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.


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