Many people would say that the most famous sight in Chesterfield is the twisted spire of the Church of St Mary’s and All Saints. The wooden tower leans nearly 10 feet from its centre axis and it famed the world over. It is relatively logical that the local football team take its nickname from the most visible point in Derbyshire’s biggest town.
Some may suggest that the town is also well-known as the birth place of John Hurt, or even Simon Groom. Eighties pop aficionados would surely point their stylus to the fact two of the three Thompson Twins hailed from Chesterfield but to me the town has always been the home to the finest women, bar The Current Mrs Fuller, in the whole world.
We can all remember our crushes when we were growing up, which manifested themselves into something obsessive as the hormones took over. One of the rites of passage growing up is when you build up the courage to buy your first top shelf magazine, making sure Mrs Patel had gone to lunch so you could carefully slip the copy of Razzle, Mayfair or Readers Wives under Viz and a packet of Minstrels. I remember the day very clearly when I went into my local newsagent a boy, and came out a man. She had already been a familiar face (among other body parts) in the Sun and the Star, but it was the news of her first ever “spread” as it was harmlessly called in those days, in Escort magazine that had me slipping on a baseball cap, wearing sunglasses and putting on a fake accent to obtain a copy of a magazine that today would be tame compared to the likes of Zoo and Nuts. But this was in the day when Baywatch was as exciting as things got on TV.
“Never meet your heroes” goes the saying “because you will only be disappointed”. I met Ms Guest twice and I can assure you there was no disappointment. I used to have a framed photo of our meeting at the BBC Match of the Day Show at the NEC from 1997 but when CMF and I got married it mysteriously disappeared, which is exactly what happened to Ms Guest a decade ago. In an era where “glamour” models now have to get married four or five times, get tattooed four or five times, or be shagged by someone famous and sell their story to the newspapers four or five times, Guest would have been able to hold her head up high, with the locals of Chesterfield being very proud of her, even after she pretended to be boiling potatoes in this Shooting Stars episode.
Whilst I would love to say that I had arrived in Chesterfield to see Ms Guest on a chilly Saturday lunchtime, but I wasn’t. Football is my mistress these days and here I was parking up at the Proact Stadium, the new new name for the new Chesterfield stadium, opened in July 2009 as the B2Net Stadium. Amazingly, on my first visit to their old Saltergate stadium back in 1994 the talk had all been about the club’s potential move to the old Dema Glass plant. That move took over fifteen years to manifest itself, but it was worth the wait. Whilst in the meantime the club had captured the hearts of the nation in 1997 when they would have reached Wembley in the FA Cup final if it wasn’t for a shocking refereeing decision by David Ellerey in the semi-final versus Middlesborough.
The Spireites have made a name for themselves in the cup competitions. Not only did they come close to Wembley, but they have won the Banner Jones Cup for the past ten seasons, although it is only a pre-season friendly against Matlock Town (similar to an US team winning the MLB World Series I suppose). Chesterfield were also the last winners of the Anglo-Scottish Cup back in 1981 when they beat Notts County 2-1. I must have missed the open-top bus for that one but I was at Wembley in March this year when they won the Johnstone Paint Trophy.
I used to love visiting Saltergate. A proper old-fashioned stadium with a big Main Stand, which was used as a double of Derby County’s Baseball Ground for The Damned United film. In fact the ground doubled up as Carrow Road, Bloomfield Road and somehow Wembley Stadium in the film. I had been here half a dozen times, including twice to see West Ham in the League Cup. It would have been a third trip but when the two teams were drawn together in October 2006 I was in Orlando on a family holiday. So instead a day in Universal Studios, I watched the game in a pub on International Drive as West Ham’s journeymen players simply couldn’t be arsed to turn up and lost 2-1. Talking of West Ham players who couldn’t be arsed, Chesterfield had signed Louis Boa Morte this season. Good luck with him.
In the run up to the weekend it seemed the north had taken a double helping of winter weather with snow and ice blanketing many areas as far south as Derbyshire. Surely my plans wouldn’t be decimated again by the bloody weather. I had a plan B up my sleeve with Matlock Town hosting Luton Town in the FA Trophy. In normal circumstances that would’ve been my “weekend choice” but I still have this strange affiliation with the 92 Club and its damned silly rules. In theory I ceased to be a member some years ago after not bothering with a revisit to Carlisle United after returning to the league. I’ve still yet to see Fleetwod play, but also needed a visit to the new grounds at Morecambe and Chesterfield.
Fortunately I wouldn’t be alone in my travels into Derbyshire. Northern Steve (of course Northern Steve) had agreed to be my guide as we looked for Ms Guest and the Proact Stadium. He was to take care of the driving whilst I had the binoculars. A617 from Newark to Mansfield threw up nothing, but we thought we were onto a winner in the village of Glapwell, but it turned out to be a white Christmas tree in the window of the Young Vanish Inn. We could’ve stuck around to “look” some more but football waits for no man.
Half an hour later and we were wandering around the retail parks of Northern Chesterfield. It always amuses me they build these retail parks around football grounds, then the shops do their utmost to stop football FA’s parking in the vast expanses of empty seats. Chesterfield had put in place a “pedestrian” friendly walking route from the town centre to the ground. In addition no cars could enter the car park within 30 minutes of kick off to allow the fans easy access. Unfortunately, putting the main walking route through Tesco’s Extra which was busy with Christmas shoppers arriving/departing in their cars which kind of defeats the object. Tickets purchased we took our seats in the fourth row behind the goal, perfect for asking some pictures of the action.
Chesterfield 1 Burton Albion 1 – Proact Stadium – Saturday 15th December 2012
If you have come to this website to have a butcher’s at some pictures of this very entertaining game, I am afraid you are out of luck. Due to the Football League/DataCo regulations, no one can enter the stadium at any of the 72 Football League clubs with a “device that is capable of recording or transmitting any digital image”, which basically means any camera or phone. I had both, and used my iPhone to take a couple of pictures as the game kicked off. So instead we have used screen shots of the game on FIFA 13 courtesy of DigitalSportscene.net.
“Excuse me sir. You can’t take pictures at any football grounds in England” said the supervisor as I pulled out by iPhone. I pointed out the fact it was an iPhone and that my understanding of the regulation was that the final part of his statement was “for commercial gain”. I explained this to him, but he was having none of it and told me I’d be ejected if I continued to use my phone. During the course of the game the stewards told fans around us to sit down, sit up (“or you will get arthritis”), and not to sit in the front row of seats. Even when I had a reply from the club’s official Twitter a/c saying I could take pictures and showed it to them, I was told “it didn’t count”….so or that reason, the pictures used in this blog (apart from the fine one of Ms Guest) are computer generated interpretations of the game.
And what a game it was. With both teams pushing for the Play offs in League Two, it could have been a dull game of cat and mouse. But instead it was high on action even if it only produced one goal apiece. And it made a nice change to hear a set of home fans getting behind their team, leading with a 5 minute rendition of “Paul Cook’s blue and white army (repeat to fade)”.
It turned into a great game with some expansive play and it was amazing that we had to wait until the thirty-third minute when Jacqueline Maghoma was fed by Zola on the edge of the Chesterfield box and he drilled the ball home to give the visitors the advantage. The home side wasted no time in trying to get on level terms but could’ve found themselves two behind had it not been for the inspired form of Lee in the Chesterfield goal.
Whatever Cook said to the home side at half-time, it worked as thy came out fired up and determined to get on level terms. Time and time again they got into dangerous positions but last gasp clearances, the thickness of a post and some fortuitous refereeing decisions kept the core at 1-0. Finally, with fifteen minutes to go they got their just deserts when Marc Richards headed home from close range. They smelt blood and surged forward but the Burton’s goal was living a charmed life.
With just a few seconds of injury time left, substitute Jack Lester lost his cool and practiced his judo moves with an impressive Seoi Nege throw on his Burton opponent, earning himself a straight red and a round of applause for his antics. Quite why fans do this is lost on me – the player has got himself sent off for a loss of self-control and will now miss 3 games (whilst being paid of course, less his ludicrous FA fine of about £50). The fans stood at the front of the stand, waiting for the final whistle. This was fine, but as soon as any sat down in the front row (I.e behind those who were standing up), the stewards pounced, telling them to stand up.
The Spirerites had 16 shots to Burton’s 4, and had dominated the second half, and will feel that it was two points dropped rather than one gained. Apart from the farce over taking pictures it had been an enjoyable afternoon in one of the better new-build stadiums in England. After negotiating the traffic going in/out of Tesco we were quickly on our way back through Glapwell, just in case Ms Guest had decided to pop out for a walk. Officially I was now on 90 grounds – just two to go before I was “back in the game”.
As my Mum would say in another bizarre northern saying, “Truth will out”…let that be a lesson to us all.