A rough guide to... Chesterfield

Cod Almighty | Article

by Rich Mills

27 July 2017

We've missed you, Chesterfield. It's been far too long. Thanks for dropping down a league to play us again.

How are you?

Bloody hell, Ritchie Humphreys has retired!

Humphreys' professional career started 20-odd years ago, back when the Premier League was still fairly new and we hadn't quite realised just how bad it would end up being for English football. Since then, Humphreys shifted Birtles-like from forward to defender and last season was player/coach, with a short stint as caretaker manager when Chesterfield panic-sacked Danny Wilson. But he's gone now, as has ginger-quiffed maestro Jon Nolan, and I'm looking at Chesterfield's squad list and wondering if this is how other teams' fans look at ours. I mean, who are ya?

What have you been up to?

The Spireites love a rivalry and their fans will claim a legit grudge with pretty much any team within a 100-mile radius. Their biggest rivals are Mansfield, so expect some pointless posturing and swearing in front of young families out shopping now that the Stags and Spireites find themselves in the same league again.

Both Sheffields, United and Wednesday; Derby and Notts County; Rotherham, York and Donny; Lincoln and er, Town are all on their niggle list. Although our history with them is related back to scuffles and scraps at Saltergate. Will anyone be that bothered at the new ground? Let's hope not.

Although we're not that far from Chesterfield, we don't have as many players in common as we do with, say, Forest. Former Town manager Nicky Law (Russell Slade's predecessor the first time) played and managed at Saltergate, and they allowed us to offload Barry Fucking Conlon back in those dark, dark days of 2010. It's not all bad though: Gregor Robertson and Craig Clay; Danny Boshell, Simon Ford and Martin Gritton; Phil Bonnyman too. But after that we're into the realms of the journeyman.

There is one bona fide, cast iron star player we share with Chesterfield, though, and that is Jack Lester. While he didn't actually score as many goals as we might think during his six seasons at Blundell Park (although he played a huge part partnering other strikers such as Mendonca and Livvo), Lester's tally wearing the blue of Chesterfield – 92 goals in 217 appearances over six seasons – moved the club to retire his number 14 shirt for good when he hung it up in 2013.

What kind of a season did you have?

It's probably best not to talk about last season, isn't it, but it serves them right for signing Jon Nolan from us. Oh, that and chucking any moral compass they might have had in a vat of shite and signing Ched Evans.

After a bright start, it all went wrong and at one point Chesterfield strung together a quite remarkable two-month run of losses. Manager Danny Wilson was shown the door in January, and replaced by Gary Caldwell, but it didn't do anything to stop the rot. A 24th-place finish was confirmed with straight losses in the final four games of the season.

Relegation was probably to be expected, as it's just what the Spireites do – get promoted from the fourth division, struggle for a while, then get relegated again. Still, it could be worse. Maybe they need a sobering season (or six) in non-League to get their bearings. Actually no, I wouldn't wish that on anyone. All things considered, I guess that your average Chesterfield fan will be happy that the club still exists. Another chairman or two has fallen by the wayside – including one who didn't even bother sitting down at the AGM – but the club is still there, still breathing. Will they manage to stay afloat? It might be a bigger challenge than the actual football this season.

How are you feeling?

I guess Chesterfield deserve some credit for not sacking Caldwell after that relegation and although he's only been there for a few months, it's a continuity of sorts. 

The fans have recovered from the drop and expectations are mixed; survive or thrive? Some will be happy to consolidate and stay up, while others think Caldwell's signings are solid and they can challenge for a top-seven finish. Looking at their squad, there aren't many names that jump out, but I guess one could say that about Town's too. They also have a couple of players who straddle that fine line between having plenty of League experience and 'his legs have gone'. Again, a bit like us really.

Last season's top scorer Kristian Dennis is still at Whittington Moor, as is former Mariner Sam Hird (no, I can't remember much about him either). The fans got in a semi-lather this summer with the hint of a rumour of a suggestion of a link with former Town favourite (ahem) Harry Pell. Relax, he's still at Cheltenham.

I'm going to sit on the fence and say they'll end the season safely mid-table. 

Where are you from?

Chesterfield the town is a lovely place; big enough to support a football club but not too big that everyone's in a rush. It sits at the bottom of the Pennines and if you're making a weekend of it then the Peak District National Park is well worth an hour or two of your time. Have a wander and a pint while you're there. 

If you're just popping along for the day then fair enough, but take a few minutes to look up. The famous crooked spire of St Mary & All Saints is ace. You know it's crooked, but the first time you see it, you can't help but think I didn't realise it was that crooked! The twist of the spire is intentional, apparently, but the lean is so far off-centre that you wonder how it stays up. 

For just shy of 140 years, Chesterfield played at Saltergate, one of the oldest grounds in the country, but in 2010 relocated a couple of miles up the road to Whittington Moor. Capacity of the new ground is just over 10,000 but that can be increased by 3,000 if the corners are filled in at a later date. If you visit this season then close your eyes and imagine an ice rink next to it as that's probably what the future holds for us. Not a huge amount of character but you can see the pitch from pretty much every seat in the ground.

The pies at the ground are made by local bakers Jacksons and are truly excellent according to the oracle of all things pastry-covered, Martin Tarbuck

You must be... tired of folks talking about the FL Trophy

Back in 2016, Chesterfield's chief exec Chris Turner voted in favour of Shaun Harvey's introduction of B teams into the Football League Trophy, much to the chagrin of the club's fans. He then looked an utter clown by trying to say the club had actually opposed it but still voted for it anyway because, well, er, that's what everyone else was doing. 

Last season they saw the light and voted to revert to the original knockout format but it was too late and now we're stuck with it. I'm not saying it's all their fault but why believe one thing and vote for the other? Still, at least they woke up this season, unlike our own gallant leader.

Anyway, talking about this means we're not talking about Ched Evans, are we?

The front page image is cropped from this image by Phil Sangwell, and made available under this creative commons licence.

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