NCM L2 Predictions - 1st
Feature by Jacob Daniel
Updated Friday, 7th August 2009
ChesterfieldWe've reached the end of our pre-season predictions as today we decide on our champions. We've gone with Notts' 'local rivals' Chesterfield...
Chesterfield were one of the division's biggest underachievers last season as Lee Richardson once again failed to lead the Spireites into the play-offs. This saw Richardson lose his job at the end of the season, somewhat unsurprisingly, and former Oldham Athletic boss John Sheridan is the man who has been brought in to replace him at Saltergate. It was almost a repeat of the previous season for Richardson, who seemed to have got together a talented side but failed to use it properly and missed out on the play-offs which should've been the minimum aim for Chesterfield. He survived last time but wasn't so lucky this summer as Barrie Hubbard decided it wise not to extend his contract.
It took the Spireites a while to decide upon their new man, but John Sheridan was the choice of Hubbard and new investor Dave Allen. Sheridan led Oldham to the play-offs two years ago but struggled last season with reports of player unrest involving the likes of Sean Gregan and Notts new boy Lee Hughes. Chesterfield will be hoping he's learned from his mistakes at Oldham and is ready to be a success in his second managerial job. This is the club's last ever season at Saltergate with the Spireites moving to a new stadium next summer and the club will be dearly hoping they can give their old ground the send off it deserves. The best news to come out of Saltergate this summer was possibly that leading scorer Jack Lester signed a new two-year contract, although that didn't stop the club having to reject a £50,000 bid from the Magpies for the ex-Forest forward.
John Sheridan the player impressed many and went on to have lengthy spells at Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and Oldham Athletic, but it was the Latics who gave him his shot at management. After a couple of caretaker spells at Boundary Park he was deemed ready for the challenge in 2006 and he proved this to be a wise decision in his first season at the club as he led the Latics to 6th in League One and a play-off place. The following season Oldham just missed out on the play-offs, finish 8th and once again last season they looked like just missing out on the top six under Sheridan. A poor run of results and a report of fighting between Sheridan and senior players on a night out led to Sheridan leaving by mutual consent after a 6-2 defeat to Milton Keynes Dons.
He will be hoping to prove he really has the ability to take a club up this year at Chesterfield, where he has the infrastructure and squad in place to make a real assault on the League Two summit. He brought assistant Tommy Wright and goalkeeping coach Mark Crossley with him to Saltergate and the new look backroom team found a surprisingly good side to work with and a little bit of money to make the necessary improvements to ensure Chesterfield are ready for the challenge this year. Last year they only narrowly missed out on the play-offs despite being managed by the useless Richardson, this year as long as Sheridan carries on his development as a manager they could be hard to stop.
In goal Chesterfield will be looking at Tommy Lee continue his good form last season and keep proving himself as one of the division's most consistent stoppers, with goalkeeping coach Mark Crossley providing cover. At right back there is competition between ex-Notts loanee Phil Picken and Jamie Lowry, both of whom are capable of playing in a top League Two side. In central defence, experienced Welshman Rob Page will be hoping to put a disappointing first season at Saltergate behind him and refind form, whilst the signing of Nottingham Forest captain Ian Beckin on a free caught the eye of many and the former Chesterfield hero should be superb at this level. Experienced Trinidadian Kevin Austin is also capable of being a useful asset whilst at left back there is healthy competition between Gregor Robertson and Alan Goodall.
In midfield Sheridan has improved the side a lot, with the signing of cool head and former Spireite Mark Allott being an excellent coup. Capable of launching attacks and dictating the pace of a game, Allott is a great capture for this division. Derek Niven has a good engine and puts himself about whilt Lloyd Kerry will be hoping to establish himself. Former Macclesfield Town man Paul Harsley is a great player for this level as long as Sheridan can help him refind his confidence and form after it was shattered by Richardson. Out wide experienced Darren Currie still has the creativity and tricks to be an asset to the Spireites, whilst new signing Drew Talbot could be used out wide instead of upfront. Spearheading the attack will be Jack Lester, the division's most potent striker and a man who anyone at this level would love to have in their team. Everyone at Chesterfield knows it too, judging by their reaction to our hilarious £50,000 bid earlier this summer. There are no other natural goalscorers at the club, but when you have a man such as Lester it is just as wise to partner him with someone who can create space for him and create goals. Drew Talbot and Martin Gritton both possess these qualities whilst Scott Boden and Jordan Bowery will both be looking impress when given a chance.
On paper Chesterfield have the most balanced and talent side in the division and have good cover for pretty much every position. They were held back last year by the questionable management of Lee Richardson, but with John Sheridan now in charge they can really mount a challenge. Sheridan has proven himself with Oldham and as long as they keep Lester fit and scoring they will be guaranteed goals. Breckin will shore up a slightly leaky defence and if Sheridan can help the likes of Harsley, Page and Currie firing on all cylinders then they will be as good as new signings for the Spireites.