Column: Chesterfield accounts show how costly football fire fighting can be, but there’s a gift John Sheridan can give this club
Perhaps the greatest gift John Sheridan could give Chesterfield in the next three months is the ability to think long term.
The Spireites’ accounts are available for the world to see, in greater detail than many other clubs are willing to divulge, and prove the perils of fire fighting in football.
Financial losses, like the £20k per week Chesterfield saw slip through their fingers last year, might not have been nearly as bad had they not got caught in a downward spiral of poor managerial appointments, dreadful player recruitment, awful results and dwindling revenue from falling attendances.
Spending big on wages to try and get out of League Two backfired, because the money wasn’t spent wisely.
When summer recruitment goes so badly wrong, as it did under then-manager Gary Caldwell and head of recruitment Guy Branston, you find yourself having to spend more in January to try and rectify those wrongs.
There’s the now annual and sometimes bi-annual pay outs for departed managers.
There are also pay-outs for unsuccessful signings who were handed bloated two-year contracts, then culled.
Each new manager wants his own players, he needs to address the lack of balance he sees in the squad – at Chesterfield of late it’s been a lack of wingers – and if he’s trying to strengthen in January, chances are he’ll be forced to spend over the odds for whatever he can get.
Fortunately for Chesterfield, in Dave Allen they have an owner with very deep pockets and he puts his hand into them time and time again to try and fix the mess – essentially throwing good money after bad.
Only a few complained about the arrival of Gary Caldwell, a few more saw the risk in the appointment of Jack Lester but there was hardly any discontent when Martin Allen came in.
Fans and pundits alike expected him to build the kind of team that had earned his lower league reputation.
Yet here Chesterfield FC is again, in January, in the drop zone, with a new manager.
It will cost yet more money – on top of a budget that has already been exceeded – to get Sheridan what he wants in order to avoid relegation.
It’s not easy, as the Scott Boden saga shows – other clubs won’t willingly part with their better players, so the next financial report might not look so rosy either.
Last year’s accounts also highlight the tighter financial control exercised over the academy.
They spent a little over £200k on a Centre of Excellence that has still produced players who certainly haven’t disgraced themselves in the National League so far.
Therein lies an opportunity.
The financial picture might be more attractive if, instead of paying out for January journeymen to try and save a season, they were in a league position that allowed the easing of young talent into the senior set-up.
All it requires is what John Pemberton and Mark Smith before him have called for – a defined pathway from youth team to first team.
And a season without a relegation scrap.
It could lower the wage bill, increase transfer revenue, save Allen and the club money and delight fans who love to see homegrown talent.
Long term thinking has been a luxury for too long.
If Sheridan can prevent another drop in divisions, he’ll give the club, for the second summer running, a chance to build a brighter, more sustainable future.