Ward is ‘kind of pleased’ for Gradi

COLCHESTER United boss John Ward has paid tribute to Dario Gradi, after the 70-year-old stood down as manager of his beloved Crewe Alexandra yesterday.

COLCHESTER United boss John Ward has paid tribute to Dario Gradi, after the 70-year-old stood down as manager of his beloved Crewe Alexandra yesterday.

Gradi will remain at Gresty Road, in his capacity as Technical Director and on the Board of Directors, as well as taking on a new role as head of the Academy.

But it is still the end of an era for Gradi, and the Cheshire club, coming just 48 hours before the U’s visit to Gresty Road for an FA Cup first round tie.

Ironically, Ward had been waxing lyrical about his opposite number Gradi, and in particular his longevity as the Railwaymen’s supremo, during yesterday morning’s pre-FA Cup press conference.

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However, just a couple of hours later and Gradi announced that he was stepping down as Crewe boss, a role he had filled for 26 of the last 28 years.

Appointed in 1983, Gradi’s long tenure was only broken by a couple of years as a Technical Director. But despite this incredible show of loyalty, Gradi was booed by a section of Crewe’s home supporters during last weekend’s 3-0 defeat at Torquay.

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Ward himself was distressed to hear of Gradi’s treatment from a minority of the Gresty Road faithful, after speaking to his scout Stuart Gray, who was at last Saturday’s League Two fixture.

“Am I surprised that he has stepped down? Yes and no. But I’m thinking – ‘good for you!’ – because he didn’t deserve last week’s criticism,” explained Ward last night.

“I’m kind of pleased in a way, that Dario has reached this decision, because I didn’t want to listen to him getting grief from his supporters if we won.

“He’s a great man, and the truth is that you can’t buy passion like that. He’s a rare breed.

“I’m certain you won’t see the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Dario Gradi at any one club that long in years to come. It’s now such a massive cut-throat business. That’s been clear over my last 20 years as a manager.

“There are more foreign managers coming in. Football in this country is now world-wide, not just English or British.

“For those reasons alone, you won’t see one person at one football club for 25 or 30 years. It just will not happen.

“That’s why Dario and Sir Alex are unique,” added Ward.

Steve Davis, who was Gradi’s assistant, has been appointed the new manager and will be in charge of his first game against the U’s tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Ward confirmed that he would be handing Casey Thomas his Colchester debut at Crewe.

Thomas, recruited on loan from Swansea City a week ago, was an unused substitute during last weekend’s goalless draw at Tranmere Rovers.

Ward confirmed: “Casey’s going to start, playing wide on the right-hand side.”

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