Wednesday, 13 March 2013

What price Chesterfield FC one day playing in the Premier League?

The odds are probably long. Chesterfield football club may have been in existence, in one form or another, since 1866, but in that time the Derbyshire team have not once played in the top flight. And yet, look at Swansea City. Under Michael Laudrup, Swansea play some of the best football in Britain, and are set for the Europa League next season after their League Cup success. Just ten years ago Swansea narrowly avoided relegation to the Football Conference. Who's to say that Chesterfield won't follow in Swansea's footsteps?

Giving something back

Time will tell, but in the short term I'm delighted to announce that Spencers Solicitors is now one of Chesterfield’s sponsors. Hats off to my colleagues, Rob Landman and Lee Foster, who have worked tirelessly to bring about what I think is a great step for the firm.

Chesterfield is the site of our principal office, and it's where we've been, in one guise or another, for the past 35 years. Getting involved with the town's football club gives us a chance to get to know the local people all the better, and to put something back, not least because of the sterling community work undertaken by the club. To that end, we've sponsored the Community Stand - the hub of Chesterfield's community work.

We've agreed sponsorship for a three year term. On 23 March, before Chesterfield's home game against Plymouth Argyle, Rob and Lee will take to the pitch at half time to meet the club's chief executive Chris Turner, who will announce the deal.

Hope springs eternal

As football fans, we're all very excited about linking up with a professional club. Regular readers of my blog will know that I'm a Chelsea fan, but as much as I looked out for The Blues' result against Manchester United last weekend I also kept an eye out for how The Spireites fared. They did well, with a solid 2-0 home win over Bristol Rovers. Currently occupying a mid-table position, with 50 points, a good run of form may yet see manager Paul Cook's team reach the play-offs. Indeed, as he put it: "It's mathematically possible to go up with nine games to go, why can't I believe? I believe every day."

Chesterfield's most notable recent successes came in the 1990s. Back then, they won the Division Three play-off final at Wembley in 1995; two years later, they reached the FA Cup semi-finals. In doing so they became the first club outside the top two divisions to reach this stage of the competition since Plymouth Argyle's famous 1984 cup run, beating Premier League Nottingham Forest along the way before eventually losing a semi-final replay to Middlesbrough.  This was a case so near, and yet so far: a thrilling first semi-final ended 3-3, before The Spireites lost the replay 3-0.

More recently, Chesterfield won the 2010-11 Football League Two title, to add to two previous triumphs in the old Fourth Division. The club was also the Johnstone's Paint Trophy winner in 2011-12.

In finalising the sponsorship deal I also visited the club. Its ground, the Proact Stadium, is impressive, as are the facilities overall. The Proact Stadium has a capacity of 10,400, and the club kindly offered Spencers the use of it for a game once the real business of the football season is over. I'm not sure who we'll play, but I'm sure we'll take up this excellent offer. Meantime, wouldn't it be wonderful to see the stadium full to the rafters, with fans enjoying promotion success?

This may not come this year, but hope springs eternal among football supporters and I will join all those who pray that Chesterfield win the majority of their nine remaining games and secure a play-off place. But if not, there is always next season - and the next, and the next, and the next again, until one day, who knows, top flight football becomes a reality. And if you don't believe me, just ask the fans of Swansea City. In football, dreams can still come true.