David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Spireites’

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.

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