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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 October 2006, 06:27 GMT 07:27 UK
Next generation of Crewe talent
By Chris Bevan

Luke Varney and Nicky Maynard
Varney and Maynard have scored 17 goals between them this season

It seems that Crewe manager Dario Gradi has worked his magic again.

From David Platt to Dean Ashton the list of players who have gone from Gresty Road to greater things is a long and illustrious one.

And now there is a new generation of young talent under Gradi's wing that is being tipped for the top.

Teenage defender Billy Jones and strikers Nicky Maynard and Luke Varney have all been in impressive form for The Alex - with the latter two impressing against Manchester United in the Carling Cup on Tuesday.

Their team-mate Ryan Lowe tells BBC Sport what the trio have to offer and why the Premiership scouts have been flocking to watch them over the past few months.

NICKY MAYNARD

MAYNARD FACTFILE
Born: Winsford
Age: 19
Position: Striker
Clubs: Crewe, Witton Albion (loan)
Games: 17 (13 starts)
Goals: 11

I met Nicky at the tail-end of last season of last season when he made his debut at home to Millwall. He came on as a substitute and scored - and he has not looked back since.

You see him in training and you can tell he is destined for the top - although he still needs to learn a few things.

But he is only a kid in his first full season and has got time on his side for him to fulfil his potential if he keeps working hard.

He does try to use the ball when he gets it outside the box but he probably needs to work on his build-up play. The manager is always on at him to try to get more involved in the game.

But his strength is his goalscoring ability. He gets in such good positions and always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

He turns centre-halves well too. His all-round movement is good and he could turn out to be an excellent all-round player.

BILLY JONES

JONES FACTFILE
Billy Jones
Born: Shrewsbury
Age: 19
Position: Full-back
Clubs: Crewe
Games: 111 (106 starts)
Goals: 9

When I was playing for Shrewsbury all you would hear in town was 'Billy Jones, Billy Jones, Billy Jones'.

Everything about him is impressive - he can play in so many different positions too - and no wonder other clubs are keen.

He has been in the Crewe team since he was 16 and is an excellent player with great potential.

Playing with him this season, you just don't see anybody going past him - even in training not many manage it. He is a proper solid defender.

Billy has turned down a new contract at Crewe because he thinks he can play at a higher level.

He has been here for a while so maybe he thinks it is time for a fresh challenge.

You read all kind of rumours in the papers about teams being in for him, but knowing Billy like I do, I don't think he is the type of person who would let it get to him.

He just wants to try to progress himself and you cannot really fault him for that.

LUKE VARNEY

VARNEY FACTFILE
Born: Leicester
Age: 24
Position: Striker
Clubs: Quorn, Crewe, Quorn (loan)
Games: 81 (53 starts)
Goals: 19

Luke has come from Quorn in the Midland Football Alliance which is the same standard I was at a few years ago when I was at Burscough.

He has done so well to make the step up so easily and there is more to come from him I am sure.

Again you hear that clubs are looking at him but he is the same as the others - not bigheaded at all. They are not talking about which clubs are watching them, they just get on with things and are enjoying their football.

Luke is a player who has bags of pace and knows where the goal is too.

There are still a few things he needs to pick up but the best place for him to do that is Crewe. He has the basic elements he needs in place and can only improve further.

Dario is so good to learn from - and of course the players listen to him, you only have to look at the players he has brought through to know it is worth your while.

He does coach you and improve you and I just wish I was here a few years ago when I was a bit younger and maybe things could have been different for me too.


SEE ALSO
Crewe 1-2 Man Utd (aet)
25 Oct 06 |  League Cup
Maynard receives League One award
08 Oct 06 |  Crewe Alexandra
Varney signs new Crewe contract
14 Sep 06 |  Crewe Alexandra
Varney pledges to pay back Crewe
02 Dec 04 |  Crewe Alexandra
Jones put on Crewe transfer list
13 Oct 06 |  Crewe Alexandra
Jones rejects new Crewe contract
03 Oct 06 |  Crewe Alexandra


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