On the 11 May 2015, just shy of seven years ago he left us all heartbroken… but now he's back!
Thursday 10 February was a great day to be a Spireite as Paul Cook was officially announced as James Rowes replacement. "I would not have dropped out of the Football League for any other team in the Conference,” he told the club during his first interview as the new boss.
But before all that, a brief history lesson.
Paul Cook originally took charge of the Spireites back in 2012, 25 October to be exact. He came in having previously managed Southport, Sligo Rovers and Accrington Stanley before the previous CFC regime offered him the job at the club, taking over from Tommy Wright who was holding the fort as caretaker manager after John Sheridan resigned.
By the close of play in his debut season, the Spireites finished just two points away from the playoffs in League 2. The following 2013/14 campaign however Cookie went one better and clinched the Spireites promotion to League 1 by winning League 2 outright AND taking the club to a Wembley final with the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
The next season however, would be the last for Cook as CFC boss despite finishing 6th in League 1 at his first attempt. In 2015 Cookie left to pursue the manager role at Portsmouth FC. At the time it was rumored that the club (owned back then by Dave Allen, before the Community Trust took ownership) had cut the funding budget on the club which seemed to go against the clubs own, now infamous, “5 year plan” to get into the Championship. Then the rot set in.
Over the next five years, without Cookie, the club were relegated in two back to back seasons, from League 1 to League 2. Then from League 2 to crashing out the football league altogether and landing down in the National League. 2018 was a dark year for the club. Not only did they lose their football league status, but for Jack Lester in his first management role and a Spireite legend returning to manage the club after retiring as a player, was hard to witness. It was under Lester's watch we were relegated down to the National League. Full respect for trying though in my book, given Lester's legacy achieved at the club with the now retired No 14 shirt.
Despite having a succession of 11 different managers (including caretaker managers) between 2015 to 2020 AND facing an identity crisis both on and off the field, Chesterfield were eventually rescued by the Chesterfield Community Trust.
On 7 August 2020 and languishing in the relegation zone of the National League the club was sold to the Community Trust and the Spireites were offered a lifeline which immediately seemed to work.
The first manager to actually turn the club round under the watchful but respectful eye of the Trust was James Rowe. Rowe spent a total of 15 months at the helm before he parted with the club. But during his tenure Rowe (and the club) recruited a quality and crowd pleasing squad which was left behind after Rowe departed... and that's where Cookie now returns.
To finish what he started?
12 Feb - Cook's first game in charge (two days after his announcement). Weymouth away was the fixture and 1-1 was the score. Alex Whittle became the first CFC goal scorer under the new gaffer. The game took a little longer to conclude due to Tshimanga, the goal machine, being stretchered off which pretty much ended his footballing season with a broken leg and a dislocated ankle. And if that sounded bad, it got worse. Paul Cook's first home game was the following week against Solihull Moors, and oh boy was it a memorable one. Not only did we lose 2-3, the first home defeat of the season, but we threw away a 2-0 lead (Whittle 14, Asante 20). To add insult to injury, McCourt was also stretchered off with a suspected broken leg just like Tshimanga. So, another false start to Cookies homecoming.
Next up three days later, to continue our consecutive run of home games came Deadpool's Welsh side, Wrexham. But before the game I noticed something. During the previous two games, Whittle had scored first prior to the first aiders being called into play to carry away our wounded. Both now out for the season. Thankfully however, this didn’t happen for a third time. We just lost 0-2. That was Cookie’s second home defeat in a week and CFC's second home defeat of the current season.
Paul Cook’s first win finally came at home in front of the BT Sports cameras against Yeovil with Kellermann's stunning half volley curling round the keeper. This was followed by a brilliant 3-1 comeback against Notts Co, again at home with two unexpected Maguire goals three days later to secure another victory for Paul Cook. This, as it turns out, was Cook's 150th game in charge for the Spireites. Mind you, things got back to CFC normal at the next two games Southend and Boreham Wood where we drew 2-2 with a very late equalizer from Southend. Well, technically it was an own goal by Kerr in the 89th minute. Then conceded late against Boreham finishing 1-1 live on BT Sports (sigh).
So, to conclude - Cook's back. We have limited players available and the "Mend and make do'' attitude continues as we throw away valuable points in the last few minutes of games.
Whatever, it's going to be frightfully interesting to see where we end up come the 15 May… Gulp.