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|Full name||Dario Gradi MBE|
|Date of birth||8 July 1941|
|Place of birth||Milan, Italy|
|Height||1.62 m (5 ft 4 in)|
|Crewe Alexandra F.C. Academy (manager)|
|1971||Tooting & Mitcham United|
|2008||Crewe Alexandra (caretaker)|
|2011–||Crewe Alexandra F.C. Academy|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
Dario Gradi MBE (born 8 July 1941) is an Italian-born English football manager and former player. He has been associated for more than 30 years with Crewe Alexandra, with whom he is currently the Director of Football and also director of the Academy.
Gradi had a 24-year first 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. After two further interim spells as Crewe manager, he stepped down on 10 November 2011 to focus on youth development at Crewe.
Early life and playing career
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He trained as a teacher of physical education at what is now Loughborough University and his first (and only) teaching position was at Glyn Grammar School, Epsom, the school which he himself had attended. He joined Sutton United, playing in the FA Cup tie against Leeds United in 1970, and then represented Tooting & Mitcham United. During that time Gradi also owned and operated a sportswear and equipment shop in Ewell village. Gradi also played for Wycombe Wanderers, long before the club became fully professional. Dario Gradi became a Regional Coach for the FA. This caused him to lose his amateur status and become ineligible to continue his playing career.
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, Wimbledon, and a two-year spell as youth-coach at Leyton Orient.
He took over as manager of Wimbledon in January 1978, helping the Plough Lane side win their first promotion from the Football League Fourth Division in 1978/79, although they were relegated at the first attempt. They were well on course for an immediate return to the Football League Third Division when in February 1981 an offer came for Gradi to manage struggling Football League First Division side Crystal Palace. Palace chairman Ron Noades had only recently left Wimbledon himself and saw Gradi as the ideal man to save his new purchase from relegation.
However, his time at Selhurst Park was not a success, as he failed to save Palace from relegation and he resigned the following November as a disappointing start to the 1981/82 season saw their promotion hopes effectively written off (promotion was ultimately not achieved for another seven seasons).
Gradi returned to management in June 1983, when he accepted an offer to manage Crewe Alexandra, a team who regularly finished near the bottom of the Fourth Division and had been forced to apply for re-election on several occasions in order to avoid slipping into the Northern Premier League and, since its creation in 1979, the Football Conference. His first signing was Mike Woodward from Watford and gradually the club moved forward.
In 1988/89, after six seasons of steady progress, they won promotion to end 25 years in the league's basement division. Gradi signed a then unheard of ten-year contract with Crewe. 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. By 2002, he was one of just two managers, the other being Alex Ferguson, to have held their position since before 1990. He later joined the club's Board of Directors.
Gradi's contract with Crewe was one of the most controversial in the football league, he personally takes a percentage of profit on any player sold on to another club.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Gradi helped launch the careers of many players who went on to play top division and even international football. These include David Platt, Rob Jones, Geoff Thomas, Danny Murphy, Ashley Ward, Wayne Collins, Seth Johnson, Robbie Savage and Neil Lennon. Platt was the most successful of these players, captaining England on many occasions and also helping Arsenal win the double at the end of his playing career.
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's Benfica over the vacant managerial spot in the 1980s. In January 1998, Gradi was awarded an MBE for services to football.
His success continued into the 2000s, when he helped launch the career of a new generation of young stars including Rob Hulse, Dean Ashton, David Vaughan, Michael O'Connor, Billy Jones, Nicky Maynard, Ashley Westwood, Luke Murphy and Nick Powell.
In 2004 Dario won the PFA Merit Award for his services to football, an award previously won by many football luminaries such as Bobby Charlton, Bill Shankly, Matt Busby, Bob Paisley, Brian Clough, Stanley Matthews, Pelé, Bobby Robson and Alex Ferguson.
Crewe Alexandra won the PFA Bobby Moore Fair Play trophy 12 times in 15 years during Gradi's reign.
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, with Neil Baker remaining as assistant manager. Gradi was then the longest serving manager of an English football league club. 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."
On 18 November 2008, Gradi resumed control of Crewe's first team on a caretaker basis after a poor start to the 2008/09 season under Steve Holland had left the club bottom of League One. He was in charge for just over a month before Gudjon Thordarson was announced as his successor on Christmas Eve 2008. Gradi remained in charge of the team for two games during the Christmas period, with Thordarson taking over on 29 December. Following the sacking of Thordarson on 2 October 2009, Gradi was again reinstated as caretaker manager which the board of directors then stated would be until further notice.
In 2011 at the Football League Awards Gradi was again honoured by his peers as he won the 'Outstanding Contribution to League Football' for his work at Crewe.
After returning as manager in 2009, on 10 November 2011 it was announced that Gradi had chosen to step down as manager, returning to his position as Director of Football. Gradi's then assistant manager Steve Davis – who had played for Crewe under Gradi from 1983 to 1987 – was appointed as manager with immediate effect. Davis led Crewe to playoff success to reach League 1 with a 2–0 win over Cheltenham in May 2012.
English dance and trance music group Dario G was named in honour of Gradi.
Gradi was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2004 in recognition of his impact as a manager in the English game. A street in Crewe, Dario Gradi Drive, is named in his honour . 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.
The winning school in the Surrey Schools Football Association's boys under-13s competition receive the Dario Gradi Trophy.
- As of 8 November 2011
|Wimbledon||5 January 1978||1 January 1981||171||63||61||47||36.84|
|Crystal Palace||1 February 1981||10 November 1981||27||6||18||3||22.22|
|Crewe Alexandra1||1 June 1983||1 July 2007||1,244||462||477||305||37.14|
|Crewe Alexandra (caretaker)||18 November 2008||28 December 20082||9||3||5||1||33.33|
|Crewe Alexandra||2 October 2009||10 November 2011||109||38||48||23||34.86|
- 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.
- 2 Gradi's successor, Gudjon Thordarson, was announced on 24 December, but Gradi remained in charge of the team for games on 26 and 28 December.
- Footballers are greedy says Gradi BBC Sport, 19 June 2008. Retrieved on 20 June 2008.
- Dario Gradi steps down as Crewe Alexandra manager BBC Sport, 10 November 2011. Retrieved on 10 November 2011.
- Conn, David (2004). The Beautiful Game?. Yellow Jersey. p. 257. ISBN 0-224-06435-5.
- "Dario Gradi Football Hall of Fame profile". English Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved 19 November 2007.
- Gradi stays at Crewe, BBC, 15 October 2002
- Dario Gradi MBE, League Managers Association. Retrieved: 17 April 2015.
- Times Online and agencies (20 April 2007). "Gradi reaches end of the line at Crewe-Sport-Football-League One-TimesOnline". Times Online. London. Retrieved 20 April 2007.[dead link]
- "Gradi replaces Holland at Crewe". BBC Sport. 18 November 2008. Retrieved 18 November 2008.
- Thordarson appointed Crewe boss BBC Sport; 24 December 2008
- Thordarson sacked as Crewe boss BBC Sport; 2 October 2009