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FEATURE: 10 years on - Last Game at Saltergate


Saturday 8th May 2010 is a day that will forever with all Chesterfield FC fans as Saltergate officially closed its doors after 139 years.


Goals from Jack Lester and Derek Niven secured a dramatic 2-1 win over promoted side AFC Bournemouth.


Derbyshire Media Company's Holly Bacon and Joshua Smith and Chesterfield FC's Howard Borrell and Phil Tooley share their experiences from that amazing day.

 

Holly Bacon



Being seven years old at the time we left Saltergate, my recollections of the day aren’t as clear as i’d like them to be, but there are memories of that day that will stick with me for a very long time.


Saturday 8th May 2010 started off like it did every other home game for me and my dad. We got the 170 bus from Bakewell into Chesterfield to meet up with friends a few hours before kick-off.


You could certainly feel the party atmosphere around the town from the get go, which showed just how important Saltergate and the football club was to the town. Before kick-off we went to the Saltergate Club and watched the march from the town centre up to the ground arrive, before walking up the steps of the Kop for the final time. Whilst we soaked up the pre-match atmosphere someone gave me one of the huge inflatable VK bottles which I ended up taking home as a souvenir.


The game itself, I don’t recall too much about but I remember the goals, especially Derek Niven’s 96th minute winner, certainly a fairytale ending to our time at Saltergate. Not long after I remember the tannoy announcement reminding supporters not to go on the pitch at full time, but everyone in the ground knew it was inevitable as we all poured onto the pitch after the final whistle.


I remember being stood facing the Bournemouth fans who were housed in the corner of the main stand as we applauded each other, before we exited the ground at the Cross Street end, taking our last look at what had been our second home for some time.

 

Joshua Smith


I would have been 16 at the time and I had been a season ticket holder in the Kop with my dad for most of my childhood. I absolutely adored the place. I fell in love with football at Saltergate.

The game actually landed on my mum's birthday, May 8th, and I remember my dad winding me up saying that we we wouldn't be able to go. And I remember telling him where to go, in polite terms. Nearer the time, my dad had an accident at work and he snapped his cruciate ligaments in his knee and his whole leg was in a pot. He was determined to go to the game but he was so immobile that it was in doubt for a while.


Thankfully when the time came, he managed to muster up the strength an get to the ground. I was excited for the game like I always was but equally emotional, knowing it was the last ever time but also wanting to make the most of it. Get lots of pictures, memories and do everything for the last time as you do.


I had my shirt on, the one with the faded image of Saltergate, got my scarf on and the first time that day that I cried was when we coming over the top of Boythorpe. You could see Saltergate coming into view and it synchronised with John Duncan talking about his memories at Saltergate,. That got to me and my dad as well I could see.


We parked in the same place we always parked, made the same walk into Saltergate to the front of the Kop and one of my childhood memories which happened on that day was the legend that is Jeff Hall. He used to sit on the corner on the old stone wall and me and my dad had a running joke that every time we walked past him, he'd shout, 'Programmes' at the top of his voice. More often than not we would buy a programme. We went in through the same turnstile into the Kop. We always used to go up the steps to the back of the stand and down the stairwell to near the front behind the right goalpost. We went up the steps on last time, albeit a little bit slower than usual. Yet somehow my dad practically sprinted up the last few steps on his crutches.


The game was almost insignificant. I spent most of it looking round the whole stadium, taking it all in and taking pictures, almost not bothered by what was happening on the pitch. I wanted Saltergate to end on a high and as the clock drew on I remember being in line with Derek Niven as he struck it. I thought he is that sort of player, he makes history with his goals just like the Man City volley. As it left his boot, I remember it looked on target but someone in front of me jumped up so I didn't see it cross the line. I saw everyone erupt and knew it had gone in.


All chaos rained down on Saltergate. Everyone was out of their seat, out of the terraces and onto the pitch. It was a great moment. The final whistle went shortly after that. I went onto the pitch for the last time and I remember listening to John Sheridan doing his live interview over the tannoy, the players stood around listening. That lovely moment. For the last time the whole crowd from Saltergate together on the pitch singing and chanting. It was just a great moment but at the same time equally sad.


My mum wanted pictures of me but I could not muster up a smile. I was welling up sat in the dugout looking at a view I had not seen very often. I was just looking and taking it in. My mum kept shouting at me to smile for some pictures and I just couldn't do it. To this day there isn't a decent picture of me from the last game at Saltergate that I can proudly look at because I just look an absolute state.

 

Howard Borrell


From the morning production at the Pomegranate Theatre that set the scene nicely with lots of great memories to the injury time winner that finished the day off perfectly as if it had all gone to script.


The game was, for the most part, a flat affair. Drew Talbot's headed own goal had given already promoted Bournemouth the lead and they had looked comfortable until Jack Lester's sweetly struck shot in the 80th minute brought us level. As the game drifted into injury time a draw looked inevitable; however Derek Niven had other ideas as his 96th minute low shot from just outside the area sneaked just inside the post and sparked off some wonderful celebrations.


Almost the entire crowd came on to the pitch, they took some clearing for the game to play out one more minute only for them to pour on to the pitch again at the final whistle - this time and stay.


I remember I'd saved the song "Perfect Day" by Lou Reed for just such an ending and it got an immediate airing before playing Simply The Best (that I'd played in every Cup tie up to our run up the quarter final in 96/97).


Heaven knows how long it took to clear the pitch as the players were swamped and most lost the majority of their playing kit.


Eventually an impromptu Q&A too place in the directors box as I interviewed first a very emotional Chairman Barrie Hubbard and then the two scorers. I'm not sure if many actually heard what was being said because the incessant noise from the crowd on the pitch dominated.


I stayed until the crowds had departed and eventually walked on to the pitch to the centre circle and just took in the full 360 degree view....................the place where all of us came every fortnight to escape and dream; on that day the ending was as Lou Reed sang......just perfect.


Next followed a few drinks and more reminiscing. Friends from Belgium had visited for the game so what could be more English than to finish with a curry enjoyed with good friends and non-stop footballing recollections...

 

Phil Tooley


For me it was a culmination of quite a few weeks of activities before that. Writing things in the local press, I did recollection articles in many different publications and also helped to put together and present elements of the official club video for the history of Saltergate. It gave me great pleasure to work with Pete Whitley and lots of old players, particularly Ernie Moss who I spoke to at length. Fantastic memories from Ernie about his spells with the football club. People like Des Collins who played during the Second World War recalling great stories.


John Croot, who is now the Chief Executive of the Community Trust, and myself had an idea that we wanted not to just have the match on the day. So, we decided to put together a period of reminiscing that was held at the Pomegranate Theater. A full house came to listen to old players, managers and supporters talking about their experience at the ground. A really emotional time it was.


Everybody left the Pomegranate Theater and in excess of 1,000 people marched from the tourist information office next door to the Crooked Spire, through the town centre to great applause and community spirit and walked right up to Saltergate.


For the match itself, for me the best thing was the winning goal by Derek Niven, six minutes into stoppage time. What made it particularly special was it was from a throw-in by Mark Allot, which was flicked on by Ian Breckin and scored by Niven. They were the three players n that starting 11 that had all appeared in 250 games for Chesterfield. The three longest serving players combining to score the last goal. Jack Lester, the crowd hero, had equalised with ten minutes to go. Come the final whistle, after the friendly pitch invasion, I spoke to Jack in directors box afterwards and he was a little disappointed that Chesterfield had won the game and his goal wasn't the last goal.


For me it was about that period of time at the Pomegranate and the march through the town centre that showed how important the football club and the ground was to the community as a whole. Everyone knew it was Chesterfield's last game. Nobody needed explaining why we were there marching through the town. Everyone was decked in blue and white and that iconic final season shirt with that shadow print of Saltergate across it.


I started going to Saltergate on a regular basis in the early 70's. I always wanted to be first there; I was queuing outside the turnstiles and waiting for them to open. At various times I stood in the old enclosure, sat in the stands and stood on the Compton Street. I was never really a great Kop watcher. I preferred to watch my football from down the sides rather than the end. I did stand in the Kop on a few occasions, most notably during 73/74 when there was the winter of discontent. The three day week, electricity usage was limited and floodlit games couldn't be played.


I was given to the responsibility and honor to interview people for the official club video and contributing to the club programme for that last match and also the first match for the B2net Stadium. They are the sort of things that will live with me forever. Hopefully the results show my love for the club that has been so close for such a long, long time. I really enjoyed the move to the new stadium on Whittington Moor. Saltergate was crumbling but it was home, it was loved and it was a very, very special place.

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