Chesterfield's capture of Alan Birch was not only Walsall's loss. Shortly before joining the Spireites he reportedly went to Field Mill for talks and agreed terms with Billy Bingham at Mansfield Town. Apparently, he went for lunch while the contract was drawn up and came back an hour later, to find that the Stags had sacked Bingham! Although the Stags were still keen on him, Birch decided that the move was no longer in his best interests, and the Spireites stepped in, consolidating an interest in Alan that dated back to an excellent performance for the Saddlers at Saltergate in March 1979.
Chesterfield paid £40,000 for Birchy in July 1979. He immediately became a crowd favourite and Alan graced a Chesterfield side enjoying its best spell for thirty years.His tightly-curled perm made him instantly recognisable as he executed the 'roving brief' that Arthur Cox gave him.He was allowed and encouraged to take people on, cut in from the wing and unleash powerful shots, and scored a number of memorable goals in this fashion.
The club finished fourth in the Third Division in his first season and one place lower in his second. A string of excellent individual performances attracted a £200,000 bid from Wolverhampton Wanderers and with a financial crisis hanging over the Spireites by a Damoclean thread, the bid was accepted. Much bitterness still surrounds the circumstances of his move to Wolves: They went into voluntary liquidation soon after signing him and re-formed, rescheduling their debts in such a way that Chesterfield did not receive the agreed fee.This was particularly hard on the Spireites, who needed the Wolves money in order to pay of a debt to Leicester so that a Football League-imposed transfer ban might be lifted. Wolves eventually coughed up a total of £177,500, very nearly all they promised, but in the eyes of many Town fans, Wolves were allowed to get away with it in order to keep a 'big name' alive: the same bonhomie was not shown to Chesterfield in their hour of need a few seasons later.
Wolves' own financial crisis forced them to flog Birchy on to Barnsley at a colossal loss only a few months later. He returned to Saltergate at the start of John Duncan's first spell in charge but he was the Chairman's signing and player and manager never really saw eye to eye; his mercurial talent was a bit of a luxury in a side that was makeshift, of necessity, and his performances second time around did not generally live up to those lodged in the fans' memories. From the board's point of view, though, the move was a success, since it went a long way to helping the club to regain the confidence of the fans so soon after the near-terminal financial crisis.
Birchy was shipped out to Rotherham for £25,000 in March 1984 and scored 28 times in 99 League starts there, but subsequent spells at Scunthorpe and Stockport were undistinguished. At only 32, he dropped into the non-league game with Frickley Athletic, and retired two years later.
Despite Alan's apparent failure to reproduce the form of his first spell, he is still revered by most, particularly those fortunate enough to see his contribution to a stunning demolition of Colchester in 1980-1.On that day, he played as if touched by the Gods.Having signed for us twice, Alan performed the unique feat for this club of scoring in his first appearance of each spell.
After finishing full-time football Alan kept the Nag's Head, on Derby Road, before returning to the West Midlands: he currently runs a pub in Tamworth. Alan's brother was the late Paul Birch, who enjoyed a good career with Aston Villa and Wolves but sadly passed away in 2009 at the age of 46. Alan's son, Jay, was a pro footballer at Nottingham Forest.
For Chesterfield: 120+2 League appearances, 40 goals, in two spells.