As the ‘Spireites’ tumble towards the bottom of football’s League One, many supporters must be thinking, if not saying, “here we go again”.
For older followers and supporters like myself, it represents a familiar situation.
In the late 1940s/early 50s Chesterfield FC ran a successful team in the then Second Division. The teamsheet invariably started: Middleton, Milburn, Kidd and finished with Thompson and Dale. At the turn of the decade they were nearly, yes very nearly, promoted to the top tier of English football, namely Division One.
The trauma that this produced involved surprise, shock and possibly fear of what might have happened. Less than two years later the Spireites were in Division Three North and although the league structure has changed over the years, the club has never again risen above the third tier.
It appears that this brush with top grade football produced a mindset at the club that has never gone away.
Since hundreds of players, scores of directors and dozens of managers have graced the club since those days, no individual or working group can be blamed but the mind-et produced seems to have manifested itself as follows-:
1. Chesterfield FC is a small town team that best serves its spectators by running an average side in one of the lower leagues.
2. Lead from behind where innovation is concerned- hence be one of the last to install floodlights and develop a new stadium.
3. If a strong side is established and promotion to the second tier (now the Championship) looks a possibility, sell off one or two of the best players at below market value and replace them with three or four ‘has beens’ or ‘never will bes’.
Years ago this resulted in the loss of Ray Middleton, Gordon Dale, Harold Roberts, Bill Lievers etc. Later the same thing happened to, among others, Alan Birch and later still to Ernie Moss then Kevin Davies. Finally, after just missing out on promotion two years ago, the club sell Roberts and Clucas.
So over the years the mindset has worked and Chesterfield FC have yo-yoed between the fourth and third echelons of English football.
It’s time for a change and an end to a 65-year-old mindset. Be more positive, hang on to talented players and build a team around them. Cut out the small town team self denigration and aim for Championship football. After all, if Barnsley, Rotherham, Doncaster, Scunthorpe, Wigan and now Burton Albion can achieve it, why not Chesterfield?
I sincerely hope that relegation can be avoided and a new approach developed ready for next season. But for now, staring the club in the face, is the proverbial wall just waiting for the writing.