OPINION: Three key steps towards a positive next chapter in the Spireite story
As Chesterfield played out their final Football League fixture for the foreseeable future on Saturday, we finally close another terrible chapter of Chesterfield's never-ending horror story, and turn the page in hope of a positive change in plot.
Few outside the club expect to see a change in fortunes just yet, but working tirelessly towards making a strong start at the beginning of the National League campaign should be the priority for those in charge.
After failing to make a remotely positive start to what ultimately became a failure of a season, it’s now important to stop the decline and begin to turn fortunes around before the club’s situation could further deteriorate.
This is far from a small task. In fact, it’s mammoth in size, but there are three key steps that can be outlined between now and the next league campaign.
Firstly, the club need to take a patient, careful and proper approach to selecting Town’s next boss.
I highlight those three words with consideration for how managerial recruitment has panned out in the past since the departure of now League One-winning Wigan manager Paul Cook.
After the sacking of John Sheridan in 2012, the club went through a proper process of selection. The end product was the appointment of perhaps the greatest manager in modern Chesterfield FC history.
But since Cook waved his final goodbyes, managerial searches have never been the same.
It took less than a week to appoint Dean Saunders on 13th May 2015, and he wrongly chose to invest in veterans who never fully delivered. He was gone by mid-November.
Danny Wilson’s appointment took longer, but despite keeping the Spireites in League One, he failed to put together a squad who could maintain the club’s League One status, which leads on to step two of ensuring a positive season’s start.
Player recruitment has been a damp squib ever since Paul Mitchell – the man behind the assembly of Cook’s title-winners – made his way over to Bramall Lane, although perhaps it was slightly anticipated considering the monumental role Mitchell played in Town’s success.
With recruitment constantly failing to fill the void left behind by the Cook team, the Spireites now face a whole new ball game in the National League, a division notoriously difficult to escape at the top end.
After a manager is carefully selected, recruitment needs to be the most thorough it has ever been.
No more veterans who haven’t played for months or even years, no more unproven kids on loan with no real commitment to the cause, and no more players who are too much of a burden on the playing budget. It’s time to bring in players proven to possess quality at National League level.
Easier said than done, but the club cannot afford any more recruitment mistakes.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the relationship between club and supporters has to be healed. This may require the departure of the club’s current bosses, but more can be done beyond that to get fans back onside.
A strong home atmosphere can prove to be vital in making the Proact a fortress next season, and solid home form is always the cemented in the foundations of a good season.
But for this to happen, season tickets will need to be completely reviewed and prices adjusted to offer supporters a genuinely fair deal – that’s genuinely fair, not ‘fair’ in the eyes of businessmen.
It’s time that the unconditionally loyal support of Chesterfield fans is recognised and rewarded.
The importance of getting back in touch with supporters cannot be put into words, nor can the value of a strong backing from the fans at the beginning of the season.
Communication needs to be constant, consistent and transparent. To prove that the best interests of the club and its followers are at heart, there must be regular and close communication with those who pay with their hard-earned money to watch their beloved Town.
Should this fail to be achieved, the club-supporter bond may be lost for a very long time.
To ignore this need for change would be a costly miscalculation; the club needs its supporters, and would struggle to find momentum without its fanbase singing from the same hymn sheet.
Nothing could be worse than the team walking out to an echoey, half-empty Proact Stadium in the first home game of the campaign.
Chesterfield Football Club have a momentous challenge ahead of them. A strong start is not just preferable, but crucial to guiding the ship away from another iceberg.