Memory Fades to a Pale Landscape
Many a football pundit will tell you that confidence is the most important thing in football. A player needs it to perform to the best of his ability. Failing to win matches on a regular basis leads to a lack of confidence. It is a vicious circle and one that affects not only the players but supporters too. So there is some trepidation as we prepare to face Chesterfield this weekend.
A whole host of clichés will be trotted out in the many previews for this game which include claims that it is "a real six-pointer." Worse still is all the big talk which is now starting to grate. As one who champions greater communication from the club, and has acted upon that desire, it seems somewhat contradictory to bemoan the words of both manager and players before matches. However when they are so seldom followed by action they soon become hollow and lacking in meaning.
Into this seething mass of doubt is a lack of confidence and negativity from supporters many of whom see this weekend`s clash as do-or-die. Defeat would signal a severe welt of the nail into the relegation coffin. This time however there could be a crucial difference, all of our insecurities are shared by our opponents, who have scored three more goals than ourselves in League One, but have conceded five more.
Chesterfield were, by far and away, the best side your humble narrator saw last season. They absolutely ripped us apart at their place and were deserved winners of the title. It is therefore somewhat surprising they find themselves at the foot of the table. The loss of striker Craig Davies appears to have been pivotal, and the injuries to goalkeeper Tommy Lee and striker Jack Lester haven`t helped. Sadly for us Lee is back now and Lester was named on the bench in midweek.
Chesterfield has been a market town since it received a charter from King John in 1204. It is still going today with as many as 250 stalls to be found. Situated on the edge of the beautiful Peak District much of the town is built upon a large coalfield and that of course played a huge part in the economy of the town over the last two centuries.
Perhaps the most famous landmark is the crooked spire of the 14th century Parish Church of St. Mary and All Saints. It could be seen from the club's charismatic old Saltergate home. Many famous people have come from the town including ex-Arsenal goalkeeper and Football Focus presenter Bob Wilson. Ac-tor John Hurt and World's Strongest Man winner Geoff Capes were both born there as were MI5 officer Peter Wright, Labour MP Tony Benn and former glamour model Jo Guest.
Chesterfield F.C has the dubious honour of being reformed on no less than four occasions. The first incarnation was formed in 1867 despite the current badge claiming its formation to be in 1866. They were formed as an off-shoot of the cricket club and moved to Saltergate in 1871. The football club was chucked off the ground by the cricket club in 1881 and folded.
They returned in 1884 and moved back into Saltergate and became known as Chesterfield Town. They were elected to the Second Division of the Football League in 1899 but failed to gain re-election in 1909 after finishing bottom for three successive seasons. In 1915 the club went in voluntary liquidation and a new club was formed which lasted just two years before its management and players were suspended by the FA for illegal payments, and the club was shut down.
Finally the current club was formed in April 1919. It was originally called Chesterfield Municipal F.C., and was run by the borough council before being forced to become independent by the FA in December 1920. The name was again changed back to Chesterfield F.C. and they became founder members of the inaugural Football League Third Division North in 1921.
The Spireites have become Champions of the fourth tier of English football on three occasions (in 1969/70, 1984/85 and last season). They also won the Anglo-Scottish Cup in 1981. Sadly they left Saltergate last year for the new £13 million B2net Stadium. Famous fans include Bernie Clifton (younger readers will have to ask their Dad), the aforementioned Tony Benn and at least one third of the Thompson Twins.
The first player to have an association with both clubs was James McCormick who played as an outside right for Chesterfield in the thirties before becoming Wycombe Wanderers first full-time coach in 1951. Other players to have worn both shirts include Stuart Cash, Steve Blatherwick, Gus Uhlenbeek, TJ Moncur; Gary Patterson, Darren Currie, Lewis Montrose; Lee Turnbull and Mark Stallard.
The first meeting between the sides in beautiful Bucks was back in March 1994. The Wanderers were battling for automatic promotion and striker Nick Cusack made his debut having just signed on loan from Oxford United. New signing Tony Cunningham was named on the bench after manager Martin O`Neill had paid Doncaster Rovers a fee of £4,000. As was often the case under the guidance of manager John Duncan, his side came looking for a goal-less draw and they 'parked the bus.'
Sadly the hosts were made to pay for an indiscretion from defender Matt Crossley who handled striker Steve Norris`s shot inside the six-yard box. He was sent for an early bath and Norris beat goalkeeper Paul Hyde from the spot. Despite dominating the rest of the game the Chairboys couldn`t find an equaliser despite the visitors also finishing the game with ten men.
It was the first of 13 meetings between the two sides at Adams Park. If you`re looking for positive omens, we have lost just twice and won seven, keeping a clean sheet each and every time. Many of the encounters were settled by a single goal and the "Duncan factor" ensured many of them were short on entertainment and far from memorable.
There have however been some spectacular winning goals from the likes of Miguel De Souza in 1996 and Scott McGleish in January 2008. There was also a goal-fest in August 2003 when the sides drew 3-3 in the summer sun. Sadly that contest saw the Blues take the lead three times through Darren Currie, Jermaine McSporran and the late Simon Patterson only to be pegged back on each occasion.
The visitors snatched a point in the final minute when Roger Johnson was dispossessed by Chris Brandon as he tried to run the ball out of play and he crossed for Andy Rushbury to head home. As an interesting aside to this match, Gas Room sage Oily Sailor`s post-match lament predicted relegation at the end of the season and this gloomy outlook sparked the wrath of Alan Parry. A wager was agreed by the two gentlemen at a Fans Forum that followed soon afterwards. One wonders whether the bet was settled when the Blues did indeed fall through the trap door.
The last meeting came just under fourteen months ago and the visitors were rather fortunate to escape with a 2-1 victory. Stuart Beavon had a goal chalked off for offside moments before Craig Davies headed the Spireites in front. Ben Strevens levelled just past the hour mark but ten minutes later Lester`s pass took an unkind deflection off defender Leon Johnson to fall kindly for Davies and he clipped the ball past Nikki Bull and into the net.
Here`s hoping for some revenge this weekend as we start to climb up that table. Ah yes, there is that cruel mistress hope, here to inflict some more lashes on our torsos.
"All that`s left are memories"