Saluting the rebirth of Chesterfield FC as the club enjoys a blissful return to the English Football League

Back in the mists of magical, faraway, football days, it was a joy to stand on the cop at Saltergate and to join in the singing of Chesterfield FC chants.
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In the late Sixties and Seventies we were led by the growl-voiced overlord of the Saltergate end, Gessler, in bellowing Zigger-Zagger, Zigger-Zagger Ches-ter-field as the goals flowed.

Saltergate was a fortress and our knights in blue were the likes of Dan Archer, Kevin Randall, Tom Fenoughty, Albert Holmes and keeper Alan Stevenson. Our colossus was record-breaking striker, the late, great, Ernie Moss. ‘Ernie, Ernie, Ernie’ rang out from our lips every game.

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Later there was Danny Wilson, Phil Bonnyman and other heroes who upset mighty Rangers on the way to an Anglo-Scottish Cup triumph against Notts County- I still treasure my Meadow Lane programme!

Chesterfield FC fans at the club's old Saltergate groundChesterfield FC fans at the club's old Saltergate ground
Chesterfield FC fans at the club's old Saltergate ground

And then there were the legends to a man who took the Spireites to within a whisker of a Wembley FA Cup Final. Eventually the club was becalmed outside the Football League but that legacy of success was never forgotten.

One of England’s oldest clubs, founded in 1866 - a hundred years before England won the World Cup- faced a jittery financial future despite a swish new ground in Whittington Moor being dreamed up and built.

But slowly, season by National League season, the club has risen from its knees finally to reclaim its league status.

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Stand tall those who dared to dream about a return to Division Two, EFL - that’s everyone connected to Chesterfield FC. From the boardroom to every single fan - and everyone in between- it is a people’s army which has brought glory back to the land of the Crooked Spire.

Nigel PickoverNigel Pickover
Nigel Pickover

So with promotion secured after a mind-blowing season of victories, fans can be allowed a few moments to celebrate the achievements of 23/24.

Through its illustrious history Chesterfield has had a reputation for swashbuckling, attacking, football. Today’s manager Paul Cook, his assistant Danny Webb and their backroom staff have delivered the exquisite football for which the club became famous. The missing ingredient was a fan-base ownership - with the arrival of the CFC Community Trust belief started to flow through every blue vein.

I’ll be at the final home game against Maidenhead and take in the noise and colour. But I’ll close my eyes, fleetingly, and look both back and forward in pride.

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Back to home match Saturdays, when working as a cub reporter in Sheffield in the 1970’s, I’d dash home to Derbyshire from S Yorkshire and sneak in at the Cross Street end for the last 15 minutes.

I’ll remember the late-night fish and chips in Alfreton after the Meadow Lane Anglo-Scottish Cup victory. I’ll glow in recollection of Phil Bonnyman’s thumping double against Rangers. I’ll rejoice at memories of the blue and white convoy which left Chatsworth Road and snaked its way across the Pennines to Old Trafford. I’ll remember the last match at much-loved Saltergate and an injury time winner against Bournemouth.

Finally, a salute to some of the most wonderful, knowledgeable and loyal fans in the country. From Superfans like Lesley Brentnall and Trevor and Jane Jackson who have travelled thousands of miles along rainy motorways hoping their dreams would come true.

And a nod to celebrated veteran broadcaster and writer Alan Biggs. He’s loved Chesterfield since childhood and has revelled in the wonders of this season.

Now a mighty mountain has been climbed … and so many hands - from today and yesteryear - are up there, clasping the pole with a radiant blue flag fluttering at the top.

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