Column: Keeping Town in the league could be their renaissance man's greatest triumph as a Spireite
Ian Evatt knows all about being written off, so now is the perfect time for him to return to the fray and lead the Spireites.
With 10 games to go, many have already called time on Chesterfield’s Football League status, believing there’s too much to do, too many wins to secure, too many goals to score and too many big and powerful opposition players to cope with.
It’s an understandable and even reasonable stance to take when you look back over the season as a whole.
The poor recruitment, the inability to put together the necessary run of results to get out and stay out of the drop zone, the scarcely believable injury crisis, the mental fragility, the uncanny knack of losing points from promising positions.
None of that will come into the mind of Evatt, or rather, none of it will matter more than his desire to keep his club in the league.
The often bewildering events that have shaped this season may well act as fuel for the fire.
It’s been a topsy turvy campaign for both the club and its captain.
He came back for pre-season in fantastic shape and led the way in the summer training sessions.
But it wasn’t the start to the season that he, nor boss Gary Caldwell would have wanted.
Very soon that relationship, for reasons never made public, and Caldwell’s tenure as manager took a severe turn for the worse.
Evatt was given time away from the club, or put another way, banished.
The Scot’s departure soon followed and Jack Lester’s subsequent arrival breathed new life into Evatt’s storied stint as a Spireite.
Robbie Weir was given the captain’s armband and Evatt was told to focus on his football, which helped him and Chesterfield rediscover form.
The 36-year-old played in each of those six unbeaten games that appeared to have put Town back on track and on the road to midtable comfort.
Disaster struck, however, when Evatt and then central defensive partner Sam Hird both limped out of games during the festive period with serious injuries.
Without Evatt, Chesterfield have won three of their 13 games.
It’s not just his defensive qualities and nouse that have been sorely missed by a club carrying a lot of young, inexperienced players.
At the other end of the pitch during Lester’s best spell as boss, Evatt was key as well.
His penchant for marauding forward to get involved in attacks led to a sumptious cross for Kristian Dennis’ goal in the draw with Carlisle, and a lovely no-look pass to put Weir in the clear for the winner against Barnet.
Some centre-halfs are content to sit back and ‘let the players play’ and some do so because of their technical limits.
Not so Evatt, or Hird for that matter, who are both ball playing defenders of notable quality.
Hird stepping up into the play was the catalyst for Town’s second goal in the memorable draw at Mansfield and when they were both on song, Chesterfield were in form.
According to Lester, Evatt has been busting a gut in characteristic fashion to get himself fit enough to rejoin the action before the end of the season.
It seems he’s now inching nearer and nearer to a return.
Not before time.
The team needs leaders and the more of them there are in a matchday squad, the better.
Who is more qualified to talk this squad through being written off and proving people wrong, than Evatt?
Critics had us believe he was on his last legs two seasons ago, then again last term and earlier in this campaign, but each time he’s had a personal renaissance.
A player with just over 40 Premier League games and more than 200 Championship outings to his name does not become a bad player overnight and his absence has visibly cost the club.
Who knows where the Spireites would find themselves in League Two had Evatt and Hird not succumbed to injury?
Regardless, Lester will be thanking his lucky stars that at least one of the pair can have a say in where the club finds itself at close of play on 5th May.
The stage is set for Evatt to lead the club to what could arguably be his greatest triumph as a Spireite and cement his place in the club’s illustrious list of legends.