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Having finished runners-up in the North West League for the second successive season in 2014-15, it was all change at Crewe Alexandra.
Director of Football Nick Pearce stepped away from the First team manager position due to work commitments and looked to pass the role to his assistant manager Ian Wood. With Wood at first accepting the role and then changing his mind, Pearce approached first team coach John Evans and Liam Salt to take the role in a joint capacity. With Evans then leaving halfway through pre-season, Salt was told during a family holiday in Australia he was the new first team manager! Pearce returned to support Liam in an assistant manager's role and was soon joined by Jack Albanese to make the first team management team, joining as coach and sports analyst.
A very new look first team squad soon started to form with Liam promoting four under-21s into the first team and with good external work from Nick signing some fresh faces to the Crewe Alex outfit, things started to take shape. The management team soon started to shape the squad with trials and intense pre-season sessions working on fitness, strength and conditioning, technical work and also gelling the team as a unit. The pre-season friendlies soon started with mixed results as current players were playing in new positions, players settling in being promoted from the under-21s and also new signings externally becoming familiar with new players, coaches, methods and surroundings.
The League campaign kicked off at home to City of Manchester. A positive pre-season and hard work on and off the pitch shone through with an emphatic 4-1 win which put a statement out to the rest of the league, Crewe Alexandra Ladies were here and they meant business. At this moment in time the players and coaches did not know it, but, they had just started something special, something that will probably never replicate in any of their playing or coaching careers, a whole league and FA County Cup campaign undefeated.
The team pushed on through their next four games, winning all comfortably, scoring at will from the front line, the midfield battling and creating chances and the defence along with the Alex keeper not leaking many goals. The Alex ladies' first true test came after six games in the form of Accrington Stanley at home. The Alex clinched a 3-2 win but were pushed all the way by another good footballing side.
The end of November and beginning of December saw two very big hurdles in the form of Blackburn Community at home followed by an away fixture on a very cold Sunday at Bolton Wanderers. On both occasions the club as a whole were galvanised and every single player and coach were there for the other through two very testing encounters. The home fixture versus Blackburn, although finished 3-1 was very close match, the Alex the team that took their chances and kept their nerve. The second of these two very testing matches put the Alex up against title chasers Bolton Wanderers who were also up to this point unbeaten, with one draw against Burnley. After two minutes the Alex conceded from a Bolton corner and for the first 45 minutes the Alex were deservedly behind. After stern words in the dressing room and minor tactical adjustments, Crewe started to dominate and create chances and with 25 minutes remaining scored twice in eight minutes, one of the highlights of the season as celebrations on and off the pitch pictured just what this result meant in the grand scheme of things, final score 2-1.
The beginning of March also saw the next big challenge for the league title, a double header against Burnley. An extremely tense encounter saw the Alex leave it late twice but demonstrated the mentality that was instilled by the coaches 'never to give up' as CALFC won 1-0 and 2-0. One result flowed into the next and soon the Alex found themselves in the FA County Cup Final after dispatching Stockport County (who are a league above) and Ellesmere Port in both the quarter and semi finals, yet again scoring late in extra time taking them through to the Cup final in April versus Warrington Wolverines where the Ladies dominated even though going down to ten players after the first four minutes. The reds on the evening of the Cup Final were electric and finished with a mighty result of 5-1. Another massive result in the 2015/16 season and one which had all the club thinking 'we're nearly there' was the 1-1 home draw against Bolton Wanderers, after being a goal down before half time and equalising late on this again showed just what a hard working and close knit unit the first team are!
The Alex finished the season with some tricky away fixtures, Accrington, both Manchester teams, Blackburn and Blackpool, drawing 2 of these and finishing an amazing season at Blackpool inside of Bloomfield Road to win and finish on a high 2-1 winners, lifting both the League and Cup trophies as worthy winners.
The club's route of progression in terms of player development was evident through the season, none moreso than the last six games, where a number of U21 players were called up and slotted in seamlessly to help out with injuries and suspensions. This is a the foundation of the club with the aim to progress players internally through the ranks to play eventually for the first team and so far is working extremely well due to the hard work of not only the coaches but also players alike. The club is going from strength to strength and as it's now moving up to the third tier of the women's national game, has to find new and more sponsorship as it is a fully self sufficient club. Not only is the club looking for more sponsorship it's successfully making closer ties with Reaseheath College where their women's academy will now have direct links to the Crewe Alexandra Ladies Football Club and this will be another route in to playing at a very high standard of football.
The club would like to thank all that have helped in any capacity to date and they look forward to the new challenges that the 2016-17 season has to bring.
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