Chesterfield’s new manager Dean Saunders has said he is not daunted by the challenge of following on from Paul Cook.
Saunders was officially unveiled as the Spireites’ new manager today (Wednesday) following a whirlwind week which has seen defeat in the play-off semi-finals to Preston and the departure of Cook to Portsmouth.
The new man at the helm has signed a two-year deal at the Proact Stadium but is eager to get to work on a project that he sees very differently to the ones he took on at Wrexham, Doncaster, Wolves and Crawley.
The 50-year-old is no stranger to taking risks and has experienced relegation three times in his managerial career, most recently with Crawley, but doesn’t believe he should be judged purely on that statistic.
Saunders took over the reins at Crawley until the end of the season after John Gregory’s decision to step down as manager due to health reasons at the end of December, with the club camped in the relegation zone.
He guided them out of the bottom four at the start of April with a win over Oldham Athletic but four defeats from the last five eventually saw Crawley relegated to League Two on 50 points - two shy of survival.
And, despite relegation to the fourth tier, Crawley were keen to keep hold of him but Saunders opted for a move to Chesterfield and is understood to have already identified areas he wishes to work on next season.
“I’ve walked in to a few crisis situations,” he said. “I didn’t have to but I did. I walked in to Wrexham - 15th in the Conference and I was with Wales at the time - I knew if I didn’t get that right, I couldn’t coach nationally.
“I fought for two-and-a-half years with no money and eventually I left them top of the league. We went on to Doncaster - hadn’t won for six months - and my job was to try and rectify something from the mess they were in and if not bring them back up.
“I didn’t put them in the mess, I was trying to get them out of it. Some might put a relegation on my CV at Crawley but I didn’t put them in that mess, I was trying to get them out of it. I don’t look at it like that, I put myself in to a relegation battle.
“I hold myself a little accountable because I have pride. I walked in to Wolves and was there for three-and-a-half months and I didn’t spend a penny. To this day I’ve not spent one pence on a player. I’ve been a manager for six years so my ambition is to sign a transfer fee for a player.
“If you walk in to a club, sign a load of players and keep losing and you get sacked, you hold your hands up and say I deserved it, not you have three-and-a-half months and you haven’t signed anyone. I’ve been sacked once in my career.
“I’ve always taken risks. I could have stayed and played golf but I took the Crawley job. I put my neck on the line and you’re either like that or you’re not. This job doesn’t daunt on me at all.”
Saunders, who played for Liverpool, Aston Villa, Galatasaray and was capped 75 times by Wales, has coached at Blackburn and Newcastle and spent three years as Wales’ assistant manager under John Toshack.
And is excited by the chance to manage Chesterfield.
“It is a great opportunity as this is a club on the rise, run by good people, and I am inheriting a very good team from Paul Cook,” he said. “Taking over now gives me a full pre-season to make a fresh start, put my plans in place and work with the squad, which is a great position to be in.
“The profile of the club has been raised in the last few years and there has been an impressive increase in attendances so it is an exciting prospect and I can’t wait to get started.”