Owner Dave Allen was fully supportive of Chesterfield’s ‘tough decision’ to sack manager Danny Wilson and his assistant Chris Morgan.
The decision was made at 5pm yesterday, following a 2-0 defeat at promotion hopefuls Bradford City that saw Town slip to 22nd in League One.
A mix of on-field and off-field issues appear to have influenced the decision.
Club company secretary Ashley Carson said supporter apathy and poor performances on the pitch had combined to force the board’s hand, and the open January transfer window gave them a chance to bring in a new manager who could make changes to the squad.
Carson insisted Wilson had been given backing to do the job and questioned the effort and fitness levels of players at the Proact.
Wilson and Morgan’s departures were announced at noon today, when it was revealed Ritchie Humphreys will take over as caretaker boss, assisted by goalkeeping coach Matt Duke.
Carson said: “I had a telephone conversation with Dave Allen at 5pm and he gave Chris Turner and I his 100 per cent backing. He suggested we did it immediately, so we did it after the game.
“We saw both of them. They’ve been professional and we’ve been professional, we agreed not to say anything until lunchtime today so they could deal with their personal situations and I think both have been down to the ground today to sort out their things.”
The Spireites were just above the relegation zone when Wilson took over on Christmas Eve 2015 and although he guided them to safety last season, they find themselves third from bottom after 26 games of the current campaign.
Since a shock win over Bolton at the Proact, Town have failed to win in four outings and haven’t scored a goal.
Carson said the time was right to make a change at management level, as fans in their droves had been suggesting to him on social media.
“It’s been partly led by the transfer window being open, if we’re going to bring someone in, they have to have that ability to bring in one or two or send one or two out,” he said.
“We have a great result against Bolton and we thought we might be okay but we’ve had dreadful games after that.
“We couldn’t leave it any longer.
“Unless it had been a 4-0 win yesterday, it was never going to go any further.
“The crowd numbers were a factor, massively. The fans who contact me, I read all the messages and in the past week or so I’ve been bombed with probably 150 individuals saying it’s time, and they’re right.”
Last year was a tough one for the club off the field.
Fans have been highly critical of the running of affairs at the Proact after a faked raffle brought national headlines and legal action was threatened by a club sponsor against a struggling football academy formerly owned by CEO Chris Turner and linked to Chesterfield FC.
Financially, the club made a small profit but had to sell £2m worth of players to achieve it.
Those issues have undoubtedly contributed to dwindling numbers turning up to cheer on the Spireites at the Proact.
But so too has a disappointing first half of the season on the pitch.
For the recent visit of MK Dons, well over 600 season ticket holders failed to turn up and take their seats and Carson said supporter ‘apathy’ was another factor in their decision to look for a new manager.
He believes fans want to see more adventure on the pitch and more desire.
“The attendance yesterday at Bradford was so disappointing, I’ve seen bigger crowds behind that goal before and just knew that would carry forward into our next game, which is huge for us,” he said.
“All these things add up, it hits the turnstiles, it’s the general apathy at the club.
“It’s still going downhill and we have to stop that.
“Chris will be very much involved in what we want to see from the new manager, it’s not my expertise.
“But I see what the fans see, we need to be more attacking, you look at Bradford they had five up in the box and we have Ched up front on his own. He was fantastic yesterday but he can’t do it all on his own. We need to more organised at the back, I can’t understand why we don’t seem to be able to get that organisation in there.
“We need to be putting in far more effort. People question the fitness and I keep questioning it, that has to be something the new manager has got to look at.”
Wilson has always had an affinity with Chesterfield since his playing days and many supporters have expressed their continuing respect for him, despite his managerial reign coming to an abrupt end.
Carson said that made it a tough decision.
“It’s really difficult for us. I really like Danny. Chris (Turner) has known him for far longer and worked with him before, they’ve played together, so it goes that little bit deeper with Danny.
“It’s tough from that point of view, and with Chris Morgan as well.
“We would like to thank Danny and Chris for their efforts and wish them all the best for the future.”
Wilson said on Friday in his press conference that there had been no ‘wiggle room’ in his budget since arriving at the club and has often highlighted the club’s ‘one in, one out’ transfer policy.
Last week it emerged the club were ‘right up against’ the Football League imposed salary cap.
Carson acknowledged that Wilson was working under financial constraints, but still feels the manager had the necessary backing from the board.
He’s also had to contend with a remarkable injury crisis that has kept several key players out of action for months and in some cases, over a year.
“He has had to work with very, very tight purse strings, but he has brought people in, probably nine or so. He’s brought players in and changed the team,” he said.
“He’s gone on record several times saying the squad is good enough, but we knew we were going to have tweaks in this window.
“It just hasn’t worked, I think he has had the backing, he’s gone into it with his eyes wide open.
“I don’t think some of the players he’s brought in have made the impact he was hoping for.”
The club’s search for a replacement has begun with ‘irons in the fire’ already and a number of names being thrown around.
Neil Redfearn, who commentated on Town’s game at Bradford yesterday for Peak FM, is one of those names, along with the likes of the Cowley brothers, currently impressing with Lincoln City, and Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth.