Chesterfield have endured somewhat of a roller coaster ride this season, with their attempt to bounce straight back into the Football League badly faltering. However, a recent upsurge in fortunes under John Sheridan has heralded a returning wave of optimism to the Proact Stadium. We spoke to our Chesterfield reporter John Brindley to find out a little more about what has been going on at the club.
Coming into this season, what was the feeling around the club?
Chesterfield came into the campaign on the back of an absolutely disastrous two seasons, successive relegations from League One and League Two. But there was certainly a feeling of optimism with the appointment of Martin Allen, who had a strong pedigree and in many respects it felt like a fresh start.
Martin Allen made really good contact with the supporters and there were around three thousand season tickets sold, which was a positive number and there was a feeling that the bad times had stopped and that this was a new beginning.
And after three games things seemed to be going extremely well. They picked up nine points and from my point of view it looked as though we were going to be watching a team that would be challenging at the right end of the table.
The subsequent slide in form therefore must have come as a real shock?
Yes it absolutely did. It literally started at the fourth game. It was strange because from then on most of Martin’s time in charge seemed to be characterised by constantly drawing games.
Martin started to bring out some interesting facts because as a manager he was trying to look at things with a glass half full. I remember he once said we were unbeaten in 10 games but everyone in the press room was saying “but aren’t you going to mention that we have only won one of them and that was in the cup!”
Once you are down there, draws don’t move you up the table and after a while people were beginning to think that the season was never going to take off.
I think the decisive game was the visit of Solihull Moors on Boxing Day when Chesterfield got beaten 4-0.The result was a bit out of context because the games over the previous months had actually been relatively close with not many goals either way. However, by losing 4-0 and there being a mini pitch invasion, it really felt like breaking point.
I was sad to see Martin go because he is a very warm guy and from a journalistic point of view was extremely good for quotes! He was always making some interesting observation, whether it was about the game or life in general.
He was deeply committed to the role and he admitted that the results were affecting his life very personally.
It was a real shame because in theory Martin Allen and Chesterfield should have been a good fit. A team which looked as though they had hit rock bottom, paired with a managed who had been successful at this level.
How realistic a threat did relegation become?
It is safe to say that up until the appointment of John Sheridan in January, the prospect of Chesterfield going down was very real.
At that particular point they had been in the bottom four for several weeks, the team couldn’t buy a win and the confidence around the place seemed to be very low.
I think a lot of us thought that we were going to be on course for a really gripping relegation battle, which was likely to go right down to the wire.
However, the vast improvement has been really great to watch over the past few months.
Why have things gone so much better under John Sheridan?
It is hard to pinpoint an exact reason but one factor is certainly a strengthening of the attack.
Having Scott Boden up front has made a big difference.
He is a clever player and the ball has seemed to stick much more with him on the pitch. Previously, it seemed as though the team were pumping the long passes up to Tom Denton a lot and it was regularly being quickly won back by the other side. But now there is someone who can latch onto the flick ons.
Apart from the odd game, Chesterfield have actually been pretty solid at the back this season and they have maintained that but they have just got a bit more firepower now.
The best performance that I have seen from them was a few weeks ago when they absolutely cruised to victory in front of the BT Sport cameras against Sutton United. That certainly helped to install a lot of confidence about where the club are heading.
It looks like hopes are high for next season?
There is certainly a lot of optimism. It seems as though Sheridan is being backed by the board and we have almost gone full circle from where we were at the start of the season but this time that confidence is backed up with a bit more evidence.
I still think there will be quite a big turnover over the summer. There are already a lot of players who have moved to the fringes of the side who I don’t think will be here next season.
Finally, there appeared to be a degree of animosity between the fans and the ownership during certain moments this season. How is the situation now?
The atmosphere around the ground is a lot better. I don’t know what the official view of different supporters groups are but the feel around the ground over the past few weeks has been a lot more relaxed.
The upturn in form seems to have helped to take the heat off Dave Allen a bit and I think that as long as things continue to improve on the pitch, it takes people’s attention away from what may be happening off it.