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Lester's shirt retired

Posted on August 2, 2013 at 11:35 AM

At the dawn of the new season, Chesterfield FC broke the news of the retirement of the #14 shirt, last worn with distinction by Jack Lester. This is very much something associated more with the razzmatazz of sport in the United States, where football teams usually contain dozens of players and no-one bats an eyelid at a guy running out in the number 93, or whatever.

Over here we have not long since moved away from numbering our players 1 to 11, and to retire a number seems like wanton extravagance. You've normally got to have suffered some dreadful mishap to have your shirt retired and, while leaving Chesterfield is a thing to be sad about, it is hardly the same as having your number posthumously retired, which is an honour, if you want to look at it that way, bestowed on a good 75% of those whose shirts have been pickled in aspic.

I can find eight players in senior English football who have had their squad numbers retired since the things were first introduced. West Ham's Bobby Moore had retired as a player long before his untimely death prompted West Ham to retire his number, and the others - Michael Maidens (Hartlepool,) Ray Jones (QPR,) Dale Roberts (Rushden,) Adam Stansfield (Exeter,) Mark Philo (Wycombe,) Richard Butcher (Macclesfield) and Marc-Vivien Foe (Manchester City) all earned the honour in the most terrible fashion.

So Jack's honour is, it appears, unique in senior English football, and well done to the club for that. I can't help feeling that it is a bit OTT, though. You don't have to have a PhD in Chesterfield football history to come up with a "one to eleven" of Chesterfield players who arguably, deserved the honour just as highly, if not more: Moss, Cookson, Randall, George Smith, Banks, Holmes, Hewitt, Blakey, Clarke, Sears, Smallwood - there's eleven deserving cases that came to mind as quickly as it took to type their names.

Being careful to get this the right way round, Johann Cruyff now joins Jack Lester in having the #14 retired in their honour. Tarik El-Taib (Al Ahly, Tripoli) and Temuri Ketsbaia (Anorthosis Famagusta) have also had their 14 retired, and lived to tell the tale. Who else might we have retired in for, at Chesterfield? Shane Nicholson wore it before Jack to stroke home all those penalties; Cup run hero Chris Beaumont was the first to wear 14. Martyn Booty and Chris Brandon can also legitimately claim that the club have retired their old squad number!

Every day that I think about Jack I'll be grateful that I saw him in the number 14, but I'm not sure we should have retired the shirt. It might be clever on the club's part, since it absolves anyone of the responsibility of having to fill it, but I'd like to have seen a young, hungry player come in and demand the #14, determined to prove himself worthy of it.


Heritage at The Hub

Posted on July 28, 2013 at 3:35 PM

One of the strands of the Community Trust’s work concerns the football club’s heritage.  The opening of The Hub in September gives a unique opportunity to showcase images and artefacts that represent the history of our Club.  I want to whole history of what made Chesterfield FC whether it is from 2001, 1919 or 1863.


To the right of the reception is a corridor that leads to Learning Zone One.  This 7m wall and two of the equally long walls in the classroom are available to display paperwork, photos and shirts from the past.  There is also a 6.8m x 0.8m above the corridor that is against the external windows with the same sized wall above the Ashmore office; these would be ideal for photo montages.  As you enter the main door of The Hub there is a space available for a display cabinet that would take some of the historic trophies that are not featured in the West stand foyer such as the Byron Cup and the Hospital Shield.

The million pound budget to fit out The Hub is paying for the general décor, as well as the play centre, pool and gym but doesn’t run to the heritage bit.  What I need is a local business to put its name to this display area for the first few years.  In terms of links to the history of the Club the display cannot be any more prominent as it can be seen from outside 24 hours a day 365 days of the year.

If you want to know more about what is planned and how you can help then email me


A local trophy re-surfaces

Posted on June 8, 2013 at 1:10 PM

When my friend and fellow history buff Peter Whiteley emailed me to say that he had been handed the Derbyshire Times Hospital Junior Cup Competition trophy and wondered what to do with it, a bell rang. "Hold on to it," I said, "since you might have been handed something we've actually won before."


And so it proves. Despite the trophy's name, its shape led to it being more popularly known as the "Derbyshire Times Shield," and the photo below shows the victorious Chesterfield Colts team of 1946-7 being presented with the shield after beating Hardwick FC 6-1 on June 9th, at the end of a season extended by a savage winter.


In the newspaper photo above George Langton, the Chesterfield skipper, holds the shield while his team-mates look on. The photo caption says we played a "Colts" team (our 4th XI) but the line-up was more typical of a 3rd XI "A" team game. Of particular interest to us are the youthful features of Dave Blakey, over to the right, who was making just his second appearance for any Chesterfield team and was just a few weeks into a career that lasted twenty years.


We know the names of nine of the players: George Thompson, the goalkeeper, came from Huddersfield and made no impression on our first team, but enjoyed a decent career with Scunthorpe and others. Langton had come from Butterley Welfare in the previous season, and Blakey had just joined from East Chevington Juniors, in Northumberland. Fellow halfbacks Len Hobson and J Dennison came from Swallownest Juniors and Shirebrook respectively, and the forward line included John Allison, who had come down from Northumberland with Blakey;  Jimmy Wilson, a local boy from the Derby road Methodists team; Albert Rusk, who had come from Portadown the previous season and the "Roberts" who played outside-left was most likely Harold, who played for the "A" team despite having completed 36 first-team games in 46-7.


The shield was played for during the 60s, 70s and 80s but if anyone knows any more about its history, please get in touch. Similarly, if you've got something called the Barnes Cup kicking around in the garage...

Don't talk about the war...

Posted on May 27, 2013 at 4:10 PM

One of the odd artefacts from the Club is what seems to be a miners’ lamp from Saarbrücken.  We played 1. FC Saarbrücken as part of the series of friendlies around the 1951 Festival of Britain.  We played two matches one against the Belgians of Anderlecht and the second against the team that I assumed came from West Germany.  Except our second lot of visitors were not from Germany.

If you look at the Saarbrücken team today they are in the third tier of German football based in the town that shares their name and which is the capital of the German federal state of Saarland.  However when the team was invited to play us, Liverpool and Grimsby they came from the French controlled Saar Protectorate.  This protectorate came out of the settlement after the war and lasted from 1947 to 1956.  The French seemed keen to have control of the reserves of coal in that region.  The state, although a protectorate, competed independently of France or Germany in the 1952 Olympics and 1954 World Cup qualifiers.

As the only major football team in the state 1.FC Saarbrücken went into the French second division but were refused promotionand so withdrew and only played friendlies for some years.  They rejoined the German regional league in1952.   In 1954 there was a referendum for Saarland to become a fully independent state.  This was rejected and so the state was reunified with West Germany.

The 1951 touring team lost 3-0 to the Spireites in front of almost 5000 spectators.  They then drew with Liverpool and beat Grimsby.

When we were leaving Saltergate and counting up all the nationalities who had appeared there I am not sure anyone picked out Sarrois as one of them.

How seasons unfolded

Posted on May 27, 2013 at 11:10 AM

A new entry to the "team" stats deserves a bit of explanation. "How seasons unfolded" displays the side's highest and lowest league positions during a season, and shows whether the highest pre-dated the lowest, or vice-versa. Other columns show the side's league position after ten games, and with ten games to go, beside the finishing position.

The last columns were added in response to the idea that Chesterfield always start brightly and run out of steam with the finishing post in sight. The amateur football historian in me is uncomfortable at seeing the word "always"  in any such claim, so I thought I might be able to establish that the idea was simply an understandably gloomy but undeserved assessment.

So, are we "chokers?"  We've improved our league position over the last ten games in 27 out of the 85 Football League seasons since 1921-2, whereas we've contrived to worsen it in 35 of those seasons. In all the rest - 23 of them - we've finished in the same position that we held with ten games to go. As is usually the case with Chesterfield FC, then, the evidence is inconclusive, and can probably be shaped to fit any point of view. The first ten full seasons of this century saw us contrive to worsen our league position over the last ten games on nine occasions, which slants the figures slightly towards the fatalistic view.

What might be recorded is the fact that our improvement over the last ten games last season - from 14th place to 8th - equalled our record last-ten improvement. We had previously improved by six places only once, when we climbed from 20th to 14th in 1975-6. Our drop from 8th with ten to go, to finish in 16th place in 2005-6, remains our greatest margin of collapse.

Summertime stats update

Posted on May 25, 2013 at 3:15 AM

The update is coming along nicely. New to the lists is one that catalogues all the players who have scored both for us and against us in competitive football. That number currently stands at 108, I think, and includes 25 players who have scored against us for a side, and for us against the same side. The most recent of those is Marc Richards, who scored for and against us and Port Vale.

Here's the list.

The list doesn't include own goals; these are (now, I believe, fully) documented on another list. It's not everyone who has ever scored for us or against us, but rather, it's a list of folk who have scored for us and against us. I hope that is clear!

A few have accoplished this feat in the same season but only two - Reg Halton and Phil Bonnyman - share the distinction of having scored for us and against us in matches involving the same opponenents in the same season. Reg scored against us for Bury in 1948-9, was transferred to Chesterfield, then scored for us against The Shakers in the return game. Phil Bonnyman accomplished the same feat in the same manner against Carlisle United in 1979-80.

Compilation of his list would not have been possible without the English National Football Archive.

This day in Spireite History: April 27th

Posted on April 27, 2013 at 4:00 AM

Two promotions and a championship have come the way of our first team, while other spireite sides have also brought honours to the club on this day.


The 2-0 defeat of Hartlepools United on April 27 1936 confirmed Chesterfield’s status as champions of the Third Division (North) and secured their promotion to Division Two. It marked the start of what might legitimately be considered the brightest period in the club’s history and also kick-started a programme of ground improvements that saw the erection of the new Archibald Leitch stand at Saltergate during the summer of 1936.


On this day in 1970, Chesterfield were crowned champions of Division Four. The 3-1 victory over Peterborough in front of 14,250 had been made unnecessary by results elsewhere during the previous week but it was welcomed by fans who saw this moment as the end of a 20-year decline.

A rather more speedy recovery was completed on this day in 1985, when Chesterfield were promoted to Division Three after a 1-0 win at Stockport County, courtesy of a Les Hunter goal. This came only two years after the club had stood at the gates of oblivion and represented a tremendous achievement on the part of John Duncan, the manager. Above, the side celebrate their winning the Canon League Division Four championship. (Trophy believed stolen; last seen in 2001, if you can help with its current whereabouts.)


April 27 1938 saw Chesterfield’s “A” team secured the championship of the Derbyshire Senior League by beating Sutton Town by the small matter of twenty goals to nil! All 20 were shared among the forwards, with centre-forward Jack Harker doing a “Joe Payne” and netting ten. Cynics among today’s support will be amused to hear that Harker came in for training the following week to find he’d been given a free transfer!



Supersub swansong?

Posted on April 4, 2013 at 2:05 PM

Scott Boden’s unexpected recall to the Spireite colours from loan at Alfreton Town means that Jon Howard is no longer safe in his position as Chesterfield’s most-used substitute. Averaging a goal every five games from his 20 starts, Scott has come off the bench 83 times to net 11 goals. His starting record is therefore nearly twice as good as his scoring record when coming off the bench, yet it is for his achievements in that latter capacity that he will be remembered. In all, Scott’s substitute goalscoring has been directly responsible for winning The Spireites eleven points, that being the number of points gained as a result of his goals improving a game’s pre-substitution scoreline in favour of Chesterfield.



As things stand on April 4th 2013, Jon Howard has made just one more sub appearance than Scott - 84 in the League - to go with his 152 starts. He scored 39 goals in his career. Behind these two, Harry Willis trails in third with 67 sub appearances in the League, while Jordan Bowery, with 50, is the highest-placed player who made fewer starts (33) than he did sub games. Scott has five games left to make the two sub appearances he needs to become our most brought-on substitute.

Can I play you every week?

Posted on April 3, 2013 at 5:45 PM

One of my latest doomed-to-be-half-finished projects on the facts and figures front is a list of every opponent who has scored a hat-trick or more against us. Some time soon I'll get up to make a cup of tea, or something, and forget that I started it.


Or I might get sidetracked by people like this chap, Bert Whitehurst, the Rochdale forward from the 1920s. Why him, particularly?

Using the lovely English National football Archive site I recorded Whitehurst getting five against us in December 1926. The site will present a player's record over a season to you, and I noticed he got a couple more in the return match. Seven in a season against the same side is some going. Bert got four against us at Spotland the following season, and another two at Saltergate in the return, meaning that he netted no fewer than thirteen goals against us in four consecutive games.

Looking further back I saw a goal for Dale against us in each of the 1923-4 and 1924-5 seasons, and another for Bradford City against us in 1928-9. After that we avoided him for several seasons, and our last encounter with Whitehurst was when he was a Tranmere player, in 1933-4. He failed to score in what became his last-ever senior appearance in English football.

In all, then, Whitehurst netted sixteen times against Chesterfield in the football League. His career saw a return of 182 Football League goals from 313 games, so something getting on for 10% of all his goals were stuffed into a Spireite onion bag. So, is this a record? Can you think of anyone else who might have scored this many against us in his career?


No pen all hours

Posted on March 29, 2013 at 4:55 AM

Chesterfield will go into the Burton Albion game on Easter Saturday without having been awarded a penalty kick in their previous 54 Football League games. Dean Morgan’s winner against Sheffield Wednesday in game number 31 of the 2011-12 season was our last. Is this a record?


That’s a little difficult to establish, of course, because accurate records of penalty misses have never been kept. We can say that the club once went ninety-two games without scoring one that counted in the late 1930s, and that deserves a little explanation. Twenty-two games into that run a penalty was awarded, and scored, to give Chesterfield the lead against Newcastle, but the match was later abandoned. Still, I am minded to count that as a penalty awarded and converted, although the goal doesn’t count towards any record, as such.


So the length of the run without scoring in the late 1930s extends to 66 games, being 24 games after the Newcastle one in 1937-8, and all of 1938-9. The sequence was broken in the opening game of the 1946-7 season by Ken Booker’s penalty against Bradford (Park Avenue.) Remember that I only have data for those scored in this era, and not those awarded, but missed.


George Milburn converted one penalty in the FA Cup in 1938-9, so it wasn’t a completely barren season, unlike the Chesterfield Town season of 1900-1, in which no penalties were successfully converted; goalies were not forced to stand on the goal line at the time, though, so scoring a penalty was rather more difficult in those days.

Where's Malcolm Darling, when you need him?


The club were awarded penalties early in 1954-5 and late in 1955-6, with the effect that 59 games passed in those two seasons without one being awarded. The same thing happened in 1958-9 and 1959-60, where, in an echo of the late 1930s, a 55-game run without a conversion was punctuated only by Arthur Bottom’s penalty in an abandoned game at Brentford.  A Jimmy Maddison pen in game number 23 broke that run but, from there, the club went 92 games without scoring from the spot, being the rest of 59-60 (23 games,) all of 1960-1 (46 games) and the first 13 games of 1961-2. That 92 without a conversion is our longest run but add that to the run that began in 1958-9, and you have a run of 147 Football League games in which the club converted only one penalty kick that counted! That’s something like three and a half seasons!


Elsewhere, it appears as though Walsall endured a run of 83 games without being awarded a penalty that encompassed all of 2010-11 and parts of the seasons before and after.


If we can avoid being kicked over in the box for our last seven games of 2012-13, then that will join 1938-9 and 1960-1 as our only seasons without a Football League penalty scored. Since I’d like to see Jack Lester get to 100 competitive goals for the club, though, I’m hoping that milestone isn’t equalled!