How the rot was stopped at Chesterfield FC and where praise is now due

Criticism is part and parcel of life in football, but so too should praise be.

By Graham Smyth
Wednesday, 10th April 2019, 1:05 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th April 2019, 1:14 pm
Tom Denton is one player who has silenced his critics
Tom Denton is one player who has silenced his critics

And now that Chesterfield know for certain that they’ve staved off the threat of relegation for the first time since since 2016, it’s only right that those responsible receive their due praise.

It hasn’t been an enjoyable last four years for Spireites and the reasons have been painstakingly and painfully documented.

There is still so much hard work to be done to right the wrongs of those two miserable relegations.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Shwan Jalal came in from the cold to provide an assured presence in goal

But Chesterfield FC have, at long last, earned the right to bask in some positivity.

I can already hear fingers tapping out what would be a quite reasonable response: ‘well we shouldn’t be in this position in the first place.’

That’s true, but having got into a position where a third relegation was alarmingly possible, it’s also true to say that the Spireites have clawed their way out of a hole and emerged blinking into the sunlight of safety.

REVEALED: The 2019/20 budget that Chesterfield hope will give Sheridan what he needs to mastermind a promotion pushIt might not make amends for the failures of recent years, but the 2018/19 campaign has, overall and in terms of results, been the club’s best since their 2014/15 effort.

One more draw is needed to better the 2015/16 points tally and they’ll definitely finish higher in the table than they did in League One that year.

They’ve matched the 2014/15 total of clean sheets, shutting out opponents 15 times in National League action.

Those would be largely unremarkable feats, were it not for the fact that up until John Sheridan arrived they had only four league wins and 26 points to their credit, after 28 games.

A third consecutive relegation was beckoning.

Fast forward three months and in Sheridan’s 14-game National League spell, they’ve won eight times and accrued a further 27 points.

So you can only say well done to club owner Dave Allen, for taking action when he did and for the action he took.

He prised a manager away from a high flying club in the division above, convinced him to drop into non-league for the first time in his career and in doing so, saved his club from another drop.

Well done too, John Sheridan.

A series of managers have walked into the Proact proclaiming and believing that they knew what was needed.

Only Sheridan has delivered.

Putting smiles on faces and lifting the mood of the entire club has been as instrumental as anything else he’s done.

Glynn Snodin, therefore, was an inspired choice of assistant.

His experience and knowledge are only surpassed by his warmth as a person.

The messages put out before and after games have been positive, Sheridan and Snodin have looked after the players, protected them when confidence was fragile.

There's been a difference in Sheridan, noted by those commentators who recall his first spell. He's been less intense, for lack of a better word, perhaps a little bit more upbeat.

On the touchline he still lets them know when he's not happy and presumably in training as well, but the theme has been enjoyment - players enjoying their football, staff enjoying their jobs, fans enjoying wins.

He simplifies things, refuses to bog players down in details and encourages them to express themselves.

Crucially, the players all bought in.

According to the manager, their effort levels - even those out of favour and with no realistic hope of regular football - have been spot on.

Allen giving the green light to go and nab Scott Boden from Gateshead certainly helped, his goals have been exactly what the side was lacking.

When you look back at that agonising winless streak earlier in the season, how valuable would a Boden have been and where might Town now find themselves in the table, had they possessed one?

His strike partner Tom Denton has silenced his harshest critics with his contribution.

A player who at one stage was rumoured to be close to the exit door, on loan at least, has forced his way into Sheridan's plans, provided assists, linked up with Boden and cemented his place as top goalscorer.

Denton is one of a number of Martin Allen signings who, as it turns out, were good additions.

Under Sheridan, Shwan Jalal came in from the cold to give the back line confidence. His performances have shown that it's not all about shot-stopping, but presence and leadership.

Will Evans has been Mr Consistent and should romp home in the race for all the Player of the Season awards, while centre-half partner Haydn Hollis has steadily improved.

Jonathan Smith has done whatever he could in whatever position he played in.

Everyone expects big changes this summer, but before players who make up this group are consigned to Spireite history, they deserve a pat on the back for doing what so many have failed to do and ridding the club of its culture of failure.

The rot has been stopped.