David Cameron Walker

Archive for the ‘Chesterfield’ Category

A promising start

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

pcookIt’s been the best start in over a century for a Chesterfield team that just two weeks after the end of last season didn’t have enough players in their first team to field a full 16-man squad. The departure of faces such as Danny Whittaker, Craig Westcarr and the retiring Jack Lester left Chesterfield fans with the little to look forward to as Paul Cook aimed to turn the squad into one of his own. However, with the bad comes the good and the likes of Gary Roberts, Ritchie Humphries and a returning Ian Evatt meant Chesterfield were out for promotion this year.

As pre-season favourites to go up, the Spireites have lived up to all the hype with just one defeat in all competitions so far this season and victories over the likes of Portsmouth and Bury, two teams considered very strong sides in League Two this year. Although there have only been six fixtures played Chesterfield are still seen as people’s favourites for promotion, even if it isn’t to be as champions once again.

The next three fixtures for Chesterfield are tough ones playing both third place, AFC Wimbledon at home before travelling to second place Oxford United. A defeat in either of these matches could see the tide of the table turned very early on in the season. News of Nathan Smith’s injury giving him an earlier return date than expected will be music to the ears of Paul Cook’s boys.

The season highlight so far in my eyes will be the unfortunate defeat at the hands of Leeds United. Travelling to a club who are hoping for a return to the top flight soon and taking them that extra mile is something Chesterfield can be very proud of with a performance that even Leeds United fans saw as exceptional. One United fan even claimed that if both sides played similar football for the remainder of the season they will be meeting up in League One next season on more than one occasion.

However, the early exit hasn’t seen Chesterfield disappointed and dropping just two points in the League so far this season sees them currently sat at the top of League Two. As some people say, it is only early days, but the performances shown by the Chesterfield team can only be described as promising.

Providing Chesterfield can avoid defeat to Oxford United, AFC Wimbledon and in the local derby against Mansfield Town the Spireites will see nothing stopping them and they may extend on the records they set themselves three years ago under John Sheridan, when the afore mentioned released players helped them take the League Two title. Another player involved in this feat was Deane Smalley, who rejected a contract renewal at the Proact to move down South.

For now, a confident start for Chesterfield and similar performances will see them create a promising lead ahead of their promotion rivals early on. Dave Allen’s five year plan for the Championship started three years ago and needs back-to-back promotions to make it happen. It is possible and has happened before with other clubs and with Paul Cook in charge, I can strongly say the next five years for Chesterfield may just be the most promising in their history.

Written by Adam Marsden, We Are Going Up’s Chesterfield blogger

Adam tweets at @AJMarsden

The Cook Report

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Alright I know the title is a little cheesy and there are probably many better ones I could have gone for, it is however finally nice to have a manager with a headline friendly name, after all where can you go with Sheridan?

Following a very good start to Captain Cook’s (sorry, that’s the last one) tenure as Chesterfield manager, a blog post of my first impressions of the new man was always high on my list. I know we are only two games into the new era, but as we all know first impressions are important, and I have to say I’ve been more than impressed.

So hand’s up who wasn’t a little disappointed when the rumours first broke of Paul Cook being the next manager? I’m guessing most Chesterfield fans, if they’re honest, were hoping for a bigger name to get the juices flowing. This name obviously didn’t following the likes of Sean Dyche, Paul Ince and Nick Barnby being bandied around the message board and Twitter, I suppose the guy had very little chance of his name creating a buzz.

Like I guess most fans did when the rumours were far too strong to be anything but nailed on, I did a bit of research and watched a few post and pre match interviews he had done in his soon to be departed role as manager of Accrington Stanley. First of all I didn’t know he was from Liverpool. It’s amazing how even where somebody is from has an impact on your expectations. Think Liverpool and football, think the 1980’s side that dominated domestically and in Europe with flowing, passing, attractive football. Combine that with the Accrington side that came to the Proact and passed us off the park, even though they somewhere managed to lose 4-3, and that buzz begins as you think what this guy could bring to our club.

Next up was the press conference. Flanked by owner Dave Allen and Chief Executive Chris Turner, Cook spoke really well about how he believes in “hard work on the training ground and preparing the best way possible for Saturday’s game.”

The revelation from Dave Allen regarding the 2 to 3 hour, 4 days a week training regime that had been employed in recent times, came as a shock to me. How could professional footballers be expected to perform to the best of their abilities with such little training? Surely this was not the ‘norm’ in football? Things were obviously about to change with the new man and rightly so, the recent performances had looked lack lustre and lethargic, was this lack of training the reason?

The terms ‘winning football’ and ‘played the right way’ are always good ones to hear from a new manager. Paul Cook’s performance was promising and it was finally nice to have a manager who looks at ease with the media, maybe the fans would start to get some refreshingly honest feedback before and after games.

With the appointment happening on the Friday before Saturday’s home game to bottom side Barnet, recent caretakers Tommy Wright and Mark Crossley were to pick the side and be in charge for the final time. They had done a sterling job trying to steady the ship while a decision was made regarding the manager. I think like most, a fresh approach was required to provide a lift at the club, fans and squad alike. They hadn’t done too much wrong in their roles, it was simply time for a change.

It was reported Paul Cook would take his seat in the stand during the Barnet game and take charge ‘proper’ on Monday morning. I more than anybody was very pleased to see him immediately take his seat in the dugout following his introduction to the fans on the pitch. What manager worth his salt would not join his new team in the dugout? Within 5 minutes of the game he was stood at the side of the pitch, arms folded and shouting out instructions. The obvious enthusiasm of the man was there for all to see.

The resulting performance leading to a 1 nil defeat would have left him with a good idea of what he was up against. The team has shown promise in flashes but an incredible inconsistency so far this season. His comments after the game again were impressive, stating “Performances like that won’t be accepted. It’s important the lads cop onto the fact that we’re a big club in this division.”

With a full weeks training to get the side ready for the visit of Hartlepool in the first round of the FA Cup, I was hopeful he could have some effect and see us through to round two, not something we’re used too as Chesterfield fans. Managerless Hartlepool were bottom of League Oneso we had a chance. This was to be Paul Cook’s first team selection, what formation would he play? Would any regulars be dropped to warm the bench? Changes were inevitable with the suspension of captain Sam Hird and Huddersfield Town loanees Liam Ridehalge and Chris Atkinson not granted permission to play from their parent club.

The biggest surprise in the team news was Scott Boden leading the line in what looked like a 4-5-1 formation. Craig Clay was given a start alongside Togwell in centre midfield, with Randall, Whitaker and Darwikwa, A new loanee in centre back Liam Cooper from Hull City had been drafted in during the week; he was also given a start.

In what has to be the biggest change in a side I have ever witnessed from a previous performance, we went on to totally dominate the game and go thorough to the second round with a 6-1 victory. The energy, possession and creativity was a pleasure to watch. How Cook had got this performance out of the squad in only a week was incredible.

A good post match interview again impressed and the message was of moving on and looking forward to the league tie away at Bradford on Tuesday night. A tough fixture against a side having a very good season would provide a test. It was great to see him pick the same side that had played so well at the weekend, with the only enforced change being Sam Hird replacing the injured Liam Cooper.

I couldn’t make the game so a night in front of the PC and Spireites Player it was. In what sounded like a fairly solid performance ending in a 0-0 draw, another reason to be optimistic that the board have appointed the right man.

It’s obviously still early days in Paul Cook’s reign but the signs are promising. He talks a good game and has definitely had an impact in the short period of time he’s had to work with the squad. All we can hope for now is to see continued improvement and a climb up the league table to give us a chance of promotion. From what I’ve seen and heard, Captain Cook can sail the good ship Spireites towards League One, let’s hope there’s no icebergs lying in our way!

Written by Dean Mansell, We Are Going Up’s Chesterfield Blogger & editor of the Away End website.

Dean tweets at @awayend

You can purchase Dean’s book, “The Away End” from Amazon right here.

Wright Old Mess!

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

The question on every Chesterfield fans lips at the moment is “Who will be the next manager?”. Since John Sheridan was relieved of his duties and placed on gardening leave on August 28th, we have all been left wondering what prompted the surprise sacking (and let’s face it that’s what it was) only 3 league games into the season, consisting of a defeat and two draws, not the worst start to a season by a manager by any means.

To add confusion to the situation the club announced on 3rd October that Sheridan had resigned from his position as manager as of September 18th. Therefore the gardening leave lasted a whole 3 weeks (no doubt including full pay) while issues with Sheridan were attempted to be resolved, issues that are yet to be made public. In the meantime Tommy Wright and Mark Crossley have been left to get on with the job in caretaker roles while the club tries to close out the sacking of Sheridan and make a decision on who the next manager will be.

To be fair to Tommy Wright he has got on with the job and made a decent claim for the position on a permanent basis. Three defeats in eleven games including a couple of decent performances away from home have done his chances no harm. He has publicly stated he would like the job and has replaced the tracksuit look for a dapper suit and tie, you can’t fault the guys efforts. He himself has sounded his frustrations at a lack of decision on the position and has urged the club to resolve it, one way or the other.

The lack of explanation by the club regarding the sacking has led to many a rumour and theory as to what’s going on behind the scenes. Why is it taking so long to sort out? What were the issues with Sheridan now that were not apparent at the end of last season? Both valid questions that the fans deserve an answer too.

The main theory doing the rounds that makes perfect sense of the current mess is the one regarding Sheridan’s ‘bad contract’. I was at the game at the Keepmoat on Tuesday night which is another story altogether (cancelled trains, owls supporting father-in-law saves the day etc) and spoke to a few fellow Spireites. A claim was repeated that I’d already heard from message board and Twitter gossip. The claim being the contract awarded to Sheridan in the summer of 2011 had a big hole in it. That big hole being the exclusion of a severance clause giving either party a ‘get out’ should things not go according to plan. He signed a deal extending his contract to 4 years, along with his management team of Tommy Wright and Mark Crossley. At the time things were going well, we’d just won the league and were looking forward to life in league 1. As I recall Sheffield Wednesday were looking for a new manager so this maybe influenced the decision to tie Sheridan to the club and issue a hands of to Wednesday.

Fast forward just over a year and things had turned sour. Although Sheridan had received the dreaded backing from Dave Allen following relegation back to league 2, it seemed that backing disappeared after only 3 league games. I immediately found it strange he was not simply sacked and replaced within a week or two by either Tommy Wright or a new man. The bad contract theory however could explain all. If it’s true then the gardening leave and what seems indecision by the club has obviously been while the compensation Sheridan is due is agreed. By rights he would be eligible to receive the full 3 years pay left on his contract, a huge cost to the club. Not only that but Wright and Crossley would probably have the same ‘bad contract’, leaving the club financially with nowhere to go other than to stick with what they have.

I’m not saying for one minute Tommy Wright should not be the next Chesterfield manager. It simply seems the club has no choice now due to the financial constraints brought about by a school boy error with the contracts. A certain amount of sympathy has to be awarded to Chris Turner as he tries to resolve the situation with Sheridan and at the same time ensure the next manager is the right long term choice. Allegedly the now retired Barrie Hubbard and current finance director Alan Walters were the masterminds in the contract negotiations. If true, Dave Allen and Chris Turner must be seething at the current situation they are now trying to put right.

Fingers crossed a deal can be agreed with Sheridan that leaves the club with enough money in the budget to bring in a new manager If they don’t think Tommy is the answer. If not then let’s hope together with Mark Crossley he can find a way of getting us out of this league and back to where we were only a year ago. The players seem to have responded to his ideas which has to be applauded.

If these rumours are proved to be true then surely the lesson to be learnt out of this whole sorry saga has to be ensuring a solid and watertight contract is offered to the next manager of our great club. A meeting between Dave Allen and Tommy Wright is apparently just around the corner. Oh to be a fly on the wall in that boardroom, if not to hear the decision on the job but to take a look at the contract thats possibly sat on the table waiting to be signed!

Written by Dean Mansell, We Are Going Up’s Chesterfield Blogger & editor of the Away End website.

Dean tweets at @awayend

You can purchase Dean’s book, “The Away End” from Amazon right here.

An interesting start to say the least

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

This is my first WAGU post of the 2012-13 season due to my own ‘off the pitch matters’ keeping me more than occupied. Matters on, and more importantly off the pitch at the club have however forced my hand, it’s been an interesting start to the campaign back in League Two, and doesn’t John Sheridan know it.

The first news to come out of the club before even a ball was kicked was what I’d been dreading would happen ever since our move to our fantastic new home 2 years ago. What had become known and accepted by the fans as the b2net Stadium was to become the Proact Stadium. This due to the b2net company being taken over by you’ve guessed it, Proact. If this is a theme to continue and it no doubt will in today’s world, we could end up with a newly named ground every couple of years. As fans we all understand the need for the club to attract as much revenue as possible to allow the club to move forward and survive. Some things however are incredibly important, the ground name being one of them. Surely a suitable name can be cemented alongside our new home and be ‘sponsored by…insert name as required’. This may not command as much of a fee from potential sponsors but would provide a much needed identity. Surely some things are simply too important to sell off to the highest bidder?

Having read through my last post following relegation from League One last season, Sheridan had received the dreaded backing of the board and was going to be given time to put the wrongs of last season right. That ‘time’ turned out to be 3 league games which included an opening day defeat at Wimbledon which by all accounts we should have easily won, and draws at home to Rochdale and local rivals Rotherham. The sacking came as a huge shock, not the actual sacking itself as last seasons negativity was still hanging around the club, more the timing of it. I’m sure there was a relatively even split between fans regarding if Sheridan should still have been at the club, I was willing to give him a chance. However to allow him time and money in the Summer to shape his squad for then only to get 3 league games before the bullet seemed very odd. The timing of it inevitably led to rumours of off the field problems between the manager of board, time will reveal the truth I suppose. I hope Sheridan will be remembered for all the good times he brought to the club including a thrilling League Two championship win and the unforgettable JPT victory at Wembley only last March.

Assistant manager Tommy Wright and Mark Crossley were immediately handed the caretaker reigns and told to get on with the job in hand. Names like Brian Laws, Gary Megson (God forbid) and former player and legend Sean Dyche were bandied around the message boards and Twitter. Chief Executive Chris Turner made a statement that the club would not be rushing into a managerial appointment and Tommy and Mark will be given every chance to stake their claim for the job. This seemed a sensible decision as it would provide stability during this unsettling time.

The next shock to hit us all was the news Aston Villa were sniffing around Jordan Bowery as the end of the transfer window closed in. It was rumoured last season a few Championship clubs were keeping an eye on him which was no surprise following his tremendous improvement and the obvious potential that was there for all to see. A premiership club however was a bit of a surprise and when a bid of £500k was tabled, he was always going to be sold. I wish him every success on his move and hope it works out. He’s had a great mentor in Jack Lester since he broke into the Chesterfield squad and I think he’ll do well in the top division, given half a chance.

Fast forward 6 games since Tommy Wright took charge and his record has to be applauded. Well earned draws away at Gillingham, York and Northampton alongside home victories against Wycombe, Accrington Stanley and a JPT first round win over Oldham, have done his chances of getting the job on a permanent basis no harm. As expected there hasn’t been wholesale changes to the side and it could easily be Sheridan picking the team. What has been noticeable however is the effort and togetherness the players have shown since the change. I made the trip to Bootham Crescent for the game at York and to see the players as gutted as the fans were at York’s last minute equaliser said a lot. The home wins against Wycombe and Accrington Stanley were not convincing by any means but we lost these types of games last season, so you have to say the caretaker manage has brought something to the table.

Next up are Torquay at the Proact (see I’m trying to get used to it!) and another test to see if we are true contenders for promotion this season. The Summer recruits of Marc Richards, Sam Togwell and Sam Hird have all shown the quality they possess, specially in this division. Richards has had a stuttering start to his Spireites career but for has improved game by game. His partnership with Jack Lester showed promise against Accrington Stanley with him getting his first goal for the club. Having said that, all he really had to do that night was watch the master class put on by Lester. Scoring two goals and creating the other two showed what class the guy possesses and how much we will miss him when he finally hangs up his boots. Hopefully some of his magic will rub off on Richards while he’s still around and I for one am looking forward to watching him take Richards under his wing. Thankfully the injury Richards picked up in the final challenge of the game against Accrington Stanley is not as bad as initially feared and he should be back in contention over the next couple of weeks.

So to sum up an interesting start to the season, manager sacked, one of our best players sold and the ground has a new name. If the season continues like this anything could happen. Hold on to your hats Spireites.

Written by Dean Mansell, We Are Going Up’s Chesterfield Blogger & editor of the Away End website.

Dean tweets at @awayend

You can purchase Dean’s book, “The Away End” from Amazon right here.

 

Over and Out!

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

So that’s that then, Chesterfield’s brief stay in League One is at an end. In what seems like the blink of an eye, the club will be returning to the league they conquered last season, to once again try and escape the fourth tier of English football.

Some have said our relegation was inevitable following that terrible defeat at home to Exeter City back in January. I remember feeling very down about the team’s chances of survival after that game, but still thinking they could it. The January transfer window was upon us, surely Sheridan and the board realised the improvements needed in the squad and would do whatever it took to keep us in the division.

A number of loanees were indeed drafted in to join the fight including defenders Josh Thompson, Liam Ridehalgh and James Hurst. After shipping goals all season, the defence was obviously not good enough and players were definitely needed. Full backs Ridehalgh and Hurst injected life into the side with their energy and eagerness to impress. The towering centre back Thompson came from Celtic so his credentials were more than adequate.

David Davis was the next loanee to join from Wolves. From his first game it was obvious to see he was a class act who was far too good for this level. A well rounded midfielder who could tackle, pass and score the odd goal, a golden nugget of a player.

The final piece of the jigsaw had to be a top striker who could do what Craig Davis used to do, and still does for Barnsley – create and score goals. Jack Lester had been unlucky all season, firstly suffering a broken arm in September keeping him out for three months, quickly followed by a three game suspension for a red card on his return. Jordan Bowery has done his best all season to fill the void left by Craig Davies. At just 20 years old, it has been a tough ask but for many, he has been the seasons surprise with his 12 goals and the improvement is there for all to see. If he had been paired with an experienced regular goal scorer, we could have got away with him learning his trade on the pitch. Unfortunately for him and us, he was left to lead the fight without any real support.

The final loanee to join the ranks in January was supposed to be that missing piece, Nicky Ajose from Peterborough. All I had to go on judging Ajose was his performances for Bury last season that led to their own promotion. He was a constant menace for them when they visited the b2net, quick and good on the ball, Chesterfield couldn’t seem to handle him. I was obviously hoping for more of the same in a blue shirt. The rumblings from the Scunthorpe fans regarding his loan spell there earlier in the season were that he was not good though. He had struggled to get in the side and impose himself, the fans were not convinced.

His first couple of games were promising. He was creating chances and looking dangerous, something we hadn’t really seen from a striker all season. After those initial performances, it seemed to go down hill from there. He could not get in the starting eleven and didn’t make much of an impact coming on as a second half substitute. I’m sure Sheridan was hoping for a lot more from Ajose and unfortunately it never materialised. Conversely over at Scunthorpe, they had taken ‘The Beast’ Steve Parkin on loan from Cardiff. His impact was immediate and Scunthorpe collected some good results that in the end, got them out of trouble.

The lack of a genuine goal scorer has been as obvious this season as a fart in a lift. For many, one of Sheridan’s big mistakes has been not replacing Craig Davies. I am sure it’s not been for the want of trying but the result of not finding one has played a huge part in his side’s relegation.

It now has to be admitted, and Sheridan apparently did at the AGM back in January, that the core of the squad that gained promotion so convincingly last season, is not good enough for League One. I was as surprised as anybody at the step up in quality between the leagues. The teams that Chesterfield have played this season all seemed to be quicker, stronger and far more solid than many of the sides last season. Maybe the more direct style of Stevenage enabled them to cope with the league better. They’ve had a fantastic season and have a decent shout at the play-offs on the final day. The other sides who came up last term, Wycombe and Bury have struggled, with Wycombe also getting relegated last weekend and Bury who were in free fall at one stage, putting a few results together to survive.

The Spireites now have to turn their attention to next season and making a return to League One as quickly as they’ve returned back to League Two. A reported 19 players are out of contract in the summer so Sheridan has a huge task on his hands of sorting the wheat from the chaff and putting together a squad that can repeat the success of last season. Sheridan has received the dreaded backing of the board and knows he will be given every chance to put right the wrongs of this season.

It is the correct decision and he deserves the opportunity to once again get us out of the bottom division. The easy option for the board would have been to  get rid of the manager, but as has proven in recent years, the policy of chopping and changing managers is rarely successful. Sheridan knows what is required to win League Two and let’s not forget the style his side did it in.

The final game of the season is at home to Brentford, a dead rubber if there ever is one. Will the fringe and youth team players be given a chance to show us what they can do? I would like to think so with nothing hanging on the game. The next big news we await is the retained list. Who will survive this shocking season and be offered contracts in what has to be a summer of rebuilding?

Having witnessed this poor season, it is hard and probably far too early to start and feel positive about Chesterfield’s chances next season. I’m sure the disappointment will fade and a couple of early victories in the next campaign will heal the wounds from this one.

Over to you John Sheridan.

Written by Dean Mansell, We Are Going Up’s Chesterfield Blogger & editor of the Away End website.

Dean tweets at @awayend

Alive and Just About Kicking

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Why, oh why do they do it to us? Just when your making peace with the fact that relegation is coming, that peace is shattered by a change of luck we’ve been hoping and praying for all season. The hope that disappeared the day Scunthorpe left town is back, and growing by the day. Two wins on the trot, one away at Hartlepool, the other at home to Rochdale, have given us the belief that this thing could actually happen, we could evade the trap door and live to fight another day in League One.

The home win on Saturday at home to Rochdale was the kind of win we’ve sadly missed all season. Taking three points in a game we never should have, all too often this season it’s been the other way around. The results elsewhere also went our way which again, has not happened too often this season.

The team lined up with the same midfield that started the two previous victories. The central midfield combination of Franck Moussa, Mark Randall and Jimmy Juan, has finally see us compete in midfield and allow the team to win and more importantly keep the ball. Jimmy Juan has added bite and another layer of protection to the back four. Mark Randall’s creativity and invention has been so badly missed this season. It’s a shame his fitness has not allowed John Sheridan to utilise it more often.

With Neil Trotman out injured, the ever-reliable Simon Ford stepped in to partner Josh Thompson in central defence. Both sides came into the game knowing only win was good enough to avoid relegation. The rest was up to Walsall and Leyton Orient.

Rochdale made the far better start to the game. They looked like a side fighting for their League One lives, we didn’t. Our midfield were not imposing themselves like they had in the Wycombe game and Jordan Bowery couldn’t make the ball stick. We were back to the Scunthorpe performance, I could only see one winner.

John Sheridan continued with his new sitting down on the bench technique to watch the game. It had worked in the previous two games so why wouldn’t it today. You could see he was itching to launch himself to the sideline and shout out instructions but instead left that to Tommy Wright. A Mark Randall effort on goal was our only one of note all half. Was the pressure getting to the players? The same pressure had been their in the previous two games so couldn’t really be an excuse. To make maters worse, a Rochdale corner resulted in a head injury to Simon Ford who was forced to leave the game early and was replaced by the fit again Gregor Robertson, it was good to see him back.

The news of both Walsall and Leyton Orient wining seemed to confirm our fears, it was looking like today our luck would finally run out and relegation was heading our way. The mood amongst the fans at half time was low. It was looking like we would bow out of the division with a whimper. Changes to the side for the second half were being called for, let’s at least give it a go.

The same eleven started the second half and a little brighter, no doubt with Sheridan’s words still ringing in their ears. The bright start didn’t last long though and the pattern of the first half returned. Rochdale looked like the only side capable of creating a chance. John Sheridan had seen enough and made his final throw of the dice. The super subs from the win against Hartlepool made their entrance. Danny Whittaker on for Craig Westcarr and a few minutes later, Scott Boden for Mark Randall. The formation reverted to John Sheridan’s favourite 4-4-2 with Scott Boden partnering Jordan Bowery up front and Danny Whittaker going to left midfield.

Whittaker looked sharp and hungry for the ball. Testament to a player who has suffered at the hands of the fans this season. I’m sure he’ll be the first to admit he’s not had the best of seasons. The treatment he received however from some sections of the crowd was outrageous. Scott Boden always looked lively and always does, many thought he deserved a place in the starting eleven after his performances in the last two games.

Before the team had chance to settle in the new line=up, Rochdale scored on 72 minutes. Striker Akpa Akpro burst into life, running at Josh Thompson who seemed to back off and back off until it was too late and Akpro guided the ball past Tommy Lee.

That really was that then. A goal down, the team playing awful and results elsewhere not going well. At that moment, I’m sure nobody in the ground gave us a chance. I certainly didn’t and thought it was time we were put out of our misery. News of an equaliser for Exeter against Walsall somehow made it worse. Were other results going to turn, only to see us blow it?

With the scoreboard showing 79 minutes, time was running out. The news of another goal for Exeter briefly lifted the crowd. Could we muster one last effort to get the win?

The effort finally began – a great cross from Gregor Robertson was won in the air by Jordan Bowery who directed the ball towards goal. Scott Boden pounced and with the slightest of touches, scored from close range. With renewed vigour and purpose, the team pushed forward, Rochdale were on the ropes. All of a sudden it was wave after wave of Chesterfield attack.

On 84 minutes we put together probably our best move of the game. A neat set of passes led to a bit of space for Danny Whittaker who found Franck Moussa on the edge of the box. We’ve already seen his shooting abilities since his arrival on loan from Leicester,  I was hoping he’d pull the trigger. He didn’t need to be asked twice, a right foot thunderbolt struck the bar and bounced back out into the path of Danny Whittaker. He seemed to stumble at first then somehow regain his footing before slotting the ball home.

The roof lifted off the B2net amid fantastic scenes. A subdued celebration from Danny Whittaker probably reflected his recent frustrations. All was forgiven Danny, you were back in favour with the boo boys!

The final whistle blew meaning Rochdale were relegated. The result had not reflected their performance, no doubt about that, but we know all too well this season it’s not always about the performance. News confirming Walsall’s defeat and an injury time equaliser for Yeovil at Leyton Orient meant we had survived and were still in with a shout of performing a miracle.

If we are to beat the drop, then wins in our remaining two games of the season are a must. An away trip to Yeovil first, followed by the last game at home to Brentford. The results of Wycombe, Walsall and Leyton Orient also need to go our way for us to have a chance.

It all sounds very unlikely, but then again it did two games ago against Wycombe. If our luck finally has turned, funnier things have happened in football, lets hope we are the ones who end up having the last laugh.

Now where’s a good place to stay in Yeovil…?

Written by Dean Mansell, We Are Going Up’s Chesterfield Blogger & editor of the Away End website.

Dean tweets at @awayend

Is a miracle about to happen at the b2net?

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Football can be a very cruel game. Having spent the vast majority of a season waiting for your team to start to play the football you believe they can, it finally happens when all but the smallest amount of hope remains. Chesterfield’s game at home to Wycombe which resulted in a resounding 4-0 victory, was exactly that performance. It unfortunately occurred the day most Spireites and probably every other fan in the division, thought our relegation back to League Two would be confirmed.

Going into the game, only a win would see John Sheridan’s side evade the trap door we’ve been fearing for the majority of the season. Wycombe on the other hand were buoyant following decent results of late, that had given them a more realistic chance than us of beating the drop. If ever a game was made for the term ‘six pointer’ then this was it.

Chesterfield started with a fresh looking line-up and a new 4-5-1 formation not seen at home all season. Sheridan was obviously rolling the dice with what he had left and decided to change things around. A centre midfield trio of Jimmy Juan, Franck Moussa and Mark Randall gave promise of at least holding our own in midfield. The ever improving Jordan Bowery leading the line on his own would have been frowned upon last season, but not this. His improvement has been there for all to see and I had no doubts in his ability to put in a performance.

From the first minute Chesterfield dominated possession. The midfield stamped it’s authority on the game with Juan winning the ball for Mark Randall and Franck Moussa to probe and try and find a way through the Wycombe defence. It was great to watch the team once again take care of the ball, reminiscent of many a game last season. I couldn’t help but think back to the same game towards the end of last season when Wycombe were pushing us for the title. Chesterfield came out 4-1 winners that day, in a similar type of display. From the way they had started this game, the outcome was heading the same way.

It was no surprise when the home side took the lead on 29 minutes. All too often this season, a ball bouncing around the 18 yard box has fallen to an opposition player to clear the danger. This time, a corner kick finally resulted in a piece of luck when the ball landed at Craig Westcarr’s feet a yard out and he couldn’t fail to score. The question now was would the good start continue or would the Spireites do a ‘Scunthorpe’ and revert back to the bad habits and mistakes of previous games?

Thankfully from the resulting kick off, the team carried on where they left off. The passing game had returned with Mark Randall showing the invention which had been so badly missed all season. Time after time he tried something a little bit different to try and create a chance for himself or somebody else.

Half time came with a much deserved 1-0 lead. It was very noticeable that John Sheridan had spent all the first half sat down on the corner seat of the benches. This was the first time I had ever seen him sat down during a game. His usual stance being arms folded at the edge of the technical area, shouting instructions to his troops. He had threatened this course of action during one of the post match interviews, but not actually carried it out until today. For whatever reason, it seemed to be working. I just hoped he’d stay sat down during the second half!

The team started the second period well. All that was required was that second goal to give Chesterfield a much-needed cushion. I was very surprised at how poor Wycombe had been. They came to to the b2net undefeated in nine and with some good results of late. I had expected a lot closer contest with maybe one goal between the sides, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The second goal arrived within two minutes of the restart. Jimmy Juan played a lovely ball into Scott Boden who calmly laid it into the path of Franck Moussa. His resulting finish showed a quality held by a player destined for bigger things.

Goals from Alex Mendy, followed by a ‘Craig Davis special’ from Jordan Bowery, put the game well and truly beyond our visitors. Very good goals in themselves and not befitting a team staring relegation full in the face. The game was won and the relief could be felt all around the ground. For me, It was the performance of the season. A game we dominated from start to finish, with Tommy Lee’s goal very rarely threatened. One good and three great goals capped a fine display. To top the afternoon off, Walsall and Leyton Orient both lost, meaning Chesterfield were still in with a chance of survival, however slim that chance maybe.

The next game up was Hartlepool away. I couldn’t make the trip myself so a very tense listen on the radio lay ahead. Following the previous weeks performance, surely Sheridan would start with the same eleven, and that’s exactly what he did.

The first half didn’t go according to plan. Not only did the team go a goal behind but Leyton Orient took the lead away at Sheffield United. Was this going to be it? Was the great escape about to come to a disappointing end? Whatever Sheridan said at half time did the trick. What sounded like a far better performance in the second half led to a quality strike from Danny Whittaker, after only being on the pitch for two minutes as a second half substitute.

An assured finish with his left foot reminded Chesterfield fans of the ability he posses. He has been the unfortunate pantomime villain in recent weeks at the b2net. Pockets of the home support had decided to boo him before he even stepped out onto the pitch. There was no wonder his form and confidence have taken a dive, this would hopefully go some way to answering his critics.

On 69 minutes the Spireite fans prayers were answered. A great ball in from the left by Scott Boden was met by a clinical headed finish from Jordan Bowery. His eleventh goal of the season was enough to secure the three points and grace us at least another week in the division. Leyton Orient finally relented at the Lane and lost 3-1, while Walsall lost at home to Tranmere. This had turned out to be a great afternoon.

What we are now left with is a very simple formula. Win the remaining three games and hope either Leyton Orient or Walsall lose all theirs. It’s not quite the simple formula I made out as a combination of a draw for Chesterfield or Leyton Orient somewhere along the line could still mean we survive. What we cannot afford is a defeat. From being dead and buried, Sheridan and his side find themselves once again with a chance of beating the drop.

From good old football cliche’ land, we’ll take each game as it comes, starting with Rochdale at home. All we ask is a performance from the players like the one they served up against Wycombe. What we cannot affect is results elsewhere. Leyton Orient entertain Yeovil while play while Walsall travel to Exeter.

It would be a shame to see Chesterfield go down with a home defeat against a side below them in the table. That’s right I said ‘below them in the table.’ Not a boast we’ve been able to make most of the season, so let’s enjoy it while we can.

Somebody once said football’s a funny old game, and as Spireites, my God don’t we know it!

Written by Dean Mansell, We Are Going Up’s Chesterfield Blogger & editor of the Away End website.

Dean tweets at @awayend

Kicked out of the last chance saloon

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

I like to think of myself as a rational person who can assess a situation and come to a sensible conclusion of what the outcome is likely to be. This sensible and rational approach goes totally and utterly out of the window when it comes to this thing called football.

I had looked at Chesterfield’s remaining fixtures before the home game against Scunthorpe United and still believed the club could survive this season. The basis of this belief was upcoming matches against fellow struggling opposition, fixtures the Spireites were more than capable of winning, or so I believed. The plan began with a victory against one of our relegation rivals in Scunthorpe before heading to Walsall for three points next weekend, finally capping a momentous three victories in nine days with a home win against Wycombe.

Due to me only living a Neal Trotman clearance away from Glanford Park, it was a game I was really looking forward to and had been all season. My daily commute with fans of the Iron and my son going to school with mini-irons meant we had a lot resting on the game.

The defeat at Sheffield United the Wednesday before, which was not a huge surprise only three days after the trip to Wembley, had made this game an even bigger ‘must win.’ The run in had given me a lifeline to hold on to – unless Chesterfield were totally cut adrift at the bottom of the league, we had every chance of getting out of the bottom four. This game was the first of that run in, against a side who had struggled all season having been relegated from the Championship last term.

The team John Sheridan put out was arguably our strongest other than Jack Lester who was missing through injury. His replacement being the in-form Craig Westcarr who scored that memorable goal in the final at Wembley.

A surprise in the Scunthorpe starting eleven was the exclusion of ‘The Beast’ Jon Parkin. A shrewd loan acquisition by Alan Knill in the January transfer window from Cardiff City, that had improved Scunthorpe’s forward line and who’s goals since joining had helped them pull away from the relegation zone. I still have no idea why he wasn’t picked to play or even as a substitute, did something happen behind the scenes? Time will reveal.

Chesterfield started well and controlled the game, winning the ball and more importantly keeping hold of it through good work from Mark Allot and Alex Mendy in midfield. After 15 minutes, it looked like there was only ever going to be one winner of this game and the team were not from North Lincolnshire. The good start continued and on 21 minutes, Craig Westcarr closed down a Scunthorpe defender to win the ball, race through on goal and slot the ball past their on rushing keeper. A deserved lead provided by a striker obviously hitting form.

From the opening goal going in, something seemed to change immediately within the team. No longer were they keeping hold of the ball and finding passes they had been only minutes earlier. The sloppy passing and unforced errors were back. You would have thought the goal would give the team confidence and that little bit of swagger, but we have seen very little of this season. Instead of pushing for more goals and putting the game beyond our visitors, the team seemed to panic in possession. Scunthorpe obviously capitalised and got themeslves back into the game.

Everybody in the ground could feel the equaliser coming and it arrived on 27 minutes. Some neat build up play from Scunthorpe, including what looked like a handball from McAleny, resulted in Robertson’s left foot strike from close range, 1-1.

We now needed half time to come and allow the team to regroup before starting the second half like they had the first. Did the team realise that defeat today would more or less seal their fate? Thousands of Chesterfield fans were hoping so to keep the great escape alive. It was time for Sheridan and is coaching staff to remind them.

What followed in the second half was one of, if not the worst half of football I’ve seen from Chesterfield all season. A very average Scunthorpe side bossed the game and played as if this was their home and they could do with the ball whatever they wanted. The travelling Iron fans probably could not believe what they were seeing as goal after goal hit the back of the home net, right in front of the away end. I could only think how good it must have been being a Scunthorpe fan for those 45 minutes. It was certainly better than how I was feeling, League One football was disappearing before my very eyes.

The match finished 1-4 with Scunthorpe worthy winners. The inevitable ‘Sheridan out’ chants came from the home end before the fans trudged off home knowing Chesterfield were all but relegated. Conversely I casually looked back as I left the East stand to see Alan Knill milking the applause from the away end, this result nudged Scunthorpe towards guaranteeing their League One status.

Myself and Freddie were devastated at the loss and decided to remove the Spireites scarf from the window and hide it away in the glove box. The drive back to Scunthorpe was going to be a long one, a little longer than usual.

My three game plan had fallen at the first hurdle, only a miracle can now prevent Sheridan’s men from relagtion back to League Two in what only seems like a flash since they escaped it. Walsall away next and my irational thoughts returned, with the possibility of winnng all six remaining games. Please bartender, kick me out of this last chance saloon!

Written by Dean Mansell, We Are Going Up’s Chesterfield Blogger & editor of the Away End website.

Dean tweets at @awayend

The Great Escape?

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

What a difference a year makes! It was about this time last season where I and a record number of Chesterfield fans were playing the guessing game of when we would be crowned Champions of League Two. The majority of fans are currently playing a similar game, but this time it’s when will we be relegated back to the very same league we topped a season ago.

I’m sure I sit with a minority of fans who are still clinging on to the slim hope of survival. Being a naturally glass half full kind of a guy, I’ve been thinking all season our lucks bound to change and we’ll go on a record breaking run of wins to get ourselves out of this mess. To date it’s obviously not happened and my half full glass is emptying game by game with only the dregs in the bottom left for me to stare into.

After last weekends glory of winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Wembley, in what was one of the most memorable days I’ve ever had as a Chesterfield fan, it was back down to earth with a bump on Wednesday night at Bramall Lane. A win was a must following the previous nights results where Walsall had managed to beat Colchester and put us 9 points from safety. It was always going to be a big ask only 3 days after the efforts at Wembley,  and against a side pushing for a top 2 finish. Apparently we had asked Sheffield United to put the game back a week following the team and fans journey to the capital, but they declined. The Football League favour the home sides opinion in such matters so that was that, we had to play the game. It was no surprise then that after a decent first half performance and going in 1–1 at half time, the players legs (and defending skills it seems) wilted and we ended up on the end of a heavy defeat, losing 4-1.

The result Wednesday night leaves us with 7 games left to save our season. With an average of 50 points required for survival in League 1 over the previous 11 seasons, my mediocre maths skills make that another 17 points needed from the 21 available. In other words promotion form from a side who have only won 7 league games all season. I can see those dregs ebbing away as I type!

Our only saving grace and the one thing I’m left clinging on to is our remaining fixtures. Home games against Scunthorpe, Wycombe, Rochdale and Brentford are all winnable. Away trips to Walsall, Yeovil and Hartlepool have in themselves points achievable. The only problem is all the teams other than possibly Brentford are also scrapping for their lives towards the bottom of the league. They probably all have somebody like me writing very similar words and thinking they can be the team to find some form and put a run of wins together. One thing I can say however is nobody has an ‘easier’ run in than we do, ‘easier’ not seeming the right word to use from where we currently sit in the league, but you hopefully get my drift.

So let’s for a moment stick with the idea that we can actually do this. The good old cliche’ ‘take each game as it comes’ springs to mind. First up, Scunthorpe at home. A game that takes on a bit more significance for me due to now living over in North Lincolnshire, in a small village a few miles away from the town famous for its iron. I have the pleasure of commuting each day with Andy, a season ticket holder at Glanford Park, so am kept up to date with the goings on and fortunes of the club.

Following their relegation from the Championship last season, they were obviously looking to be one of the promotion contenders this year. Alan Knill has however taken a lot longer than most fans would have liked to put together a side capable of competing in this division. They have been this seasons draw specialists and that has been one of the reasons they’ve ended up joining the relegation battle party. Recent results have however given them a bit of breathing space and a couple more wins should see them safe. It is obviously a must win game for us.

Our recent form and general play has been good and in my opinion not befitting a team propping up the division. I am convinced if the current side had started the season, we would be mid-table and looking to build for next season. Unfortunately we had that 18 game run without a win that’s seen us where we are today and now nothing can change that. A win against Scunthorpe would take us to Walsall in high spirits and still with a glimmer of hope that it could just happen. A defeat or a draw and will the last one out of the ground please turn off the League One lights!

Written by Dean Mansell, We Are Going Up’s Chesterfield Blogger & editor of the Away End website.

Dean tweets at @awayend

Why football’s ‘Bad Boys’ are worth the risk

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

When striker Leon Clarke publicly fell out with Paolo Di Canio he inadvertently became another of football’s supposed ‘bad boys’. But not for long. Thanks to a loan deal and a supportive manager who was willing to take a risk, Swindon Town’s loss has become Chesterfield’s gain.

Some football managers really do like a challenge. I don’t mean of the two-footed variety (although it would appear that there are still a couple of Football League bosses that seem to send their charges out with the directive to either “maim” or ‘disembowel”). No, in this instance I mean a challenge as in they are happy to sign players that are reputedly difficult to handle.

‘Bad boys’ are fairly commonplace in English football. From Arsenal’s brothel boss Peter Storey via the counterfeit king Mickey Thomas to the, um, volatile Joey Barton, we’ve seen all sorts.

The current crop varies in extremes from those that attack teammates with golf clubs to those that simply don’t like authority and let the world know it. And Carlos Tevez allegedly refusing to come onto the pitch as a substitute for Manchester City against Bayern Munich is an obvious recent example.

What is interesting about this unique crop of footballers is that no matter what they do wrong (with the odd exception), there is nearly always a manager willing to back them or sign them after they’ve been transfer listed, released from prison or, generally, allowed back into the wild.

Why? Because, quite often, they’re geniuses. Fallen geniuses admittedly, but geniuses none-the-less. It’s the reason that Carlos Tevez will undoubtedly find himself another club.

Here are a few other examples: George Best, Paul Gascoigne, Tony Adams, Diego Maradona, Stan Colleymore, Eric Cantona, Frank McAvennie, Duncan Ferguson, Craig Bellamy. There’s not a Mother Teresa amongst them. The Bad Boy XI would be some team.

Strong character

Generally speaking, it takes a manager with a strong character to take them on but, if they do, and they can harness the bad boy behaviour and turn it into a positive (as Sir Alex Ferguson has done to a certain extent with Wayne Rooney), it can be a masterstroke. Like a farmer taming a wild horse and getting it to pull the plough. Or any other such clumsy simile you care to mention.

Chesterfield manager John Sheridan is one such boss who seems to embrace the bad boy. At Oldham Athletic he had Lee Hughes on his books, a player who already had a “bit of a chequered past” shall we say. That relationship culminated in an infamous disagreement on a team night out but it also produced goals.

Sheridan also had Craig Davies last season, a player who hadn’t misbehaved but had been to quite a few clubs before banging in 23 goals in Chesterfield’s League Two winning season of 2010/11.

Now the former Sheffield Wednesday midfielder has signed Leon Clarke (albeit on loan), a player that he had while he was at Oldham. Clarke arrived at the B2Net following a very public falling out with Swindon Town boss Paolo Di Canio that you can see for yourself on Youtube.

Now Clarke is hardly Carlos Tevez but he could easily have been regarded as tainted goods. Yet Sheridan had no problem signing him.

And it seems to be working out. Clarke has a point to prove. And so far he’s proving it on the pitch. 5 goals in 5 games in a higher division tells its own story.

Manager vs Player

So, what is the secret? Perhaps it’s not about the bad boy at all. Perhaps it’s the man management skills that the coach employs or the chemistry between the two characters.

Maybe a bad boy is the unfortunate result of bad management? Or is it just that the best players are so adored and molly coddled as young players that they think they can get away with anything? Who knows? That’s probably one for the psychology students.

What I do know is that in an interview Clarke recently said that Sheridan “says the right things, he shouts at the right time, and he’ll give you a pat on the back at the right time.”

It sounds fairly simple but it seems to have worked. Signing Clarke on loan has kick-started Chesterfield’s spluttering start to the season and reinforced Sheridan’s reputation as a manager.

So, if the signing of Clarke tells us anything it is that bad boys are worth taking a punt on.

And (apologies to most of the We Are Going Up audience for the following reference) you can thank Alexandra Burke for highlighting that particular phenomenon in recent years. “It’s a risk I take for the chemistry,” she sings.

I have a feeling that Messrs Sheridan and Clarke would agree.

Written by Will Strauss, We Are Going Up’s Chesterfield Blogger & a freelance journalist

Will tweets at @willstrauss

 

 

Will Strauss is a freelance journalist, writer and editor covering a range of subjects from roofing in Leeds and couriers in Bradford to broadcast equipment hire and media asset finance. He follows Chesterfield FC and Derbyshire CCC.