Spireites v Boro 20th anniversary: Duncan modest in recollections of the FA Cup semi-final

Chesterfield v Bury
May 28th 1995.
John Duncan leads the Chesterfield side out onto the Wembley turt
Chesterfield v Bury May 28th 1995. John Duncan leads the Chesterfield side out onto the Wembley turt
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Two decades since he masterminded one of Chesterfield FC’s biggest results, John Duncan is still reminded of it on a regular basis by Town fans and he doesn’t mind one bit.

The Scot had two spells as Spireites boss and the second saw him lead them to an FA Cup semi-final against Premier League Middlesbrough.

Chesterfield drew an incredibly thrilling game at Old Trafford by a 3-3 scoreline, before defeat in the replay.

It’s still fresh in the minds of Chesterfield supporters and presumably one of the first topics of conversation when fans come across Duncan?

“Of course, all the time,” he said .

“It’s good to have it.

“The biggest thing of all – for the supporters it was obviously a great day for them – but the whole of the area was affected by it.

“Those that weren’t at the match were watching on TV.

“It was a quiet day in Chesterfield that day.”

The game stands out in the club’s results archive as the furthest they’ve ever progressed in the world famous competition.

It also stands out in Duncan’s career.

“More than any other as a manager at least and possibly it’s up there with any in my playing career as well,” he said.

But which of his memories of that glorious day on 13th April 1997 remain the most vivid?

The 68-year-old is modest in his recollection of the achievement.

“Pretty much the whole lot.

“The performance of the players in such a big game.

“To play against Boro, a Premier League team with real international world class players, for our guys to play as well as they did was a huge achievement.

“It kept us in the game.”

A lesser man might look back on the controversial incidents that contrived against Chesterfield in the semi-final with a real bitterness and regret.

They scored a good goal that was disallowed and Boro were awarded a penalty that Sean Dyche disputes to this day.

Former Dundee and Spurs centre-forward Duncan appears to be a stoic.

“All the squad, the last thing anyone did was dissent any of the officials’ decisions,” he said.

“We never had anyone sent off or booked for dissent.

“It was really only afterwards when we had a chance to look and that didn’t happen for quite a while afterwards.

“Everyone was telling us it was over the line but it took us a while to analyse the incidents.

“It’s disappointing it turned out against us but at that moment we just got on with it.

“It was done and there’s nothing you can do about it, that’s football, once it’s done it’s done.”

The FA Cup run might be the most celebrated of Duncan’s achievements as Town boss, but it wasn’t the only one.

He led them to a Division Four title and a play-off promotion into Division Two.

Chesterfield as a club and this area of the world, in which he still resides, remain close to his heart.

However the team who went toe-to-toe with a Premier League side and stayed standing have carved out a special place.

“From coming back the second time in 1993 we got to the play-off final and won that, we had good years in the next division and got to the FA Cup semi-final.

“The team was so together, so trusting of one another, they could trust each other completely.

“To go and get the success we got, it does stay with you.”