Column: Martin Allen was a dream to deal with but couldn't wake Chesterfield FC from its nightmare as recruitment woes proved costly
Martin Allen was a dream to deal with but he couldn't wake Chesterfield FC from its nightmare.
His departure from the Proact today, after 30 games in charge, comes as no surprise given yesterday's events.
Up until half-time, or even 70 minutes, his job was probably safe, albeit vulnerable.
But that pitch invasion must surely have ushered him into the Proact's revolving managerial door.
The chants from those on the pitch and those in the stands may have been aimed at the board, but it was Chesterfield's woeful performance and the shipping of three goals at home to Solihull that lit the blue touch paper.
When he was appointed in May, I wrote that it could go one of two ways - together Martin Allen and owner Dave Allen could set the National League ablaze or it'd all go down in flames.
Sadly, for everyone concerned, the latter has proven true.
And yet the man some call Mad Dog - a nickname that couldn't be more inappropriate for the man I've come to know in the past seven months - started like a house on fire.
His quirky, to-the-point press statements, always signed off with his trademark 'take care' flourish, got fans on his side.
They bought up season tickets in astounding numbers.
He talked the talk, declaring boldly that they would make a good start, that he'd put together a good team.
He backed up that talk with a fantastic pre-season display against Wigan and three wins on the bounce to start the season.
The Spireites were back.
Who could have predicted what would follow?
Six straight defeats sowed the seeds of doubt and a further four games without a win grew the discontent in the stands.
It became apparent that some of Allen's generals, players he has trusted in the past, were simply not up to it.
Never a man to let the grass grow under his feet, Allen took drastic action.
Back to basics they went, signing a big centre forward, playing direct and becoming hard to beat.
The rot was stopped, but wins still wouldn't come.
They didn't lose a single game in October or November. They didn't win a single league game in that time either.
It was a real head scratcher when they could boast one of their best runs for over a decade at the same time as suffering their worst ever winless streak.
Some of the football was difficult to watch, some of his players looked bereft of confidence in front of their own fans, particularly in front of goal.
Quality was all too often lacking when it mattered most, in the final third.
Yet through it all Allen was a delight for journalists.
Our seven am Tuesday morning phone call was never terse, never refused.
Nothing was too much trouble. Players were made available for interview, little tit bits and golden quotes were kept back from club statements so the Derbyshire Times could fill its pages.
He, Adrian Whitbread and Carl Muggleton were more polite, courteous and respectful than one could expect, in the circumstances.
There were signs that things might turn - the signing of Jonathan Smith was a good one, albeit in stark contrast to some of the poor acquisitions of the summer.
FA Cup wins over Fylde and Billericay had alleviated a little of the pressure on the manager, before he finally got the three points he'd been working night and day for.
That win over Salford could have been the turning point.
But when the narrative seemed to change from 'the owner has made money available to strengthen' to 'it's been made clear to me I have to move players on first' the writing was perhaps on the wall.
And when the injuries came, the squad's lack of depth and quality was exposed.
The selection of 38-year-old Michael Nelson, without first team action since September, raised plenty of eyebrows ahead of yesterday's visit of Solihull.
Within 10 minutes most heads in the Proact were shaking in disbelief as Nelson walked down the tunnel, anguish all over his face having been dragged for what was a shocking start to the game.
The defending didn't get any better and that third goal, with the subsequent appearance of fans on the pitch, left Allen in an almost untenable position.
Injuries played a part, like they did with his recent predecessors.
The loss of Charlie Carter, Drew Talbot and Sam Wedgbury to long term problems certainly took a toll.
But the old, old Chesterfield story of poor summer recruitment reared its ugly head once more and left a manager playing catch up.
Eventually, it was his downfall.
With a very competitive wage budget of Â£1.4m spent (and Â£1.1m of it spent on new signings by Allen) and half the league season gone, Town were at the wrong end of the table.
It was not for lack of trying or a lack of personality, but a lack of wins.
Chesterfield now go looking for the sixth man to try and halt the club's plummet down the leagues since Paul Cook left.
They'll need someone who understands lower league and non-league football and someone who can get results, quickly.
Sounds a bit like Martin Allen, doesn't it?
That's why, as keen as some will be to point out that Dave Allen made this appointment and it ended in failure, there can't be too much in the way of finger pointing.
It looked like a solid appointment, with less risk attached than some recent managerial arrivals at the Proact.
He's had success before, at both ends of league tables, and might well again elsewhere.
Another good man has simply been overcome by the size of the job at Sheffield Road.
Whoever is next to drink from what appears to have become a poisoned chalice will need to come up with an almost instant antidote for a toxic culture of failure.
It'll take a strong stomach.