Life has been pretty eventful for Crewe Alexandra’s 18 year old midfielder George Cooper lately. Inbetween starring as a first team player trying to stave off relegation from League One, George has been part of the youth team that has been impressing during a run to the Quarter Finals of the FA Youth Cup. Cooper, not 19 until November, is yet another diamond being polished at the Gresty Road conveyor belt of talent, and already has more than a dozen first team games under his belt.
Unfortunately for George and his teammates, the Crewe youngsters were blown away 6-1 by £28 million worth of Manchester City talent in the quarter-final of the FA Youth Cup on Monday. But they exited the competition with heads held high, just one game short of matching the club’s best ever showing in the competition, the semi-final in 2003. A splendid run had seen them beat Fulham and Preston before a stunning 3-2 win away to Arsenal in the last round set up the last eight tie with City.
Steve Davis, the Crewe manager, said before the tie at the City Academy Stadium that he was very proud of “a really good group of players” for their achievement in going so far in the youth cup.
It was always going to be a tough test for the Alex youngsters at City, but their win at Arsenal buoyed everyone up at the club. Crewe’s chances away to the Gunners hadn’t been helped by the tie being frozen off and then postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, both after the Alex party had made the long trek south. Then, at the third time of asking, the game went ahead at Barnet FC’s Hive Complex on 23rd February.
Crewe shocked Arsenal by taking an early lead through Liam O’Neill, and early in the second half Andre Brown’s cross went in off a Gunners’ defender to put the visitors 2-0 up. The home side pulled a goal back, but Brown then made it 3-1. Arsenal pulled it back to 3-2 with just seven minutes remaining but the Alex held on to record a famous victory and set up the quarter-final against Premier League heavyweights Manchester City.
Crewe Youth Team manager Alex Morris said after the win over Arsenal.
“It was a magnificent show by the boys. They had to roll up their sleeves and show courage and bravery, which they did.”
Undaunted by their opposition Crewe took the game to City on Monday evening and took a shock lead through Tom Lowery after just eight minutes, after a stunning move of one-touch football by the visitors. City hit back to lead 2-1 at the interval and when they scored again early in the second half, the game was all but over. However Crewe raised their game, and inspired by George Cooper, they carved out a couple of half chances, but couldn’t reduce the arrears.
City then upped the pressure, and by full-time they had added another three goals that, although it perhaps reflected the gulf between the two clubs, did not attest to the contribution of the Alex youngsters.
Crewe Alexandra has a longstanding reputation for not only developing young talent but giving it a chance at first team level, if they are good enough. Rob Jones is perhaps the best example; Having made his Crewe debut at 16 he went on to make more than a hundred appearances for the Alex before moving to Liverpool, where he won the first of his eight England caps.
Crewe manager Steve Davis spoke exclusively to Proven Quality on Tuesday morning and said he was so pleased at the youth team’s showing in the FA Youth Cup he promised.
“If we secure our League One safety with three or four games to go then I am planning to give a one or two of the youth team players a chance to play in the first team.”