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Tuesday, 20 November, 2001, 08:18 GMT
BBC Sport Online chief football writer Phil McNulty looks at a remarkable managerial landmark for Crewe boss Dario Gradi.
Dario Gradi enters the football record books with his 1,000th match as Crewe boss - in an era when modern managerial rules state the axe can sometimes fall after ten games.
The sack can come even quicker in some cases, just ask Stuart Gray after his dismissal at Southampton, but Gradi has always been an exception to the rules.
Brian Clough, Graham Taylor and Jim Smith can boast longer managerial records, but Gradi's 1,000 has been achieved in the humble surroundings of Gresty Road.
Gradi has watched 750 managers go through the managerial doorway elsewhere in the course of what will be 836 league games, 152 cup ties and 12 play-off games after the First Division game at Norwich City.
He has been a model of consistency, a benchmark for all the best values in football and the prime example of how a lower division club should operate.
Gradi has concentrated on setting up a production line of young talent designed to sustain Crewe in the present and act as a financial safeguard for its future.
And, after their own fashion, Crewe's story can stand comparison with many of football's more spectacular and headline-grabbing successes.
The Crewe academy, carefully nurtured and overseen by the perfectionist workaholic Gradi, has its graduates scattered throughout football.
The evidence was seen again at Old Trafford when Liverpool's Danny Murphy was given his first England cap against Sweden.
Murphy is a Gradi graduate from Gresty Road - joining a list that includes former England captain David Platt and internationals Rob Jones, Seth Johnson, Neil Lennon and Robbie Savage.
Savage and Platt came via Manchester United before heading for pastures new, but still retain great affection for Crewe and a ready acknowledgement for Gradi's influence.
And Liverpool think so highly of Gradi that they are now party to a gentleman's agreement with Crewe to ensure they have first refusal on any promising youngsters.
It serves Crewe well, but Liverpool have also had their rewards in the shape of Murphy.
Indeed it was a spell on loan back at Crewe that is widely regarded as the catalyst that pushed Murphy away from the Anfield scrapheap and on to the international stage.
Gradi is proud of his record, a testimony to hard work and one club's faith in a manager they know is right for them.
Bigger clubs may have eyed Gradi, but he is happy at a club where a seat on the board guarantees him more than the average influence.
He says: "I'm addicted to this place. I work seven days a week. I trek the country looking for players. I'd have enjoyed the Premiership, working with top class players, but it didn't happen."
Gradi believes his place on the board is important, saying: "The good thing is, my vote counts for as much as anyone else's. It also lets me have my say.
"The people who sit on the board are my friends and it means there is never any hostility - that must be unique."
Gradi's legacy of 1,000 games in charge is a youth set-up that is the envy of many bigger clubs.
He explains: "A lot of our coaches here are former players so we don't chop and change our methods."
"An awful lot depends on their physical development.
"Danny Murphy, Neil Lennon and Rob Jones all grew and got more pace.
"It gives you more time to avoid tackles and when that happens you have a greater chance of making it.
"The player whose development always surprised me most was David Platt, though I don't know why. I shouldn't have been surprised really.
"Having spoken to David several times after he left, you could see how his experience abroad had affected his thinking."
And as he prepares to celebrate his place in history in typically low-key fashion, the forward-thinking Gradi is probably already turning his attention to the next thousand games.
19 Nov 01 | Crewe Alexandra
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