Crewe Alexandra Football Club is a professional association football club based in the town of Crewe, Cheshire, England. The team will compete in League One, the third tier of the English football league system, in the 2020-21 season. Nicknamed The Railwaymen because of the town's links with the rail industry, they have played at Gresty Road since 1906, when they moved from their original home at the Alexandra Recreation Ground. Supporters maintain rivalries with a number of nearby clubs, their fiercest rivals being Staffordshire-based side Port Vale.
The club was formed in 1877 and named after Princess Alexandra. They entered the Football Alliance league in 1889, before becoming founding members of the Football League Second Division in 1892. However they failed to be re-elected into the Football League after finishing bottom of the division in 1895–96. They spent the next three seasons in the Lancashire League, before spending ten years competing in the Birmingham & District League. They spent the 1910s in The Central League, before they were invited to join the newly created Football League Third Division North in 1921, where they spent the following 37 years. After three consecutive last-place Third Division North finishes, they were placed in the newly formed Fourth Division, and went on to achieve their first promotion after securing a third-place finish in 1962–63. Immediately relegated, they were promoted again in 1967–68, but again lasted just one season in the Third Division.
Crewe spent 20 years struggling in the fourth tier, being forced to apply for re-election on seven occasions, before their fortunes were revived under manager Dario Gradi, who secured promotion at the end of the 1988–89 campaign. Relegated after two seasons, they were again promoted in 1993–94, and after two unsuccessful play-off campaigns, won the 1997 Second Division play-off final to win a place in the second tier after an absence of 101 years. They spent eight of the next nine seasons in the First Division / Championship, securing automatic promotion from the Second Division in 2002–03 after being relegated the previous season. Gradi resigned in July 2007, with the club in League One. During Gradi's 24-year tenure Crewe built a reputation for playing attractive, technical football and the Crewe Alexandra Academy forged a reputation for developing young players. Future England internationals David Platt, Danny Murphy and Dean Ashton began their professional careers at the club, whilst Nick Powell was sold for a club record £6 million in 2012.
Gradi returned first on a caretaker basis and then on a permanent basis from 2009 to 2011 following relegation into League Two at the end of the 2008–09 campaign. New manager Steve Davis led the club to promotion via the play-offs in 2012 and then to the Football League Trophy title in 2013. They spent four seasons in League One, before being relegated in last place in 2015–16. The club was heavily implicated in the football sexual abuse scandal that came to public attention in 2016, facing criticism for their handling of youth coach Barry Bennell, who was gaoled in 2018 for child sexual abuse. In the 2019–20 season, shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Crewe secured promotion to League One, under David Artell, manager since January 2017.