Falkirk-born Derek Niven had one substitute appearance for Raith Rovers to his credit when Bolton Wanderers paid £150,000 for his services and put him in the box marked “Development.” He was left to develop for the best part of two seasons before being offered on loan and, with The Spireites lacking a reliable midfield ball-winner until Derek arrived in December 2003, his arrival suited everyone. Immediately, Mark Hudson seemed transformed alongside him, and the pair helped turn the Spireites’ season around, with survival being secured with that memorable last-day win over Luton Town. Bolton had surprisingly released him by then, and the Spireites moved to pick him up on a comparatively long-term deal in March 2004.
Goals were always at a premium for Derek in his time with Chesterfield, but those that did go in were usually belters, a pattern that was set with a thunderous strike in a 2-2 draw at Torquay in March 2005. By then, Derek’s determined anchoring in midfield had made him a regular first-choice. Derek developed a good partnership with Mark Allott at the heart of Chesterfield’s midfield, with Derek lying deep and Mark playing further forward. He found himself encouraged to get forward himself after another piledriver found the net against Manchester City in the 2006-7 League Cup. He had a decent turn of pace and was used to try to solve problems wide on the right on occasions.
By the end of 2007-8 Derek had made 203 Chesterfield appearances, and every one had been from the starting line-up - a terrific achievement in the modern game, and an indication of his value to the side.
That run was broken by his coming off the bench in the opening game of 2008-9, but Derek had bigger threats to his career that year than managerial whim, and there was no bigger roar at Saltergate that season than when the likeable Scot came off the bench in January, having won a battle with testicular cancer. He packed the energy of a full season into the remaining games and walloped in another long-range belter against Grimsby Town in March ’09.
A year later, Derek had the honour of scoring the last-ever goal at Saltergate, when his late winner saw Chesterfield to victory over AFC Bournemouth in a sentimentally charged atmosphere. His personal game had improved in 2009-10 but his season was mixed, as the club struggled to find the right blend in central midfield. Despite never really being assured of a starting place his commitment, tenacity and vibrant passion for the game remained constant. Derek was involved in some way in all but five of Chesterfield’s games in their 2010-11 League Two championship campaign but was given much less of a part to play in the dross that followed. His exclusion from a side that was regularly overrun in central midfield seemed odd, to say the least, and it was no surprise when he was loaned to Northampton Town in October 2011. His last Chesterfield appearance came in a side that came back from play-off contenders Stevenage with a draw, after which he was dropped and frozen out by the manager.
After being released in the summer of 2012, Derek joined Grimsby Town.
For Chesterfield: 258+32 League appearances, 18 goals.