I was driving through Chesterfield in Derbyshire recently and spotted a set of stadium floodlights, those of Recreation Park, Saltergate, the home of Chesterfield FC. My curiosity got the better of me and I went for a little exploration. There’s just something about old football grounds isn’t there.
I’ve only been in this ground twice and that was many years ago. It’s apparently the oldest remaining league football ground and it’s difficult not to notice that. I once went to see the ‘mighty’ Glasgow Rangers draw with the, then Third Division team in an Anglo-Scottish Cup tie, and on another occasion I was persuaded to go to see Notts County visit Saltergate on league duty. The Spireites as they are known ran out 3-0 winners on that occasion and the game was comfortably the worst game of football I have ever watched in my life. On every occasion a Magpies player received the ball in his own half the main strategy was to launch the ball over the old stands. The little-known, up and coming young manager of Notts County that day was one Neil Warnock. Nuff said.
There were parts of Saltergate that I viewed yesterday that were pretty much a disgrace. Stand ends thick with rust on the corrugated iron. A decrepit club hospitality area. The stand I’d stood in many years ago appeared rebuilt at around half the size – obviously due to prohibitive costs and being ordered to demolish the original. An open terrace behind a goal was something that some non-league teams would have turned their nose up at, so small was it.
When one views a lower league football environment like this, I wonder what the purpose is of such clubs maintaining professional and league status, sad to say. As a comparison I recall Notts County arriving in the old top flight First Division on two occasions and being followed by a tiny bunch of fans against the Manchester Uniteds, Liverpools and Arsenals of this world. It was sadly proven during those times that there is little ultimate potential for clubs the likes of Notts, (and it gives me no pleasure to say that at all). Chesterfield over the years have sometimes made Notts County look like Barcelona…
Chesterfield’s honours (since 1866)
* Third Division (North) Champions 1930/31, 1935/36
* Fourth Division Champions 1969/70, 1984/85
* Anglo-Scottish Cup Champions 1980/81.
Chesterfield FC are the fourth-oldest league club in England. They have never appeared in the top flight of English football in that time. I’m all for loyalty to your local club and all that so I have to commend the long-suffering Chesterfield fans and others of their ilk for their faithfulness to the local club. I mean that genuinely and sincerely.
As I write there is at long last good news for the Derbyshire team’s supporters in that plans have recently been released for a brand new stadium. Let’s hope it changes the fortunes of The Spireites.