From plasterer to cult hero - how departing Tom Denton helped save Chesterfield from 'oblivion'

No Chesterfield player has probably polarised opinion in recent times more than the big fella.

By Liam Norcliffe
Monday, 4th July 2022, 12:35 pm
Updated Monday, 4th July 2022, 12:36 pm

He’s a weapon in both boxes, there’s nobody else like him in the league, he’s the perfect impact sub, he’s unplayable at times, one fan will tell you.

He doesn’t suit the pressing style, he isn’t the quickest, we don’t have the players around him to play to his strengths, another will say.

I’m in the former camp – I like him and see his value. There is more than one way to win a football match and if I’m an opposition defender the last thing I want is to have to mark him. No thank you.

It probably says a lot that in his four years at the Spireites all five managers – Martin Allen, John Sheridan, John Pemberton, James Rowe and Paul Cook - all used him.

And opposition bosses would always name-drop him in their post-match interviews. They hated playing against him. But the majority of them would have him in their squad.

‘Does that rate tall bloke to still play for you?’ would be a question regularly asked by the visiting press pack during my time covering the club.

He scored some important goals, too. His five strikes in eight matches, including in crucial clashes against Chorley and Dover Athletic, ensured Chesterfield narrowly escaped relegation to the National League North on a points per game basis before the pandemic. Who knows what would have happened to the club had that happened. Shudder. As one fan put it, he helped save them from ‘oblivion.’

Tom Denton has left the Spireites after four years at the club.

He continued his impressive scoring record into the next season, bagging six goals in the first six matches and nine in his first 15 before a knee injury ended his campaign. The ‘Denton’s scoring goals’ soundtrack had to be paused.

He returned last summer – scoring against Alfreton Town in a friendly – but then he did his other knee. Shame, a case of what could have been.

Even Cook, a manager who wants to play a pressing, high-energy, aggressive, front-foot style of play appreciated his qualities. ‘He does what it says on the tin’ and ‘you know what you are going to get,’ he said.

With the direction Cook wants to take the team Denton, now 32, would probably not have been a regular starter, but I’d have backed him to score some goals and rescue some points off the bench.

When Allen was in charge, his contacts, when it came to Denton, had urged him to ‘sign him’. For what it’s worth, that would be my advice to a lot of clubs in and around this level.

A quick scan of the replies on his Twitter feed following his departure announcement tells you everything you need to know about him as a person.

For now ‘Big Tom’ can put his feet up and enjoy the cricket (watching, not playing - if you know, you know) because I’m sure he won’t be short of offers.

And hey, he might even get a few refereeing decisions in his favour at his new club. Or maybe not.

He arrived as a plasterer and leaves a cult hero.

Good luck, Dents.