Chesterfield and Derby fans will celebrate a playing career that was underpinned by a second chance.
On 26th July Shane Nicholson will be granted a testimonial game at the Proact, with the Spireites taking on the Rams.
The 46-year-old played 74 games for Derby County and made almost 100 appearances for Chesterfield.
His time at Chesterfield came in two stints, and it was the Spireites who handed him a footballing lifeline after he was banned for life.
Nicholson, a West Brom player, failed a drugs test and convinced a friend to tell the FA he had spiked the left-back’s drink.
But when drugs testers came for him again three months later, he absconded and sought help for his alcohol and drug addictions.
Although the Newark man was handed a lifetime ban from the sport and sacked by his club, he got clean at Marchwood Priory clinic in Hampshire.
And the Spireites brought his career back to life in 1998 with a one-year contract, coinciding with the lifting of his ban.
“I had two spells with Chesterfield,” he said.
“The first was when I came out of the clinic, I got a second chance and an opportunity to get back into football.
“It should have been one of the best years of my career, but it was the worst.
“I came from the Championship and West Brom, dropping down to Saltergate.
“The second spell was different, I knew I was coming to the end of my career and I loved it, I loved the fans there and the club.”
In between his stints as a Spireite Nicholson played for Stockport County, Sheffield United and Tranmere.
When he returned to Saltergate in 2004 he captained the club and after three seasons as a player, joined the backroom staff as rehabilitation and fitness coach.
That role lasted until the summer of 2015 when, in Nicholson’s words, he was sacked as Dean Saunders began his short lived tenure as manager.
“Being club captain was a nice honour at Chesterfield,” he said.
“It was such a family club, the fans and everyone – I think out of all the clubs I played for they took to me the most.
“I worked as a fitness coach there until the start of last season when Dean Saunders came in, but I never actually retired from the game, I was retired by agreeing to go into coaching.”
Nicholson admits his career didn’t bring him much in the way of silverware, but he still derives a lot of satisfaction from looking back.
“I didn’t win a great deal but I played for 21 years and that’s a big success for me,” he said.
“Lasting until I was 38, being the first and I think only player to be banned indefinitely and then reinstated and completing a 21-year career, that’s a high point.
“The average career is between eight and 11 years, so the longevity is a pat on the back for me. I’m very proud of that.”
Since departing the Proact Nicholson has had the opportunity to play a part in helping others avoid the mistakes he made, telling his story and explaining what has kept him on an even keel.
“God, my family, close friends,” he said.
“The clinic helped me immensely, dealing with my problems, but coming out you still have your demons and I was fortunate to come into contact with two people who are still my best friends now.
“Coming to the end of a footballing career is scary, you never think it will happen, you think you’re Peter Pan.
“I’ve been very fortunate to work alongside Sporting Chance Clinic, a Tony Adams clinic. I’ve been going round clubs, sharing my story and my experiences to today’s pros - I get an awful lot out of it.”
And he hasn’t closed the door on a return to the Spireites one day.
“I never say never to anything,” he said.
“But I really do enjoy being with the youth. I’m trying to get out to schools now and speak to kids about the pitfalls of drugs and alcohol.”
Nicholson’s testimonial will give him the chance to return to the Proact to see friends and former colleagues, and after the first teams have played for 45 minutes, he and a team of legends will face off against Derby.
“It will be great to see everyone at the testimonial, the staff and the fans,” he said.
“I’m 46 now, I can understand why players don’t want to play at our age.
“But it will be the first teams for the first 45 minutes and then they’ll wheel us out for the second half.
“Hopefully we’ll have a good crowd, I think it will be one of the first times people will see Nigel Pearson’s Derby side.”
Admission will be £10 for adults and £5 for concessions.
The match will benefit Sheenam’s Wish, a charity set up to help sufferers of the very rare Junior Huntingdon’s Disease.
It was set up by the family of Sheenam Oberoi, a Rams fan Nicholson has known for a long time, and who suffers from the condition.
More information can be found at http://www.sheenamswish.co.uk/