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