From the relegation zone to the play-offs.
And breathe... Any Spireite, after watching the recent game against Notts County on BT Sports, will obviously be frustrated with the result of being knocked out of the first eliminator round of the play-offs. But when you stop and think about it, who wouldn't have accepted that outcome back in October 2020?!
In August 2020 the club was bought by the Chesterfield FC Community Trust and John Pemberton was our manager. After the season got under way in October, later than normal due to the coronavirus pandemic, our first game was a home tie against Hartlepool United which we lost 1-0. Of the next five games that month we would go on to lose three of them, with the exception of the stand out 4-0 win at home against Woking. Two of the goals came from local lad Luke Rawson (19).
The following month of November didn't go our way either in the cup or in the league, losing all five games. The last game that month included the now infamous home league match against Notts County 2-3, where we conceded two late goals in injury time and lost. Having got fed up with losing and being at the wrong end of the National League again the board did something about it and to be honest, we haven't looked back since. Welcome then, our new manager, James Rowe. The one positive from that month!
On Friday 27 November the Trust unveiled James, a young, eager, unknown manager to the world. This turned out to be a shrewd move which has revolutionized the club. This was the turning point of the season, in fact of the last five seasons for the club, and it restored the fight and set out the road map to a brighter future for the club.
Since then we’ve experienced a phenomenal six months, the best days of football since the Paul Cook era in anyone's book. Shame there were no fans in the ground to witness these cracking games and our rise up the league. I do feel very privileged to have witnessed the home games and to have recorded them with my camera, especially the last home game against Dagenham and Redbridge at the end of May which saw the return of the fans. They got to greet James in the flesh as he introduced himself to his flock. The game ended 2-1 to the blues with both goals from Danny Rowe, his second from the penalty spot.
Since James took charge, with George Foster by his side, their record has been a remarkable one given what they’d taken on. As the months rolled by with a fast paced fixture list brought on by the Covid pandemic, Rowe brought in 13+ new players. The stand out players for me were Asante, Gunning, Carline, Whelan and Clarke to name just a few. The Spireites, under Rowes management, ended the 2020/21 season with an impressive record of played 34 (league and FA trophy games), won 19, drew six and lost 10. Hence the unexpected rise from the relegation zone to the play-offs!
Interestingly the clubs two top goalscorers, Akwasi Asante and Tom Denton bagged 10 and nine goals each, despite both being out injured. Asante hasn't played since coming off with a knee injury in April, picked up against Boreham Wood, and Denton has been out since January. James Rowe though was rewarded with a contract extension to keep him at the club for his part in CFC’s change in fortunes which I obviously welcome!
So next season?
In a nutshell, with our current squad, there is more to come I can assure you of that. We have a strong team which may only need a few players to bolster it. Look at what James has achieved so far in just six months. Imagine what he can do with a full season especially with Asanti and Denton back from injury. I feel a return to the play-offs in the next campaign if not to win the league outright. With the fans back cheering from the stands I feel an action packed 2021/22 season on the cards.
Words & Images: Michael South