Column: Would the real Chesterfield FC please stand up?
Would the real Chesterfield Football Club please stand up?
The League Two relegation battle might not have traditionally captured the imagination of philosophers, but surely even the world’s greatest thinkers would struggle to answer this question: ‘Who are the Spireites?’
Are they a swaggering, swashbuckling side who spray the ball around and put the best teams in the division to the sword?
Are they battlers who dominate big, strong outfits like Swindon and Notts County?
Or are they bottlers, who wilt at the first sign of a fight?
This season they’ve been both, although all too often the latter, showing mental fragility and naivety when resolve and intelligence have been called for.
Fans of Luton, Notts, Swindon and even Mansfield have been left bewildered as to how the Spireites are so lowly in the league.
Equally, Crewe, Stevenage and Cambridge fans will have no problem believing the table.
With nine games to go in the 2017/18 season, Town have ample opportunity to prove who they really are as individuals and a collective.
And what we saw on Sunday suggests that on their day, they can be one of the very best teams in League Two.
The league table won’t show that come the end of the campaign, even maximum points wouldn’t be enough to get them into the top half.
But for a team who have failed to rise above 19th place all season and spent an alarming amount of time in the drop zone, their final position won’t matter a jot so long as two teams sit between them and the National League.
What they could do, by putting an impressive run together late in the season, is prove their manager right once and for all.
Jack Lester has repeatedly pointed to the club’s injury crisis, the loss of experience in the form of Ian Evatt and Sam Hird, as a major factor in the derailment of the team’s form in the mid-winter period.
There was a time when a midtable finish looked more than plausible, before injury took hold of the squad’s fate.
On Sunday, Chesterfield did very little different to what they were doing in November and December when they drew at Swindon, beat Exeter and Forest Green, drew at Mansfield and beat Barnet.
It was a performance put together by 11 men all playing to the identity Lester set out to create on the very day he arrived at the Proact late in September.
Aggressive, purposeful, energetic, with a winning mentality.
That was what he told us he wanted to see in his side.
He wanted to get them fitter, in order to play to his tempo in and out of possession.
Last weekend, in front of a live TV audience, they were able to do it for 100 minutes against a top four side.
Now they need to do it again, and then again.
Lester says they’re capable of going on another run.
So all that stands between Chesterfield FC and secured Football League status is Chesterfield FC.
They can beat the physical long ball merchants, they can handle the firepower of the very best League Two sides and as Barnet, Port Vale and Forest Green already know, they can best the teams scrapping at the wrong end of the table.
So barring a truly unfortunate set of circumstances that robs Lester of all of his best players, what reason is there to believe they aren’t capable of getting out of trouble?
Consistency has eluded this club since Paul Cook departed.
It threatened to return in November, but now is the time when it is needed most.
A consistent run of performances like the one we saw at the Proact against the Magpies, and Town will be flying – or at least sitting pretty in 21st or 22nd position.
Friday’s game looks particularly significant, huge in fact.
A victory over Vale would be a stunning psychological blow to a relegation rival already reeling from a rancid run of results.
It would give Town serious momentum and give everyone else in the dog fight something to think about – something to fear.
It would also, at long last, give Chesterfield supporters real cause for hope.
And it would start to whet the appetite for what the Lester era might hold in the not-so-distant future.
It’s the biggest game of the season. It’s time to stand up.