DARIO Gradi beats Sir Alex Ferguson by three years in the management stakes, having been in charge at Crewe Alexandra since 1983.

But in his case familiarity seems to be breeding contempt rather than reverence.

Gradi, whose work at Gresty Road has given the railway town a club to be proud of with a youth development programme that is the envy of many a Premier League club, was targeted by the boo-boys on Saturday as Crewe went down 3-0 at home to Torquay – a result that left them 18th in League Two.

In fairness, many of those calling for his head were not even born when he succeeded Peter Morris (who is he? you might ask) to became the club’s 18th post-war manager.

So they can be forgiven for not appreciating the incredible job he has done there.

But Gradi is undeterred. He is experienced enough – 28 years in the hot seat, apart from a brief spell in 2007-2008 when he handed the first-team reins to Steve Holland – to feel comfortable in dismissing his critics.

“I won’t leave this club because of them. I shall hand over when it suits,” he said defiantly.

Thirty years ago this week Gradi was sacked by Crystal Palace after just 10 months in charge.

If I were a Crewe fan I would be celebrating the anniversary as enthusiastically as Manchester United fans celebrated theirs at the weekend.

Because had it worked out for Gradi at Selhurst Park he might never have pitched up at Gresty Road – and heaven knows where the Alex would be today.