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COLUMN: Dear Dave Allen, where did it all go wrong?

Owner Dave Allen with directors Ashley Carson, Mike Warner and John Croot
Owner Dave Allen with directors Ashley Carson, Mike Warner and John Croot
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Dear Dave Allen, how has it ever come to this for Chesterfield Football Club?

When you arrived on the scene as Chesterfield’s ‘£6m Samaritan’ in April 2009 you said: “The aim is to get into the Championship debt free. I will be delighted if we do that and that’s what the plan is.”

In March 2010 you promised: “We shall run the business properly. We aren’t going to be having fortunes of debt, that’s not going to happen.”

Here we are in April 2018 and the Spireites sit rock bottom of the entire Football League.

In just a couple of days, this club could book its place in non-league.

According to the latest accounts the club’s debt stands at around £10m.

Despite truly impressive amounts of money brought in from player transfers, the financial performance of the club has been poor.

It took £2m of player sales to generate a £40k profit in the 2016 accounts.

Chesterfield’s reputation has taken a battering due to the likes of ‘Rafflegate.’

The FA and EFL are investigating the club for paying players through a scandal-hit academy, whose liquidator may yet pursue a claim against Chesterfield FC.

A 150-year anniversary came and went with next to no fanfare or celebration.

Crowds are down and supporter apathy is up.

Even the presence in the dugout of club legend Jack Lester couldn’t inspire the team to ever rise higher than 21st since his arrival at the end of September.

It’s all such a far cry from the ‘good times’ – as recent as the 2014/15 season when Paul Cook guided the club to the cusp of the Championship.

Since then three managers have all come and gone, 2017 saw a relegation along with the departure of a CEO/director of football, two managers, three assistant managers, a first team coach, a physio, two fitness coaches and a director of recruitment and development.

The club has been put up for sale at a range of prices before being taken off the market and then put back on it.

A sale was agreed to one consortium and then it fell apart.

Another group agreed a deal but it’s all gone deathly quiet on that front.

It’s perfectly understandable that fans are already mourning the almost inevitable loss of the club’s Football League status.

They fear even worse could follow, due to the likely drop in revenue next season.

Naturally, they have a laundry list of questions.

If a debt-free Championship club is no longer the plan, what do you want to see happen at the Proact Stadium?

Will Lester be given the necessary financial backing this summer to overhaul his squad and give the club a fighting chance of bouncing back at the first attempt?

Is Lester the right man to lead this club next season?

Are you determined to put right all that has gone wrong during your era as owner?

Who do you hold responsible?

Do you have any regrets?

Are you willing to sell to a new owner, even if the club drops into non-league and the price presumably drops with it?

By the time this column goes to print in the Derbyshire Times we may well have some answers to these questions through your right-hand man Ashley Carson.

But Chesterfield supporters would like to hear from you, the white knight who rode into town and saved this grand old football club nine years ago this month.

As your club’s local newspaper the Derbyshire Times remains committed to giving Chesterfield FC – even as a non-league club – the best possible coverage, celebrating every triumph and championing the Spireite cause to our readers.

So as we approach the end of another bitterly disappointing season, we invite you to use our pages to express your thoughts as club owner on how and why things have got so bad and what will happen next.

Your legacy will be a fine stadium and facilities that put many other Football League clubs to shame, along with those trips to Wembley and promotions, the glory days under Paul Cook and the fabulous team he was able to assemble.

Your legacy could also include three years of footballing failure on the pitch, a humiliating exit from League Two through the trap door, an end to 97 years as a member of the Football League and heartbreak for thousands and thousands of Spireites.

Where did it all go wrong?