Spireites’ soccer star Chris Herd has come a long way in football.
More than 14,500 kilometres - or just over 9,000 miles - from the junior football fields in Perth, Australia, to the bright lights of the Premier League with Aston Villa and now as an integral figure with Chesterfield in League One.
The names and places may have changed a lot over the last ten years or so but his passion for the beautiful game has remained as strong as ever, from when he was first introduced to the sport by his Scottish father, and former player, Willie.
Herd senior played and coached for their local side in Western Australia, Bayswater City, towards the end of his career and his love of the game was passed on to his wide-eyed son, eager to follow in his dad’s footsteps and play professional football.
“I loved it straight away,” said Chris. “All my family is passionate about the game and it came from my dad. He played for Scotland and my love for the game all stemmed from him. Bayswater was a good club over there that developed young players.”
His interest in football coincided with the boom of the English Premier League in the mid-90s. Many games were televised around the world and the Herd family watched from afar. Chris followed Manchester United, under the guile of Sir Alex Ferguson.
The Class of ‘92 - David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Neville brothers Gary and Phil - were prominent players for Ferguson’s side and Herd recalls staying up to 3am to watch them lift the Champions League in extraordinary fashion in 1999.
He knows what it’s like to watch the English game from the other side of the world much like Alex Douglas - a Chesterfield fan living in Australia who has won a flight over from his home in Brisbane to watch the Spireites play, thanks to the Football League’s Stand Up and Be Counted Campaign.
“It was hard to watch all the games with the time difference but we saw most of the replays on television,” he said. “I remember staying up to watch the Champions League final with my dad and taking it all in. It was a great game and I remember it well.”
His ability playing the game saw him picked up by Aston Villa’s academy at the age of 15 and, following loan spells at Port Vale, Wycombe Wanderers and Lincoln City, he would go on to make his Premier League debut for Villa against Manchester United.
“I played a lot of junior football like so many kids,” he said. “It’s a sport that has grown a lot over the past ten years and I’m sure it will continue to do so. There were loads of scouts over there watching games and I was one of those lucky enough to be spotted.
“You have got to take your chances in football and I was fortunate to take mine.
“When I came over to England to play it was a totally different world. It’s so professional and to make it through the academy structure you have got to work hard. It’s a privilege to play the game and earn a living out of it. So much goes on at clubs that not everyone sees.
“You’re heavily involved from day to day. The academy at Aston Villa developed me as a player and a person. It gave us the foundations and attributes to make a career out of the game. It didn’t come easy but I’m thankful for that experience.”
Herd became a familiar face in the Villa line-up from 2010 and further appearances in the Premier League, FA Cup and League Cups saw him selected to represent Australia. Following his release from Villa and time at Wigan cut short through injury, Herd is back doing what he loves the most.
“I feel great,” he added. “I’m enjoying my football and I’m in a great place.”