Dario Gradi has retired from his position as director of football and from his role on the board of League Two side Crewe Alexandra.

The 78-year-old took charge of 1,359 games during three spells as manager between 1983 and 2007, guiding Crewe to four promotions, including twice guiding them into the second tier.

Gradi was suspended in 2016 pending a Football Association investigation into child sex abuse allegations. He denied any wrongdoing and appealed against the ban.

His suspension related to claims that he “smoothed over” a complaint of sexual assault against Chelsea chief scout Eddie Heath in the 1970s, when Gradi was assistant manager.

He has also always denied having any knowledge of the crimes of convicted paedophile Barry Bennell, who is serving a 31-year sentence for abusing boys while a coach at Crewe in the 1980s, when Gradi was manager of the club.

Crewe’s rise under Gradi

After spells in charge of Wimbledon and Crystal Palace, Milan-born Gradi joined Crewe in June 1983, with the club in the Fourth Division.

He led them up the football pyramid, winning promotion to the second tier in both 1997 and 2003, and guiding them to 11th place in the Championship in 1998 – the highest finish in the club’s history.

That year, Gradi was awarded an MBE for his services to football and he was honoured by the Football League in 2011 for his ‘Outstanding Contribution To League Football’.

He was responsible for launching the careers of a number of players who went on to play in the top flight and earn international caps, including Neil Lennon, Seth Johnson, Rob Jones, Danny Murphy, David Platt, Robbie Savage and Geoff Thomas.

“[We] would like to thank Dario for his outstanding 36 years of service,” said a Crewe statement.

“We are pleased to know that he would be happy to continue to assist the club’s senior coaching staff.”