The chasm between Chesterfield and Sheffield United, an irrelevant result, a dark mood and glimpses of positivity
The contrasting respective recent fates of Chesterfield and Sheffield United have created a chasm between them that made Tuesday’s result irrelevant.
It’s a little over two years since the two met in a league game, yet the Blades are beside themselves with excitement about the upcoming Premier League season, while the Spireites are steeling themselves for another year in the National League.
The failures of their own club and the success of their near neighbours darkened the mood of many Town fans in the run up to the fixture – the sight of Blades filling two sides of the ground only furrowing brows further.
As expected, the top tier team were dominant, bossed the game and showed their superior quality in every area.
Billy Sharp put on a masterclass of clinical finishing, Luke Freeman and Callum Robinson were constant threats in attack, while Phil Jagielka looked every inch the experienced Premier League veteran at the back, snuffing out Town attacks.
But like the flashes of lightning that lit up the dark clouds not long after the 5-0 defeat, there are glimpses of positivity amid the gloom that still lingers in the Town support.
Under Chris Wilder the Blades have enjoyed a style of play that is so easy on the eye, during their ascent from League One to the top flight.
John Sheridan wants his Town team to play a similar way, most likely in a 3-5-2 system, moving the ball quickly and stifling teams with relentless attacking.
Against the Uniteds of Rotherham and Sheffield, his Chesterfield men were never going to see much of the football and although when they did, there were wasteful moments, there were also flashes of neat interplay and forward thinking.
When the National League season starts, a Sheridan team will quite often enjoy the lion’s share of possession.
And with lots of time on the ball comes an opportunity to create, something new signing Liam Mandeville will relish.
He’s a Sheridan player and a good signing.
Wilder, aided by former Proact recruitment chief Paul Mitchell, has been reknowned for boxing very clever in the transfer market.
The Spireites manager also has a decent track record of spotting, finding and then attracting good players.
Although the jury is still out on a couple of his summer 2019 acquisitions, and there’s still the small matter of pace and attacking options to address, he’s done very well to get Mandeville, David Buchanan and Luke Coddington.
The latter appears to have created the first genuine battle for the number one jersey in many years at the Proact.
His assured performances and eye catching saves suggest Sheridan didn’t bring in back up for Shwan Jalal, but competition.
Of last season’s squad, Will Evans has shone already in pre-season and is likely to put up a decent defence of his Player of the Year trophies, while Haydn Hollis looks in great nick after the summer and Scott Boden won’t have forgotten where the net is when chances arrive.
The midfield is where the biggest question marks lie, with too many players of a similar type.
At least Sheridan says what everyone else thinks – acknowledging the surfeit of like-for-like midfielders and the dearth of speed in attack.
Previous Chesterfield managers may have privately expressed such concerns, but made press statements that set out to be reassuring and came across as delusional.
Sheridan, like his pal Wilder, calls a spade a spade.
They’ve both got huge jobs on their hands this season.
One must dig in, at the very top domestic level, the other has to dig a National League escape tunnel and start filling in the canyon between his club and the one at the other end of the A61.