The Football League Paper - - CHRIS DUNLAVY - By Chris Dunlavy

SAM HIRD didn’t mince his words af­ter a 3-1 de­feat at Scun­thorpe on Easter Mon­day con­demned Ch­ester­field to rel­e­ga­tion from League One.

“As a squad, as in­di­vid­u­als, we haven’t been good enough,” said the 29-year-old de­fender, a vet­eran of 200-plus ap­pear­ances for the Spireites.

“As a pro­fes­sional foot­baller, you’re paid by the club to put in per­for­mances to the best of your abil­ity. If you can hold your hands up and say ‘I’ve given 100 per cent but I haven’t been good enough’ that’s a start. But it doesn’t change the fact we’ve let this club down.”

Man­ager Gary Cald­well, mean­while, pre­ferred to fo­cus on the fu­ture. Ap­pointed in Jan­uary fol­low­ing the dis­missal of Danny Wil­son, the Scot won just two of his 17 matches and says heads will roll this sum­mer. “It’s dis­ap­point­ing for ev­ery­one in­volved with the club,” said Cald­well, who this time last year was cel­e­brat­ing pro­mo­tion to the Cham­pi­onship with Wi­gan.


“Most im­por­tantly the fans. But, as with any dis­ap­point­ment, you have to look for­ward. This sum­mer needs to see a mas­sive re­build and we have to make sure we come back stronger.

“I want to see more hunger. More nas­ti­ness. I’ve said be­fore that nice teams get rel­e­gated and we’ve been too nice this sea­son.

“My mes­sage to the fans is sim­ple: stay with us. I will turn this round. I know it’s been dis­ap­point­ing but there’ll be a big turn­around in play­ers and there’ll be a big turn­around in men­tal­ity.”

The ques­tion is: what kind of re­sources will be pro­vided to fund this cut-rate rev­o­lu­tion? And will Cald­well sur­vive to lead it?

As to the for­mer, much de­pends on owner Dave Allen.

Lav­ishly-backed pro­mo­tion sea­sons un­der John Sheri­dan and Paul Cook left the Spireites fi­nan­cially over­stretched in League One.

An­nual losses of £1.3m, cov­ered by Allen, meant nei­ther Wil­son nor his pre­de­ces­sor, Dean Saun­ders, were given much to play with and CEO Ash­ley Car­son has al­ready warned that next sea­son must be ‘cash neu­tral’.

Ru­mours of a £10m takeover have been mooted, but un­til hard ev­i­dence emerges, sup­port­ers re­main scep­ti­cal. Promis­ingly, Allen said pro­mo­tion would be given ‘a right good go’ at a board meet­ing this week.

He must also de­cide whether or not to stand by Cald­well, whose tac­tics and sign­ings have come un­der heavy fire from sup­port­ers. Of the six play­ers signed in Jan­uary, only two, David Fau­pala and Thorsten Stuck­mann, started the game against Scun­thorpe. The rest to­talled four first-team games. None has sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved a team, which was 22nd when Cald­well took charge. Cald­well’s de­fence is jus­ti­fied. “I had 11 days to sign play­ers and the club didn’t have a re­cruit­ment depart­ment,” he said on Mon­day. “It wasn’t easy.”

Yet fans have also criticised his dog­matic per­sis­tence with a 3-5-2 sys­tem and at­tempts to im­ple­ment pass­ing foot­ball.

Allen must bal­ance his de­sire to give Cald­well a chance – and avoid a pay-off – against a po­ten­tial col­lapse in sea­son ticket sales.

For now, all Ch­ester­field’s play­ers can do is bat­tle for next year’s con­tract and to avoid fin­ish­ing dead last.

“We have to leave our hearts on the pitch,” said Stuck­mann. “Fight, show some pride.”

PIC­TURE: ProS­ports

THE GAME’S UP: Ch­ester­field de­fender, Sam Hird has given an hon­est assess­ment of the team’s sea­son. In­set: Un­der-fire boss Gary Cald­well

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