Gradi will be hard to replace at Crewe - Geoff Thomas

Geoff Thomas
Midfielder Geoff Thomas won nine international caps for England

Former Crewe and England midfielder Geoff Thomas has said he believes the Alex will have a difficult task finding a successor to manager Dario Gradi.

Gradi, 70, took over at Gresty Road in 1983 and returned as manager in 2009 after Gudjon Thordarson was sacked.

"Dario is Crewe and I'd find it difficult to see Crewe without Dario," Thomas told BBC Radio Stoke.

"It's going to be a tough job, which we saw when people tried to take over before. They're tough shoes to fill."

Thomas, 46, continued: "I'm sure with the right man and Dario nurturing them along, it will work at Crewe."

Gradi's first spell in charge of Crewe lasted 24 years, during which time he led the club into the second tier of English football for the first time and produced several players that would go on to win full international honours.

Steve Holland replaced Gradi following his retirement in the summer of 2007, but his tenure lasted little more than a season.

Former Stoke City boss Thordarson arrived in December 2008 but could not prevent the Alex slipping into League Two.

After a poor start to the following season, Thordarson parted company with Crewe and Gradi returned as manager.

Crewe finished 10th in League Two in 2010/11 and after a good pre-season, along with the emergence of more exciting prospects from the club's academy, optimism is high that the Alex can have a successful season.

"For me, it's really sad to see them languishing in the lower divisions," added Thomas, who scored 23 goals in 155 appearances during two spells with Crewe.

"Fingers crossed, Dario will get things under control and I can see them being one of the front-runners for promotion this year."