The club was formed in 1877 and named after Princess Alexandra. It was a founding member of the Football League Second Division in 1892, but only lasted four years in the League. Since re-entering the competition in 1921, they have mostly remained in the lower divisions. Crewe's only major honour is the Football League Trophy which they won in 2013. They have also won several minor trophies, including the Cheshire Premier Cup and the Cheshire Senior Cup.
In recent decades, the club has been associated with manager Dario Gradi whose 24-year tenure between 1983 and 2007 made him the longest-serving manager in English football; he had a further two-year spell in the role from 2009 to 2011. Gradi is known for focusing on youth development and promoting attractive, technical football. Notable players brought through the Crewe youth system include former internationals Rob Jones, Neil Lennon, Danny Murphy, Seth Johnson and Dean Ashton. Other notable players to have made their name at Crewe in that time include Geoff Thomas, David Platt and Robbie Savage.
In late 2016, Crewe was one of the first clubs implicated in the United Kingdom football sexual abuse scandal due to its previous association with coach Barry Bennell; Dario Gradi, director of football, was subsequently suspended by The Football Association pending further investigations of allegations relating to his time as assistant manager at Chelsea in the 1970s.
Crewe Alexandra were formed in 1877 as Crewe Football Club, separate from the successful Crewe Cricket Club, and named after Princess Alexandra. They were based at the Alexandra Recreation Ground and played their first match against North Staffs that same year, a match that ended 1–1. In 1883, Crewe Alexandra's first match in the FA Cup was against Scottish club Queen's Park of Glasgow, losing 10–0. In 1888, the club reached the FA Cup semi-finals, defeating Derby County and Middlesbrough en route, before going out to Preston North End. Crewe were founding members of the Football League Second Division in 1892, having previously been members of the Football Alliance, but lost their league status in 1896 after only four seasons. The club left the Alexandra Recreation Ground shortly before the end of the 1895–96 season, and after playing at a number of different venues, including in nearby Sandbach, they moved to the first Gresty Road ground in 1897. In 1906 the current Gresty Road ground was rebuilt to the west of the original site.
Crewe rejoined the Football League in 1921, during which season a record crowd of 15,102 packed into Gresty Road to watch Crewe entertain local rivals Stoke City, a game The Potters won 2–0. Crewe earned their first honours by winning the Welsh Cup in 1936 and 1937, before being barred from entering (not least since they were not in Wales). In 1936, Bert Swindells scored his 100th League goal for Crewe Alexandra. He went on to score 126 goals for the club, a record that still stands today.