Return of Chesterfield fans against Dagenham and Redbridge will be 'I was there' moment, says Spireites chief executive
Spireites chief executive John Croot believes Saturday will be a historic moment and one Town fans will remember for the rest of their lives.
For the first time in 445 days Chesterfield supporters will be allowed into the Technique Stadium to cheer on their team when they face Dagenham and Redbridge in what is expected to be a 3,000 sell-out.
Fans have not been able to go through the turnstiles for the last 14 months and have had to watch games online from home.
But the long wait is over and Croot hopes the fanbase can help them achieve their aspirations of getting into the play-offs in what he says will be a ‘unique atmosphere’.
“It is going to be one of those games where you look back and say ‘I was there the day the fans went back’,” Croot told the DT.
“I remember John Duncan saying when we beat Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup in 1997 that that would be a day when Chesterfield supporters would say ‘I was there that day’ and I think Saturday will be the same.
“Fans are the lifeblood of the game and it is tremendous to be thinking that we are within a few days of them coming back.
“It will be a unique atmosphere, I am absolutely sure of it.
“It will be an experience like no other and we just need our fans to help us fire into the play-offs.”
The match is of huge significance not only because fans are returning but also because of where Town are in the National League table.
With two games remaining James Rowe’s men occupy the last play-off spot in seventh on goal difference.
A win on Saturday would be a big step towards securing a place in the top seven but they face a Daggers side who have play-off ambitions of their own.
Either way it is likely to go down to the last day of the season when the Spireites travel to another promotion contender in Halifax.
In what is set to be a nervy afternoon, Croot thinks the return of fans could be the timely boost they need to get over the line.
“I don’t think anybody could say hand on heart that when James took over in November that we would be fighting for a play-off spot with two games to go,” Croot said.
“We know what our fans are like, we know they will get behind us and just having them there will have an influence on our team.
“I think they can make a difference and I have thought that a number of times this season.
“All in all we will look back at a season like no other and it is just great to be able to get fans back in and be in a position where we can potentially be in a play-off spot.
“At Chesterfield we don’t seem to do things the easy way that is for sure!”
Saturday will be the first time that supporters have been allowed in the ground since the community trust took over the club last summer and since Rowe was appointed manager in November.
The excitement is building around the playing squad and management team ahead of the crunch clash.
“There have been a lot of changes since fans were last in with the takeover and new faces in and around the first-team club so it is a really exciting time and what a game for people to come back to,” Croot explained.
“The players have been talking about the return of fans for months.
“We have a tremendous stadium and I have said to the players that it is even better with fans in.
“I know that James feels the fans have got a part to play in helping us and not just this Saturday but moving forwards.
“The excitement is building for all the board members as well.
"Taking over a football club in a pandemic is not easy and it has been challenging on a number of aspects.
“There are no away fans so to have all our own fans in is great and I know how much the fans are looking forward to seeing them.”
Dedicated volunteers have been working hard to prepare the stadium for Saturday whether it be tidying, cleaning or repairing.
The club has spent around £10,000 on replacing some seats and have been doing their best to sort out the ‘pigeon problem’ and ‘what they leave behind’.
The ticket office staff have been busy collecting details for track and trace and there will be an extra 50 stewards in the ground to help people stay safe.
“I would like to give an enormous thank you from everyone at the club to the volunteers who have come in relentlessly over the last 15 weeks and have made ready for fans to come in,” Croot said. “It has been unbelievable really and every Chesterfield supporter should thank them for the work they have done over the last few months to get us into this position.
When asked for his message for the supporters, he added: “Enjoy the match, support us, but it is equally important to listen to the safety guidance given and listen to the stewards. We want to make it a great experience for everybody in a safe environment. We have spent a lot of time and a lot of money getting things right to set the platform for fans to come and have a great afternoon.”