Crewe’s goalscoring centre back Mickey Demetriou seeks to conquer Wembley and secure promotion to League One, after showcasing his talent at Lord’s cricket ground

Crewe’s goalscoring centre back Mickey Demetriou seeks to conquer Wembley and secure promotion to League One, after showcasing his talent at Lord’s cricket ground

‘Where were you when I was losing 3-0 to Forest Green,’ jokes Crewe Alexandra boss Lee Bell as he strolls into a stuffy dome building at the Railwaymen’s storied Reaseheath training base, the birthplace of many stellar footballing careers.

The impressive young manager hates the limelight of clicking cameras and is used to just a couple of hardened local reporters giving him a weekly grilling. But this week, the Alex deserve national attention for a heroic season which will end on Sunday at Wembley.

Despite that, the mood is relaxed and jovial ahead of a day in the sun under the famous arch. Semi-final hero Max Stryjek is here, laughing about how he disposed of a Doncaster water bottle carrying details on where Crewe players might put their penalties.

Metaphorically, the Polish keeper – who jetted in just over a month ago on an emergency loan due to an injury crisis – was the man with the bottle in that shoot-out. Regardless of the result on Sunday, he will go down in club folklore despite playing just six games.

Another who will hold legendary status despite being here for less than a year is defender Mickey Demetriou, the stand-in skipper who has netted 10 goals this season. ‘Put in a good word with the chairman for me,’ he jokes when asked if he is on a goal bonus.

Max Stryjek made two saves as Crewe triumphed to win a penalty shootout in their play-off semi-final

Crewe (pictured) booked their place in the play-off final after beating Doncaster Rovers on penalties

Crewe (pictured) booked their place in the play-off final after beating Doncaster Rovers on penalties 

Mickey Demetriou (centre) will hold legend status after netting 10 goals across all competitions this season

Mickey Demetriou (centre) will hold legend status after netting 10 goals across all competitions this season

Podcast
All episodes
  • 'It hasn't worked!' Is VAR the problem or the solution?
    ‘It hasn’t worked!’ Is VAR the problem or the solution?

  • EPISODE 87: Why United must tear down Old Trafford and move to Wembley
    EPISODE 87: Why United must tear down Old Trafford and move to Wembley

  • PODCAST: How many Manchester United players get in the Arsenal team?
    PODCAST: How many Manchester United players get in the Arsenal team?

  • PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode of 'It's All Kicking Off!'
    PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode of ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’

  • EPISODE 84: Listen to the latest episode of 'It's All Kicking Off!'
    EPISODE 84: Listen to the latest episode of ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’

Play on
Apple
Spotify

‘I hope you told him how to score penalties,’ says Stryjek, poking fun at how Demetriou missed his spot-kick at Doncaster. To be fair to the 34-year-old, it was the only time he put a foot wrong in an imperious 120 minutes, which included a goal and a mountainous defensive display.

Read More

Fans hail Max Stryjek’s ‘peak s***housery’ after Crewe goalkeeper THREW AWAY his opposite number’s water bottle containing penalty tips before the shootout in League Two play-off semi-final

article image

Demetriou, who spent seven seasons at Newport County before joining the Alex, pulls up a pew and is walking Mail Sport through several sliding-doors moments that have led him to this weekend and a fourth crack at winning at Wembley. Fourth time lucky, as they say.

In a parallel world not too far away, he might have not been a footballer at all but instead a top-level cricket star. While he has ticked off the home of football three times before, Demetriou has also bowled at the home of cricket, Lord’s.

‘I was a little all-rounder, a bit like Stuart Broad,’ he says. ‘I was football and cricket mad all the way through. Only when I moved away to Kidderminster, I struggled to get back down to play. Things got a bit more serious with my football so I thought maybe I should stop.

‘When I was younger, I’d play cricket on a Saturday morning, football on a Saturday afternoon, football on a Sunday morning, cricket on a Sunday afternoon. It was the National Village Cup at Lord’s, playing with a lot of older men.

‘It’s the home of cricket, everyone would love to play there. One of our players got a century but we lost. Just to play there and experience seeing all the names on the honours board… it was frightening.’

Demetriou (pictured) had missed a penalty during the match, but that was the only time he put a foot wrong

Demetriou (pictured) had missed a penalty during the match, but that was the only time he put a foot wrong

Stryjek caught the attention of many after he threw away a bottle into the crowd that had penalty information belonging to Doncaster Rovers' goalkeeper printed on it

Stryjek caught the attention of many after he threw away a bottle into the crowd that had penalty information belonging to Doncaster Rovers’ goalkeeper printed on it 

Freddie Flintoff was one of Demetriou’s idols growing up – along with John Terry – and his love of cricket goes some way to explaining his precisive long throw that will be one of Crewe’s main weapons against Crawley.

Read More

Doncaster 0-2 Crewe Alexandra (agg 2-2) (3-4 pens): Visitors wipe out first-leg deficit in League Two playoff semi-final to seal dream trip to Wembley as Hakeeb Adelakun misses decisive penalty

article image

What many Alex fans do not know is that, if not for a couple of persuasive phone calls from Crewe’s hierarchy, Demetriou might have been leading out Sunday’s opponents, Crawley, at Wembley. When leaving Newport, he had lengthy discussions with the Sussex club.

The defender says: ‘I did have a good chat with (manager) Scott Lindsay and the owners. Not many people know they were keen. My family and all my best mates are all down there, they will read this and say, “Oh right, you didn’t wanna tell us Crawley were interested?!”.’

It is believed Crawley offered Demetriou big money and a deal which included a clause where he would get around £1,500 for every goal scored from one of his throw-ins. But Demetriou, along with wife Aimee and his two boys, decided that Crewe made more sense.

That was despite the fact they are from Dorrington, not far from Crawley. ‘When the Crewe gaffer rang me, it was a no brainer,’ he adds. ‘It just felt more right for me, especially moving forward. I will always do what is right by my family and my football takes care of itself.

Demetriou (left) spent seven seasons at Newport County before joining the Alex last year

Demetriou (left) spent seven seasons at Newport County before joining the Alex last year 

Flitoff is hailed as one of England's greatest ever cricketers taking 226 wickets in 79 Test matc

Broad recently announced his retirement from cricket during last season's Ashes series

Demetriou likened himself to Stuart Broad (right) and said Freddie Flintoff (left) is his idol

Crewe will play Crawley Town at Wembley on Sunday after beating MK Dons 8-1 on aggregate

Crewe will play Crawley Town at Wembley on Sunday after beating MK Dons 8-1 on aggregate

‘But I love it here. The lads are great – every day I get stick for being the oldest one, I get called “grandad”. Some of the lads are 17 or 18 and I am like, “Hang on a minute, I am old enough to be your dad!”. I left school before some of them were born.’

Read More

Vincent Kompany’s evangelical pursuit of passing football became a strategy of self-harm… opponents routinely punished Burnley’s frailties and he’s paid the price, writes MATT BARLOW

article image

Crewe have fielded more than 20 academy graduates this term. Key to that is trust from Bell, who has been there, done that and bought several t-shirts. ‘I first came through the door here aged 12, I would have thought you were crackers if you said I’d one day be manager,’ he says.

‘You hear about other managers, their ex-team-mates say, “He was always writing stuff down”. I wasn’t. I just wanted to run around and play football. I was fortunate to play some games in the Championship but we had so many big players.’

Several of those stars went on to forge Premier League careers, like Dean Ashton, Rob Hulse and David Vaughan. Bell left for a few seasons but returned to find the same problem – he could not get in the team due to top-level talent in midfield.

‘I came back and the midfield trio was a future Manchester United player Nick Powell, a future Premier League player Westy (Ashley Westwood) and a future Leeds player Murph (Luke Murphy). When we won the play-offs in 2012, I made the shortest-ever Wembley appearance!

‘I was struggling to get into the team, we were 2-0 up and everyone knew I’d be leaving that summer. I came on, they took a corner and as it was in the air the referee blew the whistle. I could have done with 10 seconds longer!’

But Bell will now take centre stage at Wembley. Before the nervy experience, he will no doubt send a text to the man who opened the coaching door to him, Gareth Southgate’s right-hand man Steve Holland, once of this parish. 

Demetriou could have turned out for Crawley this season after they had offered him a big deal

Demetriou could have turned out for Crawley this season after they had offered him a big deal

Crewe boss Lee Bell (pictured) has fielded more than 20 academy graduates this season

Crewe boss Lee Bell (pictured) has fielded more than 20 academy graduates this season

Bell lumped praise on England coach Steve Holland (right) the man who opened the door to coaching for him

Bell lumped praise on England coach Steve Holland (right) the man who opened the door to coaching for him 

Bell also stated that Crewe 'means a lot to him' as his side look to return to League One for the first time since they were relegated in 2022

Bell also stated that Crewe ‘means a lot to him’ as his side look to return to League One for the first time since they were relegated in 2022

‘Steve is the best I have ever seen coaching,’ he says. ‘He was the one I asked about coming in to do coaching. I asked him one day, he never got back to me. And then I chased him up a couple of months later – he said, “I am glad you came back, that shows you are really keen”.

‘Then he threw me in, my first week of coaching ended with me taking a team on a Sunday morning. He is just a genius. I love the way Pep Guardiola speaks – so honest but sarcastic – but I want my teams to be like Jurgen Klopp’s… I’m saying this as a Manchester United fan!’

Bell has already had one day to remember this season – marrying long-time partner Cath on a ‘bloody freezing day’ in December – but this Sunday could top the lot. As he concludes: ‘This club has given me the life I have got today.

‘They looked after me immensely, even when I was away from the club. People might say I am only saying that because I work here. But my son is here. If I was to get sacked tomorrow, I would not want my son to be anywhere else but here. It means an awful lot to me, this club.’

Comments

No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *