SPIREITES: League Two mediocrity to the cusp of the Championship - a look back at Paul Cook’s time at Chesterfield

Preston North End vs Chesterfield - Paul Cook - Pic By James Williamson
Preston North End vs Chesterfield - Paul Cook - Pic By James Williamson
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It had been fuelling rumour mills for weeks, but official confirmation of Paul Cook and Leam Richardson’s departures was announced this morning.

Cook was released from his contract to join Portsmouth whereas Richardson has left his position as assistant manager and is expected to join him at Fratton Park.

The two have overseen a rapid rise from securing the League Two title in their first full season quickly followed by a sixth-placed finish in League One this campaign.

Here’s how the story began...

Following relegation from League One and the departure of John Sheridan, Chesterfield were languishing mid-table in League Two in October 2012.

A disappointing defeat at home to Fleetwood Town proved the last straw for chariman Dave Allen and chief executive Chris Turner, who decided a fresh approach was needed and moved to appoint Cook as manager.

Cook had impressed when he brought Accrington Stanley to the Proact a month earlier and, despite walking away empty-handed in a 4-3 loss, it was a performance that would remain in the thoughts of many at the club.

The former Southport manager had success at Irish Premier Division side Sligo Rovers where he secured European football and led them to success in both the Irish League and Cup in 2009 and the FAI Cup in ‘09 and ‘10.

He took charge of the Spireites on October 25 and was in the dugout for the visit of Barnet two days later. It didn’t spark a change in fortunes, however, as Chesterfield went down by a single goal in the 90th minute.

Both Sam Hird and Tendayi Darikwa were involved on that day and things would get better for Cook in the first round of the FA Cup on November 3 against League One opposition in Hartlepool United, that featured Ritchie Humphreys.

Chesterfield ran out 6-1 winners on the day in a memorable match that was the first of several memorable matches at the Proact under Cook. Six wins from their last ten saw the Spireites narrowly miss out on a play-off spot.

They would go one better the following season, in Cook’s first full season in charge, after a summer of re-building that included the arrival of Leam Richardson as his assistant from old club Accrington.

Eoin Doyle, Jimmy Ryan, Gary Roberts, Ian Evatt and Sam Morsy were all added to a new-look squad that already boasted the likes of Darikwa, Hird, Tommy Lee, Liam Cooper, Jay O’Shea and Marc Richards among others.

A swift start to the season saw Chesterfield set the pace and minus a blip around October, which was sparked by defeat at home to rivals Mansfield Town and 45 minutes to forget at Morecambe, they marched to promotion.

They would get their own back on Stags in the JP Trophy and would progress all the way, past higher opposition in Oldham Athletic, to face Peterborough United in the final at Wembley for another crack at silverware.

And four wins from the last five in the league confirmed promotion and the League Two title on a memorable last day comeback against Fleetwood Town - Roberts and Hird with the goals to seal an unforgettable season.

Few additions in the close season had supporters fearing the worst but Doyle took centre stage as the Spireites more than held their own in the third tier of English football. He would depart as would Cooper.

Mid-season form saw the Spireites remain in the pack for the play-offs and a stunning end of season results, which saw seven wins from ten, separated Cook’s side from the rest to secure sixth place in League One.

Speculation surrounding his future surfaced in April and the flames were fanned when Portsmouth had an official request to speak to him turned down. But, after play-off defeats to Preston, the pathway was cleared for his exit.

That was confirmed today (Tuesday, May 12) along with assistant Leam Richardson. Cook’s record at the Proact reads 145 games, 65 wins, 36 draws and 44 losses.