Forget snobbery, sneering and the word tinpot – it’s time to embrace the non-league adventure

FC United vs Chesterfield - Chesterfield fans at FC United - Pic By James Williamson
FC United vs Chesterfield - Chesterfield fans at FC United - Pic By James Williamson

The squad is almost complete, the fixtures are out and pre-season games are upon us – football is finally back.

In truth, particularly in a World Cup summer, it never really went away.

It’s almost a 24/7 business all year round, with preparations for the next season often starting even before the current one is done.

This summer’s fixture announcement has more of an unfamiliar feel than any other in living memory for the Spireites.

It’s the beginning of what should now be seen as an adventure.

Clubs who have seldom, if ever, provided the opposition for Town, new grounds and away days that look and feel very different to last season’s trips to Coventry City or Swindon Town.

There will, for all of us, be a temptation to turn the nose up at some of the more rustic surroundings and sparse home attendances in the National League.

Facilities, including those in place for the press, might not always be quite as salubrious as those we’ve been accustomed to in the past few seasons.

But this is the division Chesterfield belong in and they deserve to be there.

They have made their bed, now they must lie in it a while.

Two relegations did not come about by sheer misfortune and the sense that the Spireites are too good for non-league must be quickly shaken off.

They are a non-league club.

The clubs they will face next season are non-league and they occupy the same status as Town in the current footballing pecking order.

Yes, Chesterfield are a big club at this level, probably the biggest outside the Football League.

Their 2,700 season ticket holders and their long history of EFL status are evidence of that.

But often in the past big clubs have not travelled this journey well.

A number of ex Football League clubs have had to fight their way back from far lower down the pyramid after going bust or reforming and the attitude that they’re too good for the divisions they’ve had to work their way through did not serve them well.

Not only does it mark a club out as big time Charlies, a tag no one wants, it paints a big target on their back.

The Spireites will already be seen as a big enough scalp, without giving other clubs more reason to want to see them humbled.

The Vanarama National League is Town’s new home and it might well be a temporary one, for a 10-month stay and no more.

There’s nothing wrong with ambition, wanting to return to the Football League as quickly as possible.

But snobbery and looking down the nose at the next door neighbours won’t make it an enjoyable stay for anyone.

A lot of the clubs Town visit next term might have grounds that aren’t as shiny as the Proact, with far smaller fanbases.

Many of them are well run however, living within their means and serving their supporters more than sufficiently.

There might actually be more to admire than to sneer at.

The word ‘tinpot’ should become a swear word, punishable with a £10 fine, made payable to a charity of the gaffer’s choosing.

Pining for the relative luxury of League One will simply make the season a long, arduous slog.

It’s time to embrace something new.

The squad Martin Allen is building reflects the challenge that lays before Town.

He’s added four men who know all about the National League and have performed well in it.

Putting together a League Two squad would have been folly, because there will be an element of culture shock for the lads brought up through academy football who have only tasted the Football League.

Men like Wedgbury and Evans know what it takes, they know the battles, the most uncomfortable away trips, the players who make the opposition teams tick.

Allen’s squad certainly has the appearance of a robust band of men, capable of withstanding the physicality that Gozie Ugwu and others have revealed awaits next season.

Whether or not they find the pitches and facilities at away grounds to their taste, they’ve got to roll up their sleeves, relish playing there and prepare to get their hands dirty.

It could well be an invaluable experience for the youngsters like Joe Rowley, Ify Ofoegbu, Charlie Wakefield and Laurence Maguire, another big lesson in their footballing education and a step closer to becoming successful men.

Only next May will anyone be able to say Chesterfield as a club or these players as individuals are too good for the National League and only if they sit proudly at the very top of the table.