Crewe Alexandra has a mixture of former players and youth Academy graduates that make up their squad.
The addition of former players such as former captain Luke Murphy, along with Academy graduates Rio Adebisi and Billy Sass-Davies, allowed manager David Artell and his staff to believe they could climb further up the table this season following last year’s 12th-place finish in Sky Bet League One – the highest finish for the club in the third division since being relegated from the Championship in 2006.
However, injuries to players like Callum Ainley, as well as the loss of Owen Dale on loan to Blackpool, have proved to be a real challenge for The Alex.
Dale scored the second-most goals last campaign with 11. However, in 15 league matches this season, the Railwaymen have a -17 goal difference coming into Tuesday’s home match against Rovers. Tottenham Hotspur loan signee J’Neil Bennett and last year’s leading scorer for Crewe, Mikael Mandron, have combined for four of the team’s 11 goals so far this campaign.
Since September 2019, Rio Adebisi has been a member of the first team with Crewe Alexandra, after graduating from the club’s youth set-up. He made his first team debut for the Railwaymen at the age of 18, playing in a second round Carabao Cup tie against Aston Villa in August 2019. However, a foot injury derailed the Croydon-born defender playing time for much of the remainder of the 2019/20 season. In October 2021, Adebisi signed a contract extension that will see him stay at the club until 2024. On the pitch, the right-back has been impactful with one assist so far. He provides most of the deliveries for the team, leading the squad with 30. He also has 16 interceptions and a team third-most tackles won with 19.
J’Neil Lloyd Bennett arrived at Crewe Alexandra in August on loan from parent club Tottenham Hotspur until January 2022. He is a fast and lively winger that was a regular in the Spurs U23 side during the 2020/21 Premier League 2 season. The 19-year-old made his first team debut for Spurs in August against Paços Ferreira in a Europa Conference League play-off first leg. Before joining the Spurs Academy, Bennett was first a member of the Queens Park Rangers Academy.
On the international level, Bennett has seen action with the England U18 squad, making his debut for the squad in 2018. The London-born and raised teenager scored his first professional goal in the Railwaymen’s 2-0 win over Burton Albion, while he has a team third-best seven shots on target in 21 total attempts. This season, he has a 33.3% shots on target average, as well as a 0.97 shots on target per game ratio.
Born in France, Mikael Mandron joined Crewe Alexandra in the summer of 2020 after his contract at Gillingham expired. He quickly establishesd himself as one of the club’s best strikers. He led the team with 14 goals across all competitions in his first season with the Railwaymen. Beginning his youth career in the northeast at Sunderland, he went on to play for the Black Cats in first team action between 2013-2016, before ultimately serving loan spells with Fleetwood Town, Shrewsbury Town and Hartlepool United while still employed in Wearside.
In 2017, Mandron made a permanent move to Colchester United, going on to score 12 goals in 85 appearances across two seasons with the club. Internationally, Mandron was eligible to represent England, France and Scotland, but was eventually called up to the Scotland U20 squad in May 2013. This season, the Scotland international leads Crewe Alexandra with three goals scored from 20 shots. He has registered a team second-high eight shots on target (40%). Mandron is averaging 1.38 shots per game, in addition to 0.38 goals per shots on target.
A former captain for Crewe Alexandra, Luke Murphy signed a two-year deal to return to his former club in September 2020, following his release from Bolton Wanderers. Beginning his career as an Academy player for Crewe Alexandra, the Macclesfield-born man began his senior career with the Railwaymen in 2008, spending five years with the club and scoring 25 goals in 186 appearances.
In 2012, he was an integral part of the team that earned promotion from Sky Bet League Two. The next five years would see Murphy provide his trade at Elland Road, scoring seven goals and making 100 appearances in his time with Leeds United. Following his release from Leeds in 2018, he made his way to Bolton Wanderers, spending two years with the club before his eventual return to Gresty Road for Crewe Alexandra. In his brief spell with Bolton Wanderers, Murphy scored twice in 45 appearances for the club.
This season, Murphy has provided one assist, as well as delivering 15 crosses into the box. He has recorded a team-high 20 interceptions and picked up 12 tackles won in defence.