Dario Gradi


Gradi was manager of Crewe Alexandra for 24 years between 1983 and 2007. He took the club from last place in what is now known as League 2 into the Championship for the first time in their history. Gradi is currently Director of Football at Crewe. During his time at Crewe Dario coached 21 young players who progressed to play for England at full, Under-21 or Under-18 level including David Platt and Dean Ashton. In addition, under Gradi‘s stewardship Crewe gained a reputation for playing attractive football in the correct spirit (the team won the PFA Bobby Moore Fair Play trophy 12 times in 15 years) prompting Sir Bobby Robson to describe Dario as ‘one of our best managers.’

5 Coaching Points from Gradi

  1. 1


Gradi encourages passing and movement with the ball often on the floor but not afraid to make a long pass. Emphasis is placed on a long accurate pass as opposed to an aimless long ball.
For Gradi, playing the ball around at the back is dangerous even at highest level. It therefore needs to be practiced. When the team has possession in the opposition half it is vital that the players keep the ball. Keepers are not discouraged from throwing the ball out but they should not do so all the time.
Gradi prioritises playing football and doing so in the right spirit:


Too many people think that if you don’t have players sent off or booked every week, your team‘s not committed enough...but that‘s not the kind of football I want to play The Independent, 17 February 2002
  1. 2

Players have to have good technique to play Gradi‘s style but the team needs enough tall players to deal with the opposition‘s set plays. When developing players Gradi looks for good decision making and technique. Such players have been able to progress to play at the highest level:


If I‘d have been able to keep all the players we‘ve produced, we would be a decent Premiership team The Independent, 17 February 2002

Key Questions When Assessing Players:
1. Does he score goals?
2. Does he make goals?
3. Does he stop goals?

Gradi encourages his players to pass forward whenever possible and likes his central defenders to be able to play. He also values physical attributes and believes only the top teams can get away without a big striker.

  1. 3

Gradi feels it is important to have players on the pitch who can share the practical thoughts of the coach. He cites Kenny Lunt as the player who performed this role for him.
Dario is proud that people he speaks to often name Crewe are their second favourite team. His teams show respect and conduct themselves correctly on the pitch whilst playing attractive football:


That‘s because we don’t kick players, we don’t incite a riot by our behaviour with the referee, we try not to incite the home supporters and we try to play proper football The Independent, 17 February 2002
  1. 4

Gradi views head tennis is a great game to use for players. He believes that new techniques are almost impossible to teach past the age of 14 or 15. Therefore, players need to be taught to use their weaker foot from the earliest age possible. When coaching he will let the game flow and refuses to stop the game often. However, he does not like 5 a-sides.
Gradi has not used a whiteboard in years as he prefer to move players around on pitches so they can see the play develop for themselves. In his opinion an au-tocratic style of coaching can make players feel undervalued.
In preparation for games Gradi will talk to players at least a day before. He believes confidence comes from knowing what is required and knowing he, and those around him, are capable of doing it.

  1. 5

The use of man to man marking means players get pulled about and holes appear but zonal marking can give defenders an excuse. Zonal marking requires players to be alert, show good anticipation, and be aware of where the attackers are.
When setting up a defensive wall a gap in the wall to help the keeper is a good idea.