Chesterfield FC: From the brink of the Championship to battling to stay in the Football League
When Paul Cook won the League Two title with Chesterfield in 2014, things looked on the up for the Spirerites. They were in a financially stable situation and had a very strong group of players. In their first season back in League One, they finished 6th and got into the play-offs. However, they were denied by the eventual winners Preston North End over two legs, but they had done themselves justice. But what has followed in the three seasons since has been a disaster. They finished 18th in the 2015/16 season and were then relegated last season. They now find themselves in the bottom two of League Two and are battling to stay in the Football League under Jack Lester. One reason behind their decline is the loss of key players and an inability to replace them. Here is a look at how they lined up in their Play-Off first-leg of May 2015 against Preston and where they are now.
Tommy Lee played between the sticks for the Spirerites against Preston. He retired from the game in November 2017 aged just 31 due to a recurring shoulder injury. This was a great shame to the Football League as he was a talented goalkeeper. He had played over 350 games for the Spirerites and had played for them for ten consecutive seasons.
Playing right-back that day for was Tendayi Darikwa. The 26-year-old impressed for the Spirerites in League One and was snapped up by Burnley in July 2015. He helped the Clarets win the Championship title in his first season and he became a Premier League player. However, he struggled to nail down a first-team place in the top flight and he was sold to Nottingham Forest in July 2017.
On the opposite flank of defence was the experienced Daniel Jones. He now plays for highly flying League Two side Notts County, who signed him after he was released by Chesterfield after their relegation. Formerly of Wolves, Sheffield Wednesday and Port Vale, Jones played a key part in Chesterfield in winning promotion to League Two and getting to the Play-Offs in the third tier.
The centre-back partnership for Chesterfield was Ian Evatt and Sam Hird. Both of who still play for them today. Evatt, who is 37 years-old, captained Blackpool in the Premier League in the 2010/11 season and was signed by the Spirerites in 2013. Hird, on the other hand, is playing his sixth season for Chesterfield having had previous spells at Leeds United, Doncaster Rovers and Grimsby Town.
Chesterfield had a very strong midfield from 2013 to 2015. On the right wing was Gary Roberts. The 34-year-old was a great player for Chesterfield and scored 20 goals for them in his two seasons at the club and was pivotal in their promotion to League One in 2014. He left them in June 2015 to re-unite with Paul Cook at Portsmouth. He now plays for League One side Wigan Athletic, again joining up with Cook in the summer. On the left-wing was Jay O'Shea. The 29-year-old Irish winger spent five seasons with Chesterfield and scored an impressive 42 goals for them. He left in the summer to join Bury.
One of the central midfielders for the Spirerites was Sam Morsy. The Egypt international joined Chesterfield in 2013 from Port Vale and made his name with them. He left in January 2016 to join Wigan Athletic, and he will be hoping to help them get a promotion to the Championship this season. Alongside him was Jimmy Ryan. The well-travelled midfielder played for Chesterfield from 2013 to 2015. He now plays for Blackpool in League One having had previous stints at Liverpool, Accrington Stanley, Scunthorpe United and Fleetwood Town.
Dan Gardner played behind the striker for Chesterfield. He was signed by them from non-league side FC Halifax Town after he had played for FC United, Celtic, Crew Alexandra and Droylsden as a youngster. He had loan spells out at Tranmere Rovers and Bury during his time at Chesterfield before being released in the summer. He now plays for Oldham Athletic in League One.
Up front for Chesterfield was Sam Clucas. He left them in 2015 to sign for Hull City for £1.3 million. The versatile 27-year-old can play left-back, central midfield or as a striker and he helped the Tigers gain promotion to the Premier League in his first season at the club and then impressed for them in the top flight last season. This earned him a £16 million move to Swansea City in the summer.