Ian Evatt has vowed to come back stronger and fitter next season in new surroundings after a Proact exit he’s found hard to take.
The veteran centre-half, a warrior who could play more than a little bit, admits to getting teary reading through supporters’ farewell messages on social media in the wake of his departure.
Chesterfield have decided, reportedly on the advice of their shortlisted candidates for the manager’s job, that Evatt and fellow stalwarts Sam Hird and Drew Talbot will not be offered new deals.
The news broke yesterday and provoked an outcry from many fans, disappointed to see the back of a trio who had made almost 800 combined appearances as Spireites.
For Evatt there’s no bitterness.
“I didn’t want to leave the club but it’s football,” he said.
“Decisions have had to be made. When it was clear they were going to bring in an experienced manager, who obviously wants to clear the decks and you’re probably already over budget with what you’ve got still under contract, there was only one outcome – the lads not under contract were going to suffer. And we have done.
“There’s no blame attached to the club, I’ve had a fantastic time and hopefully one day I’ll be back in some way, shape or form.”
There is, however plenty of sadness for a man who arrived for his second stint as a Town player in July 2013 and led the club to a League Two title.
The messages he’s received from fans have meant an awful lot.
“It’s brilliant. I’ll be honest, last night when I was sat at home reading them with my wife I was teary, it upset me,” he said.
“They know I feel the same about them as they do me.
“For now the love affair is over, hopefully one day I will be back and see the club back where it belongs.
“I want to thank the fans for six good years.
“Obviously there’s been ups and downs, the last two years have obviously been more down than up but they’ve been brilliant with me the whole way through.
“I’m sorry that the club is where it is at the minute, they don’t deserve that and hopefully they can bounce back strong next season.”
Evatt’s situation is a little different to that of good friends Hird and Talbot, because he threw his hat in the ring for the managerial vacancy.
A short spell as caretaker manager at the end of this season reinforced his belief that one day he’ll occupy a dugout.
But that hasn’t made him want to hang up the boots.
“The reason I wanted the manager’s job is that I genuinely thought I know the club better than anyone else and I could do a good job.
“But I made it clear on many occasions that I still have something to give as a player, being a manager wasn’t the be all and end all for me.
“I’ve still got a lot to give, my knee is fine, the operation was really successful in January.
“I’ve proved to myself now I can be a manager but for now I’ll concentrate on playing. If that’s back in the Football League, and I hope it is, or lower down if not, I still have something to give someone.
“I’ll reassess further down the line when it comes to coaching.”
The former Premier League defender has been written off more than a few times in the past couple of years and it’s the doubts of others that have helped fuel the fire inside.
In the 2016/17 season he picked up a host of awards and last summer returned for pre-season in top shape.
Earlier this season he spent time away from the first team towards the end of Gary Caldwell’s reign as boss, for reasons that have never been made public .
But Jack Lester returned him to the heart of the defence and appeared to be getting the best of the club captain until a knee injury curtailed his campaign.
Having fought back from injuries and being written off on previous occasions, Evatt is adamant he’ll do the same again.
“Everyone who knows me knows I’m a fighter. I love when people start doubting me, it fires me up, puts fire in my belly.
“I will be back fitter and stronger next season, no doubt about that.
“For now, it’s sad and having a family in Chesterfield it’s difficult to take. I wanted to play a big part in getting this club back to where it belongs but for now I’m going to get as fit as possible and play as high as I can next season.”
Looking back on his time as a Spireite, Evatt predictably picks out the League Two title as a highlight, along with reaching a Football League Trophy final and the League One play-offs.
He rues the decline in the club’s fortunes ever since, however.
“Since then we’ve, as a club, made bad decisions on the managerial front and recruitment wise.
“I feel really sorry for Jack, he inherited and couldn’t change too much about the squad in the time he had, the problems of last summer and the summer before were where we got it massively wrong.
“Obviously we’re the ones who have paid for that.”
Evatt may well return to the Proact in an opposition side or as a Chesterfield employee at some point in the future, but for now he waves a fond farewell to the Sheffield Road club and hopes they find success.
“The main thing now is that the club piece together a squad that can win games again and be successful at the level we’re at.
“The fans deserve to see the team win, fingers crossed that starts to happen next year.
“Obviously there’s no part or place left me for me at the club as it stands, but there’s no hard feelings, I’ve had a fantastic time.
“A massive thank you to everyone, the fans, the lads I’ve played with, the staff and the guys in the media who have been brilliant with me.
“I wish them all the best in the future.
“This isn’t the end for me, just another turn in a 20-year career for me that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.”