SPIREITES: Dean Saunders has the ‘fighting spirit’ to be a success at Chesterfield, states Chris Turner

Chief executive Chris Turner, new manager Dean Saunders and chairman Dave Allen
Chief executive Chris Turner, new manager Dean Saunders and chairman Dave Allen

Chesterfield chief executive Chris Turner believes Dean Saunders’ managerial experiences make him the perfect man to succeed Paul Cook at the Proact Stadium.

Saunders has the unwanted record of three relegations on his CV from his time at Doncaster, Wolves and Crawley but Turner looked beyond that statistic and was more than impressed with what he found.

The new Spireites boss, who was Wales’ number two for six years, led Wrexham to the Conference play-offs in 2011 and left flying high when he was recruited by Doncaster in September of the same year.

His first game yielded their first win in 20 games but he was unable to halt the slide and they were relegated from the Championship before he assembled a squad that lifted the League One title in May 2013.

Saunders had left by that time, however, after Wolves had appointed him to take over from Ståle Solbakken at Molineux. Wolves were relegated on the last day of the season and Saunders was given the sack.

After time away from the game, he took over from John Gregory at Crawley half-way through last season with the club already camped in the drop zone and were relegated on the last day of the campaign.

Saunders took over Crawley on 22 points and they finished on 50 - two shy of safety - and, had they performed the same in the first half of the season as they had done in the second, they would have stayed up on 56.

Turner said: “When I look at managers to recommend to the club, I don’t look at league tables and think because they’re top of the table we should be going for him, there are lots of good managers around not winning leagues.

“When you get in to conversation with them, like I did with Dean a few months ago, it sticks with me. I look around and see who is available and when they’re available you’ve got to go for it.”

Saunders was in charge of Crawley when they lost at the Proact to Chesterfield in January and Turner said he was impressed with the former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker’s insight in to the game.

“The way he looked at how we played, the game in general and football in general impressed me,” said Turner. “He’s got the fighting spirit, he’s got the experience and he’s got the knowledge to build a team like at Wrexham and Doncaster.

“The relegations were already happening; Wolves were already going down, Doncaster were going down and the same at Crawley. He managed in one of the toughest leagues in the Conference with Wrexham.”

Turner said the club needed to appoint Cook’s successor early after the season had finished to give the new man time to get settled, sort out the squad and organise a pre-season programme.

“There’s no-one more disappointed in the stadium than me to see Paul go,” said Turner. “I had a great working relationship with him for three years. It’s been one of the best periods of my life in football and I’ve been in this game 40 years.

“This football club from three years ago when we were relegated to League One has completely changed. We have now sold players for good money, Chesterfield haven’t done that since Kevin Davies minus one or two others.

“It’s the first time in 35 years that our manager has been approached, since Arthur Cox left for Newcastle. We are a completely different football club and I think supporters aren’t used to people taking our players and manager.

“They’re taking our players and they took our manager because we were successful. We’re producing players now. I’m confident things will continue in this vein. The profile now from three years ago is immense.”

Turner added: “This job now is a challenge. If we finish tenth or 11th those same people who are a little sceptical will say ‘well, he wasn’t as good as Paul Cook’. I’m not judging him against Paul Cook.

“We’re bringing someone in to the club who will work extremely hard, like Paul Cook did, he will build a team here like he did elsewhere. Those same fans asked me ‘who is Paul Cook, what’s he done?’ when he came.”

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