Mark Allott joined his local side, Oldham Athletic, from school and graduated to the professional ranks in 1995. He was a mobile forward with a range of abilities and scored 31 goals in 105 League starts for the Latics. Like many local lads in their local sides (see Jamie Hewitt, for instance,) Allott was unappreciated by a rump of his side's supporters but he still had value to Oldham when he joined Chesterfield on loan, initially, in December 2002. It was intended that he and Mark Innes would complete a passage this way as David Reeves went to Boundary Park, and Mark finally signed on a free in February, 2003.
He made an immediate impact in a side pepped up by such new signings as Glynn Hurst and Jamie Burt, and brought his colleagues into play with intelligent lay-offs and the willingness to chase down lost causes. Four goals came his way in the last half of 2001-2; the three scored at Saltergate included the opener in a 4-2 win over Oldham (by a strange coincidence Mark scored for Oldham against Chesterfield earlier that season) and were celebrated by waving a different corner flag over his head on each occasion.
A lean spell up front in 2002-3 saw Mark moved into midfield, and a new phase of his career developed. Although operating on the right allowed a powerful long throw to be deployed, he did his best work in the centre of midfield, driving forward with accurate passes and tackling effectively. His tackles occasionally bit hard, too, as Yeovil's Tommy Doherty (hardly a soft touch himself) found in 2005-6 when his leg was broken by a fair but fearsomely hard Allott challenge.
Above: Football needn't be a difficult game; Mark retains possession and looks for a team-mate.
2005-6 saw his sweep the board at the "player of the year" awards. The club's management and coaching staff had long rated him as the best footballer at the club, although it took a lot of work on their part to convince him of the idea! It is fair to say that the ex-forward in him should have seen more goals come from midfield but this should not be allowed to detract from the great work that Mark did in Spireite blue.
Mark skippered Chesterfield in the 2006-7 season but that ended in relegation to League Two. In the summer of 2007 the news of Oldham's interest in signing him reached Mark himself, and from that point his return the club he'd supported as a lad, and which was only a few minutes away from where he still lived, was only a matter of time. He had a year left on a contract but could have left on a "Bosman" after that; the wisest move was probably to come to a deal with Oldham rather than keep a player who, honest as he was, might reasonably have had his mind elsewhere.
Life at Boundary Park continued for two seasons and saw 87 league appearances added to the 154 he had made in his first spell there. Upon the expiry of his Latics contract in the summer of 2009 he signed for Tranmere Rovers, whose manager, Ronnie Moore, was a great admirer. Unfortunately, Rovers were not such big admirers of Moore, it seems, and the manager was on his way within days of signing Mark. The new manager, John Barnes, didn’t fancy Mark at all and the player negotiated a quick release, signing for Chesterfield again on July 27th, 2009.
Mark dropped back into the Chesterfield midfield like a hand into an old, comfortable glove. His excellent levels of personal fitness help him to show great consistency and only a one-game virus prevented the midfield playmaker from becoming the club’s first outfield ever-present for fourteen years. The championship-winning side of 2010-11 was built around him and his ability to take and deliver short, accurate passes to team-mates. He was criticised by some for a lack of adventure, for some perceived inability to play the “Hollywood” ball, but Mark’s strength was the ability to anchor central midfield, to be there for a team-mate and to (almost) inevitably find a blue shirt with a pass.
That championship was won without a single, dynamic attacking central midfielder to play alongside him. Chesterfield got away with that in League Two but the absence of such a player, coupled with the lack of a quality forward to keep the ball in opposition territory, were cruelly identified by opponents as weaknesses in the 2011-12 relegation season that followed; Mark was often overrun as the ball was not usually out of Chesterfield’s half, it seemed. As befitted someone who had climbed into 13th place in the club’s list of all-time appearance-makers Mark felt that relegation as keenly as any fan, but was powerless to stop it single-handedly.
Mark started the 2012-13 season’s opener, against Tranmere in the League Cup, but age was perhaps beginning to catch up with him. His last start in Chesterfield colours was at Aldershot, in a 2-0 win, but he left the field early with a hamstring injury - something almost unheard of for Mark Allott in his pomp. In his four starts and four sub games in the league this season, Mark helped the side to three wins and four draws, but new manager Paul Cook had to look to the future and make room on the wage bill for new players, so Mark was released in November 2012.
Throughout a long Chesterfield career Mark never once complained about the vagaries of team selection, nor did he ever fail to give less than 100%, and he will be remembered with appreciation by Spireites everywhere. After a short period with Conference side Hyde, Mark retired and began to develop the Mark Allott Coaching Academy, which aims to help young footballers develop in a positive atmosphere.
For Chesterfield: 323 + 23 Football League appearances, 14 goals.