'˜The passion and the emotion is still there - you don't want to lose to Mansfield'
It may have been some time since Jamie Hewitt pulled on the blue of Chesterfield.
But the former Spireite’s passion for the club remains evidently clear and even more so when talking about facing Mansfield Town.
Hewitt, who made more than 500 appearances over two spells with Chesterfield, used to relish the heat of the battle on derby day.
Now he hopes Jack Lester’s current crop of players embrace the occasion and make their travelling army of supporters proud on Saturday.
“Derby days are good days,” Hewitt told the Derbyshire Times.
“They’re great for the fans and they’re great for the players as well. The adrenaline will be going and everyone will want to win so it’ll be a good atmosphere.
“Mansfield are a decent team this season, they’ve obviously had their troubles over the last few years, but they’re a good team.
“They’ve spent a lot of money in the summer and I imagine they’ll be one of the top budgets in that league. It’ll be a tough game for Chesterfield.
“But I’m sure Jack will have them up for it. He was always up for the battle and a good derby game in a good atmosphere and hopefully the players will relish it.”
Hewitt’s first Spireites-Stags derby experience as a player came in September 1986 in a 1-1 draw at Field Mill and he remembers that time well.
“I remember my first encounters with Mansfield in the late 1980s,” he said.
“They probably got the better of us when I first started playing and we had some really close-run games. It was always a tough one until the ‘90s when we got the upper-hand.”
Chesterfield steamrolled Mansfield 5-2 in the second leg of the 1994/95 play-off semi-final at a sold-out Saltergate to book their place in the final at Wembley.
“We were poised at 1-1 after the first leg, a Wembley final beckoned and it was a sell out crowd. I remember the game see-sawed,” recalled Hewitt.
“It ended up 2-2 and they had a couple of players sent off. We went on to comfortably win. I got a bit of a nose bleed for the final goal as I was the one who clipped it to the back post for Jon Howard’s header.
“We’d played them at their place in the league and they’d beaten us as we hadn’t had a great start to the season. We were around mid-table but expecting to be promotion candidates. We had a meeting that John (Duncan) called and a frank discussion.
“We changed systems after that game. We went from 4-4-2 to three at the back in a 3-5-2 and we went on a big unbeaten run - I think it was a club record - that pushed us up the table. We missed out on automatic promotion and finished third.
“We were well ahead of Mansfield on points by the end of the season. They scraped in at sixth so we knew we had them in the semis. They’d maybe had the upper-hand in the head-to-heads but we were on a good run and full of confidence.”
Hewitt and Co, under the guidance of then manager John Duncan, would go on to clinch promotion from Division Three with a 2-0 win over Bury nine days later.
“We beat them in the play-off semi-finals over two legs to get to Wembley and after that it was probably the start of the decline of Mansfield. They went downhill after that and eventually fell out the league,” said Hewitt, who has also experienced the derby from the dugout as physio.
“It’s probably worse because you can’t do anything about it,” he said. “The passion and the emotion is still there - you don’t want to lose to Mansfield.
“If you do lose then you have to think in footballing terms. Would you take losing to Mansfield for winning the league, yes you would.
“But the pride in beating Mansfield is always there and that’s what they’ll be wanting on Saturday, especially for the supporters.
“It’ll be the same for me watching the game, I’ll be there wanting Chesterfield to stuff them.
“The players will want to send their fans home happy. Chesterfield will want the bragging rights and give the Mansfield lot a bit of stick until the next one.
“It’s just got to be channeled correctly. You see some derby days that boil over, well your emotions have got to be channeled correctly into the match.”
And Hewitt has backed Lester’s men to edge the contest on Saturday.
“Chesterfield have started to pick up and look more like a team that I’m sure Jack wants. The energy levels and intensity is higher from what I’ve seen.
“Jack and Tommy (Wright) have got them playing at a good pace and they’ve got good energy in the team. I’ll go for a see-saw game with us nicking it at the end. 2-1.”