When it was confirmed that the Spireites were returning to League One, there were a few dates I was particular looking forward to; the open top bus day, the fixture release and start of our new campaign. The b2Net stadium was a great place to be last season and I have faith in the Chesterfield players and management that we can be a force to be reckoned with in League One!
Our pre-season probably started in June when twelve of the winning squad from last year were offered new contracts which included a new deal for my personal player of the year last time out, Jack Lester (even though Tommy Lee fully deserved the actual award). With all the key players looking like they are staying with the club it was all about gaining strength in depth for what’s going to be a tough year next season. We’ve brought in Mark Randall, who coming off the back of last season will fit right in if he’s been learning from the best passing team in England. Not only have we gained an incredible ball player but we’ve also seen that Sheridan has a business side to his management skills by bringing him in on a freebie. Before Randall, the signing of Nathan Smith from Yeovil was made, and the quick defender, who made the transition from non-league football, had been a fan favourite with the Green and White army. I think Sheridan was massively influential in prising him away from his former club and having strength in depth at the back is essential if you want to do well in any league.
A massive blow this summer was the loss of one player who didn’t sign a new contract in the break; Craig Davies.
He agreed a two-year contract with Championship club Barnsley and will look to help them out with the mass amounts of potential he has. We’ll miss his goals and a replacement is needed and soon – Clayton Donaldson’s name had been thrown about over the month of June and it was looking like we were going to capture the big front man, but like so many times in past seasons, we got beaten to the signing and Donaldson struck a deal with Brentford. The only link I’ve seen pop up more than once recently is Alex Nimely, who’s currently a Manchester City player but has struggled since moving there for various reasons and has only made one appearance for the club. However, he has impressed for both the youth set-up and the reserve side and has earned himself three caps for the England U20’s team, and being only twenty, I think giving him a chance to show Roberto Mancini what he’s got by going out on loan for a year would do both parties the world of good. With Davies being the main subject on outgoings, Shane Redmond also left the club to join Mansfield for an undisclosed fee, Shane didn’t manage a single competitive game for us in his one year stay and has gone seeking first team football after being kept out of the side by the magnificent Tommy Lee.
A tough game against Coventry was our last pre-season game before the new campaign and I believe we’re ready, with players seemingly impressing the manager throughout the games against Alfreton, Matlock and Macclesfield. Performances from the new boys Randall and Smith have been encouraging, with Smith getting on the score sheet from a lovely team goal against Matlock, but also players like Tommy Lee, trying to improve on his 16 clean sheets from last time out, or Jack Lester, who’s going to have to add to his seventeen goals from last year to make up for the loss of Craig Davies and not to mention the tireless Dwayne Mattis, who have all made an impact on the run-in to the new season.
Looking at next season as a whole, the obvious first plan for all newly promoted clubs in any league is to gain enough points to make sure you will, at least, stay in the league for another season. I know, however, from watching the team and how we played last year that this isn’t going to be enough for manager Sheridan and not for us fans either. I think I can speak for most us Spireites when I say that due to our desire to keep the ball and be positive every time we have possession, along with our cutting edge in front of goal, we can not only match the teams in this league but challenge them and go for another promotion. Not many teams can boast scoring 85 goals in a season, which shows we don’t only create the chances, but we put them away too. Now fair enough, I’m not going to say we had the best defence in the league last year but hopefully with a couple more signings and some good management then our current defenders can pull together to help maintain the balance of attack and defence.
I also think that we, the fans, deserve some credit when they say you have a twelfth man at home games – we certainly did that at the b2Net last year. Not only that but we tried our hardest at every away game throughout and I hope our great support can carry on through next year. I believe we are strong enough to challenge the other teams in League One, but I’m not getting ahead of myself and will be hoping to gain enough points for safety as quickly as possible.
For most fans, securing a place in this league will be priority number one and this is the sensible option; we don’t all want to put pressure on the players to perform and then get on their backs when we aren’t in the play-offs come March/April. Whatever happens, for us Spireites it’s going to be a season to remember and we can’t wait to show the rest of the League One teams how you really support a football club!
Written by Chris Tyldesley, We Are Going Up’s Chesterfield Blogger