Column: Behind cliches lies truth '“ Spireites fans have part to play

Your club needs you, be the 12th man, roar them to victory, help them over the line, back the boys, pack the Proact.

Wednesday, 27th April 2016, 8:57 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th April 2016, 10:18 am
Barnsley vs Chesterfield - Chesterfield fans at Oakwell - Pic By James Williamson

Headline writers love a cliche, and there have been a few thrown around already this week.

But behind the rhetoric lies an important truth.

In recent years the general sporting public has been introduced to the phrase marginal gains, ordinarily associated with success stories.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Barnsley vs Chesterfield - Chesterfield fans at Oakwell - Pic By James Williamson

And this Saturday at the Proact, thousands of Chesterfield supporters might actually get to play a part in that very concept.

When Danny Wilson talks about the impact of encouragement from the stands, he’s not trying to sell match tickets to improve club finances.

If you were a Chesterfield supporter and you thought there was even a small chance you could boost your team’s performance by one per cent, by clapping, or biting your lip when a mistake is made, you’d do it, wouldn’t you? If only for 90 minutes.

It’s not very fashionable to be positive, even in the face of negative results, when you’re a football fan.

Barnsley vs Chesterfield - Chesterfield fans at Oakwell - Pic By James Williamson

We prefer cynicism, witty barbs, social media jokes and of course realism.

It’s a longstanding British tradition to employ our grim sense of humour when things are going wrong.

If you didn’t laugh you’d cry.

But as much as realism takes into account the fact that results haven’t been good enough this season, it should also take into account how important it is that nothing exacerbates the nerves of the Chesterfield players when they take on Bury.

It’s a season in a game.

Win, and the Spireites play in League One next term.

Lose, and there might still be a threat of relegation hanging over them – and as Sam Hird said last weekend, no one wants to play in League Two.

You won’t find a right thinking Chesterfield fan who would prefer to watch their club in League Two, or a sponsor who wants less exposure for their branding, or a club staff member who wants a question mark placed over their job.

Even we, the press, if we’re really honest, would much rather write and commentate on a club in League One than one in League Two.

So even if it’s just for an hour and a half on Saturday afternoon, even if the backdrop of the 2015/16 season is bleak, singing from the same hymn sheet might be the only option.

The club have listened to supporters and dropped ticket prices – it’s an admirable move and one that should put many more bums on seats.

Getting casual fans into the Proact to swell the attendance is only half the battle however.

A bigger crowd could actually make things worse for a side with an undeniably poor home record, and first half anxiety.

In what is a worst case scenario, imagine for a second that Bury find the net early on.

In that instance, not only will Chesterfield’s players have to overcome a deficit, and their own demons, but going on recent evidence, they’ll be up against a hostile environment.

So every bit as important as packing the Proact, is positively reinforcing the players.

The club are up against it, especially if Lee Novak can’t get fit in time, with Charlie Raglan suspended and no fit right-back available.

You think of Connor Dimaio and Rai Simons, just 20 years old. Gboly Ariyibi, just 21, Ollie Banks at 23 – they will never have experienced pressure like this in their short careers.

When they’re out on the pitch on Saturday, they’ll be surrounded by noise, listening to their inner monologue, their team-mates, the coaching staff, match officials and the noise from the stand.

Not even the most self assured veteran could have blocked out the discontent voiced during recent games.

As I wrote last week, you can’t tell any paying supporter not to boo, or force people to applaud.

I loathe the term ‘boo boys’ because it suggests fans are in the wrong, when they have every right to voice their feelings as a customer, as someone who will wear the badge far longer than any player or manager.

There are legitimate reasons for the angst felt lately, Wilson himself even welcomed the boos against Port Vale, several players have publicly acknowledged results haven’t been good enough.

If all of that fades into the background come 3pm, and a stay of execution granted by anyone feeling the need to boo or chastise, it will make the Proact a far easier place to play.

Recognising the significance of the game and responding to the players accordingly does not a happy clappy make.

You don’t have to check your brain at the turnstile and pretend everything is rosy.

But there are plenty of reasons to cheer.

Sam Hird’s warrior-like performances, Tommy Lee’s years of service, Dimaio’s love for his hometown club, Ariyibi’s youthful confidence, your own association with the badge, the family members who introduced you to it.

Come 4.45pm there could be an outpouring of anger, or a collective sigh of relief.

But for the period of play that precedes the full-time whistle, a united front is required.