TT OPPOSITION Q&A
Phil Tooley discusses his team Chesterfield FC
Hi Phil, can you summarise Chesterfield’s season so far for us in a couple of paragraphs?
Pre-Rowe and Post-Rowe! When James Rowe was appointed as manager in late November, Chesterfield had lost seven of the opening nine games, the team had a soft underbelly and were conceding goals (especially late goals) for fun, something drastic needed to be done.
Instantly, the new boss began recruiting and the team began accumulating points, the team has earned 50 in his 27 NL games in charge and, for the first time since 2015, the club is challenging at the right end of the table rather than being battling against relegation. In short, supporters now have hope.
How’s your recent form been?
Mixed. Just one win in six on the back of five straight wins. Saturday’s defeat at an excellent Hartlepool United was particularly disappointing. As good as Pools were, Spireites were well off the pace and were never in the game, but just four days earlier, the team was excellent in the win at Bromley. Key injuries have begun to take their toll with Asante and Hollis both out long term and the relentless fixture list is beginning to take its toll. Hartlepool went into Saturday’s match having had a fortnight without a game and they looked much fresher. That said, there’s enough fuel left in the tank to maintain the play-off push.
What’s been your highlights of the season so far?
Simple question; supporters getting pride back in the club and the team. Since losing the play-off semi-final against Preston North End in 2015, both the club and the team have been going backwards at an alarming pace. The takeover by the Community Trust in August followed by Rowe’s appointment have seen upturns in fortunes o and off the park. The football has brought some great moments, but the bigger picture is the biggest win by far.
Who are your key players and why?
A few weeks ago, the answer would have been Asante and Hollis, but they’re both out until well into next season with an ACL and Achilles respectively. Gavin Gunning, a natural replacement for Hollis is unlikely to make the match with a hamstring problem, so the key men are in midfield. Right wingback George Carline has an incredible engine and a dangerous long-throw, Curtis Weston makes things tick in central midfield and keeper Grant Smith has shown enough to make you think he’s the best keeper we’ve had since Tommy Lee was forced to retire. We’re yet to see the best of high-profile signing Danny Rowe, who’s had three games to date.
TT PLAYER PROFILE – Curtis Weston
Date of Birth: 24th January 1987 – 34 years-old
Former Clubs: Millwall, Swindon Town, Leeds United, Scunthorpe United, Gillingham, Barnet
National League Stats 20-21: Played 34, Bookings 8
How has ex-Gull Fraser Kerr been doing at Chesterfield?
He had an incredible start, being on the park for over ten hours before witnessing a goal being conceded, playing on the right side of a back three. On Saturday, he scored his first goal, a towering header from a corner, though it was merely a consolation. With Hollis and Gunning’s injury issues, when he’s been asked to play in the middle of the three and take the powerhouse responsibility, he’s looked more vulnerable, as would any NL side without two such strong players. He’s comfortable with the ball when in possession and has been a good addition to the squad.
Who is the boss and what tactics does he like to use?
James Rowe was an unknown to Spireites fans when appointed. He’d been manager at Gloucester City and, this season, led them to eight wins and a draw in nine games. A young man of 37, he’s got a stunning CV with a UEFA A Licence, Masters’ Degree in Sports Science and he’s a graduate of the Johan Cruyff Institute in Amsterdam. He prefers a 3-5-2 formation but is quick to change if it’s not working on the day. His teams play out from the back but will happily go more direct as and when required. Whilst there were raised eyebrows on his appointment, he’s won everyone over and been responsible for the return of hope, which had been absent for campaign after campaign.
What would you say are the strengths and weaknesses of the team?
The strength is the team as a whole, with players knowing their jobs and working incredibly hard for each other. Current weaknesses are the absence of a powerhouse centre-back, which has meant there are vulnerabilities at the back, whilst in attack, Akwasi Asante’s absence has meant the cutting edge isn’t as sharp. The team hasn’t scored in the first half for eight games, and with the first goal always being vital, that’s a problem. That said, Danny Rowe, Kairo Mitchell and Nathan Tyson all know where the goal is, but what the best combination to use and how best to use Rowe remains a debate amongst supporters.
What should we expect from the stream?
In all honesty, I can’t really say as I’ve been lucky enough to attend all of the home games, so I’ve not seen it! That said, the quality of the camera work has been universally praised and the commentator always has a former player as a summariser to give a good insight into events. But I need to say that as cameraman Andy and commentator Steve are pals I’ve known for years!
Do you fancy your fancy your chances of a) getting to the play-offs and b) promotion?
I’ve every faith that the team will finish in the top seven. After the Gulls match, we have four games against teams who are in the bottom half, three at home, before a finish at FC Halifax Town. Before Saturday, I was confident that the team would then go on to make the step up, but Hartlepool, who had been the best team we’d played before this weekend (winning 2-1 at our place early in the season), showed their pedigree again. We’ve been well beaten by Stockport County three times this season, once in the FA Cup and whilst we won at Sutton United, they beat us at home recently, so there are some very good teams in there who’d be very difficult to beat.
Which opposition teams and players have impressed you most?
Hartlepool United have been the best and second-best team we’ve played this season, with Nicky Featherstone, who had a trial with us a few years ago, magnificent. Sutton have probably been the toughest team to play, but they don’t have any individuals I’d desperately want to sign. Connor Lemonheigh-Evans had one of the best individual displays I’ve seen this season in Torquay’s last gasp win against Spireites in October but if I could wish any player to join us, it would be Maidenhead United’s winger Daniel Sparkes, he beat us single-handedly at York Road in March.
It’s a big game for both teams, what’s your prediction for Bank Holiday Monday?
If you could ask me to name a NL team I’d want to play at home to get back on track, sadly it would be Torquay United! Excluding Gulls’ FA Cup win in 2011 (which I missed due to a holiday in Belgium along with a very noisy Torquay supporting mate) your record at our place reads: LLDLLDLLLLDLLLLLDLDLL. Bogey trip, so an end to Gulls’ eight match unbeaten run for sure! Close game, 1-0 I’d say but for my ex-Spireites pal Aaron Downes, I hope it’s your only defeat for the rest of the season!