Spireites on steep rise to the top

Chesterfield have a lovely new ground, a talented manager and an entertaining team, so life is sweet for Sheri

The club crest may sit above the main entrance but when visiting teams arrive at Chesterfield these days they find that seeing is one thing, believing quite another. Saltergate, at 139 years the oldest venue in the Football League until the Spireites moved out in June, was used to film The Damned United because it still looked like Derby County's Baseball Ground from the 1970s. Moving to their new home at the b2net Stadium, Chesterfield have been not so much dragged into the 21st century as jet-propelled across two centuries at once.

The effect has been startling. The stadium, which nestles alongside a superstore on the north side of the Derbyshire town, cost £13m – funded largely through grants, the sale of Saltergate and the deep pockets of former Sheffield Wednesday chairman Dave Allen – but is already generating income streams of which the club could previously only dream. Revenue from banqueting alone is expected to exceed £1m and gates are up 60 per cent.

But it is not simply the novelty of a modern ground attracting crowds. After 60 years confined to the lower divisions, Chesterfield fans are becoming accustomed to seeing their team winning matches – and doing so while striving for technical quality from a different level.

Given the identity of their manager, perhaps that should not be a surprise. John Sheridan's passing skills impressed Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday fans in the 1980s and '90s. Sheridan's stunning goal beat Manchester United in the final of the League Cup under Ron Atkinson and Wednesday went on to finish third in the Premier League under Trevor Francis. He also won a place in Jack Charlton's Republic of Ireland team at the 1994 World Cup.

"I played in some decent teams and, as a manager, while primarily I want us to be a winning side, I like us to play football the right way," he said.

"At times we can be a bit too entertaining," he adds – wincing at the recollection of a 5-5 draw against Crewe, in which Chesterfield trailed 4-1 after 26 minutes, and a 4-3 win over Shrewsbury after leading 4-0 with 10 minutes to go – "but anyone who comes to watch will get their money's worth.

"I think it is an underrated division. People might think at League Two level it is all about long ball and set plays but it isn't. There are teams who are counterattacking and try to play like Premier League teams.

"The game has changed," he added. "It's quicker and you need to pass well to get anywhere. I say to the younger players that if you want to play at a higher level you have to learn to play the right way, take care of the ball."

So far, the approach is working for Chesterfield, who drew 0-0 at Stevenage yesterday to remain three points clear at the top. "Results-wise and position-wise we could not be better, but we have to have more consistency," Sheridan said. "There is a long way to go. Last season we got ourselves close to promotion or a play-off position only to fall back a bit.

"But we had to rely too much on loan players last season and it is a bit more my own side now. I've not got a massive budget – the club is not well off, despite having a lovely ground – but I've brought quality players in." Among those is striker Craig Davies, a free transfer from Brighton, who scored the first goal at the b2net and is in double figures for the season.

If Chesterfield are enjoying a renaissance, Sheridan is benefiting from a fresh start, having left his first managerial post, at Oldham, amid headlines after he and his top scorer, Lee Hughes, were accused – wrongly, he says – of fighting on a club night out at the Belle Vue dog track. "A lot was made out of something that never really happened. There were people involved who did not get spoken about whereas Lee Hughes was very unfairly treated – as I was – because he was not involved in anything. It was disappointing, but that's life."

He has a fully supportive chairman now in Barrie Hubbard, a 72-year-old former printer who made his first visit to Saltergate in 1946. "John's teams play football. He is a good manager and there is nobody better for bringing players in," Hubbard said.

Hubbard wanted a new stadium the first time he was chairman, 27 years ago, and now it has finally happened, he wants it to be the first step, not the last. "We are hoping to have Championship football," he said. "It was sad to leave Saltergate but there was nothing we could do there. This opens up possibilities we could not have envisaged."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...