Chesterfield Football Club's final match at Saltergate

Lifelong Spireite Robert Falconer watches the last match at Chesterfield's Saltergate ground

On 8th May 2010 139 years of football history came to an end at Saltergate as Chesterfield FC – the fourth oldest club in the football league – played its last league game before moving to a new stadium at Whittington Moor this summer. It was an occasion of mixed emotions with the very cold and mainly dull weather adding to the solemn mood.

The day started at the Pomegranate Theatre with a twohour wander down memory lane that featured former players, ex-managers and rarely seen footage of past games. Then the focus turned to Rykneld Square by the Crooked Spire, for the start of a parade to Saltergate football ground. At the front a group of supporters had been picked to carry a banner marking the historic event.

The club mascot, Chester the field mouse, Holymoorside Brass Band and the award-winning cheerleaders, the Spirettes followed behind as other supporters joined in the procession through the town to the ground.

The club began in 1867 as winter amusement for the local cricket team. They played on a patch of ground around Tennyson Avenue, closer to the town centre and players had to get changed in the County Hotel.

However, in 1871 the cricket club had a dispute with the landowners and decided to move. The first patch of land they chose was 20 yards further north than the current pitch and the first event to be staged was neither football nor cricket, but an Athletic Sports Meeting. It took place on 29th May 1871 and was a fundraiser for the new ground. The first football game was against Rotherham on 4th November 1871 – the score 0-0. In 1899 the club joined the football league. Since then Saltergate has seen many great occasions. In 1938 Tottenham Hotspur’s visit for a fifth round FA Cup tie drew a record crowd of 30,413. In March 1997 another FA Cup moment was the quarter-final win against Wrexham, which set up an epic encounter with Middlesborough at Old Trafford.

The ground was also used in the film ‘The Damned United’ about Brian Clough. The ground is one of the oldest left in the country and will be sadly missed by many people as it is consigned to history. The final game was a sell-out with a crowd of 8,000. Everyone wanted to be there to say farewell. The first half against Bournemouth did not start well when they took the lead with a Talbot own goal briefly silencing the Kop. But in the second half, in front of the Kop for the last time, Chesterfield started to put on the pressure to make it a finale to remember. A goal was disallowed for off-side, a shot struck the post and there were several close calls. It seemed as though it was going to end badly, until local hero Lester equalised on the 80th minute and in the 96th minute a shot from outside the area by Niven scoring the last goal at Saltergate and sending the fans wild.

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As the game ended fans surged onto the pitch. There were speeches from the directors’ box and songs were played – including Frank Sinatra singing ‘My Way’. Many fans had tears in their eyes as they had their photographs taken on the pitch or stood on the terrace savouring the sight for the last time. Now the club can look forward to its new 10,500 capacity all-seater B2net stadium, and many more years of football history.

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