Why Chesterfield Should Stick With John Sheridan

Despite impending relegation, Chesterfield FC should stick with their manager if they want to achieve long-term footballing stability argues Will Strauss.

As I write this article Chesterfield are still a League One football club. Depending on the outcome of Saturday’s game away at Hartlepool (and by the time you read it) this may no longer be the case.

After a long and disappointing season, relegation looms large on the horizon for the Spireites unless a miracle occurs and they can somehow make up a ten-point deficit with just four games left.

After winning League Two last season hopes were high. But it wasn’t to be. We were found wanting.

I’ve written previously about what I think the problems are, be it the lack of a selfish, opportunist centre forward, the missing vim and vigor in midfield or the significant difference in physicality between teams in Leagues One and their counterparts in League Two. So, I won’t go over that again.

However, it is probably sufficient to say that the manager, John Sheridan, didn’t strengthen his League Two Championship winning team sufficiently to cope at the higher level. And we’re about to pay the price.

Going 17 games without a win was the killer. It was only once that terrible run ended, having changed personnel significantly, that Chesterfield looked competitive. And even then, it’s been in fits and starts.

So, as a result of our impending demotion, if approximately 50% of ‘Town’ fans are to be believed, we now need a new manager. One bad season means that the current one isn’t good enough so we must get rid. Continuity isn’t important. Planning for the future isn’t important. What matters is the here and now. So sorry John, despite two trophies in two years, you’re not up to the job. Your time is up. You’ve got to go. The search for a new manager starts right here with this article.

Although I considered doing a mock job description I simply don’t have time so here’s some context instead.

Chesterfield is a small, traditionally lower league football club with a long and rich but fairly low-key history and only a finite catchment area for potential support (thanks to our geographical proximity to bigger and more glamorous clubs in Sheffield, Derby and Nottingham). So, being manager at the B2Net is probably not the most sought after job in world football.

At the same time we’re not broke (which is a bonus, all things considered) but we’re not rich either although we do have an ambitious owner, Dave Allen, an appropriately sized new ground (and increased revenues from it), a shiny trophy in the trophy cabinet and a handful of half decent players (Lee, Trotman, Talbot, Westcarr, Lester et al) all still under contract.

In short, with the right amount of care and attention we have the potential to be a stable League One club that could occasionally push for (and even reach) the Championship given a fair wind.

So, where does that leave us as far as a suitable manager is concerned? I’m no recruitment consultant but it would appear that we need someone that is honest but ambitious, a name but not a big time Charlie, a winner but a realist.

We also need someone with experience that knows how to both get out of League Two and handle League One when/if we get there.

We could also do with someone that knows how to spot a player, who listens and learns, who cares and who has the conviction and belief to stick with his plan, his players and his substitutions (even when the crowd boo them).

It’s a tough ask but I think I may have found the perfect candidate. His name? John Sheridan.

To be blunt (and to use some clichés), you could sum it up in any of the following ways: ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, ‘the grass isn’t always greener’, ‘better the devil you know’ and ‘patience is a virtue’.

Relegation or not, chopping and changing managers (and striving for immediate rather than deferred gratification) is not a recipe for success.

Stability, continuity, long-term planning and establishing a legacy (however boring they may sound) just might be.

Two trophies in two years is a platform to build on. By sacking Sheridan we will all but remove that platform from underneath us and have to start from scratch. Which would be a real waste.

Instead we should show some faith. He needs to be given money to spend on wages (or, God forbid, transfer fees!) and he needs to know that he has enough time to put his plans into practice.

People generally learn from their mistakes so Sheridan will be a better manager for being relegated this year. He already knows how to win League Two. Now he knows how to cope with League One as well. Clearly, I wish he had learned faster so that we weren’t about to get relegated but, either way, right now he is the perfect candidate to be both the current and future manager of Chesterfield Football Club.

The King is Dead. Long Live the King.

Best and worst moment from the season
Stepping down momentarily from my soapbox I thought I would share my best and worst moments of the season. The best was winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final on that sunny day in March in front of nearly 20,000 Spireites at Wembley. Beating Sheffield Wednesday at home comes a close second.

The worst, however, is more difficult to call. Clearly, getting relegated will claim this less-than-prestigious honour when it happens.

But, on an individual match basis, getting thumped at home by Charlton and being walloped at Bramall Lane by Sheffield United weren’t great. But they were always on the cards.

Shipping an injury time winner away at Wycombe (having led twice) and capitulating 4-1 at home to Scunthorpe were both pretty gut wrenching. As was a 2-0 reverse at the B2Net against Exeter having a missed a penalty when the game was 0-0 and still in the balance.

For me the worst moment, however, was Oldham away in November. Admittedly, some of it was personal. Having got to Boundary Park late because of traffic I missed out on several free pre-match pints with my brother who had somehow blagged us tickets for the executive lounge.

But most of it was about the performance. Or the lack of it. Despite well-documented Oldham-Chesterfield connections in terms of playing staff and management, we put up absolutely no fight, got trounced 5-2 (it could’ve been more) and played like a park side that had been hastily assembled at 9:30 that morning.

That day it dawned on me that not only were the majority of the players from last season not good enough to complete in League One but that the new signings and the loanees weren’t up to the job either.

That realization – in one of the bleakest, most unwelcoming parts of Greater Manchester – was my low point of 2011/12. It was then that I knew it would be a long hard season and so it transpired.

And I didn’t even get my free beer. Roll on League Two.

By Will Strauss. As well as writing about his first love, Chesterfield FC, he is currently coming up with articles about fridge freezer spares  for the Leeds-based appliances company ASD.