It’s the penultimate weekend of the League One campaign and many Bristol Rovers fans will be happy to see the back of it.
The Gas have endured a very disappointing season that has resulted in them going into Saturday’s match with Crewe sitting at the foot of the table, having had relegation to League Two confirmed.
Rovers will now return to the fourth tier after promotion five years ago and owner Wael Al-Qadi has outlined his intentions to bounce straight back and believes current boss Joey Barton is the man to deliver this aspiration.
“He’s on a different level, he knows football inside out, he’s a very bright guy and he’s a winner,” Al-Qadi told BBC Points West.
“I have no doubts he will lead us back.”
“We’ve supported all the managers and with Joey it will be no different,” he said. “We will do all that it takes and requires to assemble a squad that will get us back into League One.”
Barton has no new injury concerns after defeat at Portsmouth last time out but may opt to play academy prospects and graduates given they have nothing to play for.
He has though previously said that these last few games are a chance for the current playing squad to show him they want to be a part of his plans for the future.
Crewe have had a solid season back in the third tier after promotion from League Two last year. The Alex are 14th but will almost definitely finish with a points tally that is closer to the play offs than the relegation zone.
David Artell’s youthful side has certainly caught the eye and with Perry Ng and Harry Pickering left in January (Pickering has returned on loan), there could be a fight to keep a few others.
Crewe’s footballing model is very similar to what Rovers have tried to achieve over the past couple of seasons but with one major difference.
Rovers have a youthful side that has been mostly signed from a higher level whereas Crewe bring their own through the ranks and are now reaping the benefits both on and off the field.
As stated above, The Alex have sold their two academy graduate full backs for a healthy profit and on the field they won plaudits in League Two last year for the way they played and along with Swindon, stormed into the promotion places early and unlike the Robins, they have managed to be a very competitive League One outfit.
Crewe boss Artell has spoken of their philosophy and how they aren’t afraid to trust their own.
“We are not afraid to give players time and put our money where our mouth is,” Artell told CheshireLive.
“We will give them two, three, four years because we want them to develop.
“They are taking longer nowadays, all the players, I think mainly because of the system that is in place. Under-18s football is like under-16s football ten years ago. Under-23s football is like under-19s football five or ten years ago.
“So, by the time they come out of the under-23s, a lot of them are still nowhere near first-team football.
“So, they have to go out on loan, and all the rest of it. It takes time and they take longer to mature and develop and get first-team ready. It’s not really an issue for us.
“Of course, we wish it was quicker, but we are prepared to give them the time and put our money where our mouth is.”
Crewe will be without Luke Offord after the utility man picked up an injury that will see him miss the final two games, other than that Artell has no new injury concerns.
Bristol Rovers Predicted XI (3-4-1-2):
Crewe Predicted XI (4-3-3): Jaaskelainen (GK); Adebisi, Wood, Daniels, Pickering; Lowery Wintle, Ainley; Dale, Mandron, Kirk
Mets: The Gas 0-2 Crewe
Max and Simon: The Gas 1-1 Crewe