His keen eye for spotting and rearing young talent is what has gained him some recognition in football. He was linked with the post of FA
Technical Director in 1996, and also entered into discussions with Portugal
over the vacant managerial spot in the 1980s. Proteges of his coaching at Crewe include many top players past and present, such as Dean Ashton
, David Platt
, Geoff Thomas
, Rob Jones
, Danny Murphy
and Seth Johnson
(all England Internationals), Welsh
internationals Robbie Savage
and David Vaughan
and Northern Ireland
internationals Neil Lennon
, Steve Jones
and Michael O'Connor
. A host of other players have achieved caps below full international status - e.g.: schoolboy, under-18, under-21, etc. Gradi is respected for encouraging his sides to play the game in a fair spirit, whilst also ensuring that his players seek to play 'proper' football rather than the 'long-ball' football that has become the hallmark of the modern game.
On 20 April 2007 Gradi announced that with effect from 1 July he would relinquish first team responsibilities, becoming Technical Director while gradually handing over to new first-team coach Steve Holland. Neil Baker remains assistant manager. Gradi told the club website:
- "I didn't want to be a 75-year-old manager working seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. That is not healthy for the future of the club. I will probably drop dead doing the job at some point but I wanted to put that day off a bit. This is a better way to do things, to introduce this gradual transition because it will take some of the workload off me."
Gradi was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame
in 2004 in recognition of his impact as a manager in the English game.
The British dance music group Dario G is named in his honour, as is a street in Crewe, Dario Gradi Drive . In 2003 he was made an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Crewe and Nantwich and in the same year was awarded an honorary doctorate by Loughborough University.
- 1 Between 22 September and 17 October 2003 Neil Baker took temporary charge of the team while Gradi underwent heart surgery. The team did not win any matches during this period.