COLUMN: Moments and men that proved Lester wasn't being a blind optimist
Sid Nelson is proving Jack Lester was right when he called an injury crisis an opportunity for heroes to emerge.
In the context of the club’s desperate relegation battle, a poor run of form and the absence of hugely influential, experienced players, it sounded a little like blind optimism – at best.
At worst, there was a hint of clutching at straws.
But as Nelson stomped towards the Kop after 97 minutes of football on Saturday, leading wild victory celebrations as if he’d just scored the winner, the manager’s words rang true.
The 22-year-old centre-half, in just seven games, has carved out a place for himself in most Spireites’ hearts.
He’s a bit of a cult hero, because he wears his heart on his sleeve.
Thumping the badge, flexing biceps and whipping up the supporters at full-time isn’t enough, however.
You’ve got to be able to play your way into the affections of the fans.
Nelson, with his no nonsense defensive style and willingness to ‘kick it and head it’ all afternoon, has done well since his arrival.
The injuries to Ian Evatt and Sam Hird, coupled with the club’s failure to land January target Richard Wood, left them bereft of real experience in the heart of the Town back four.
Nelson’s performances and his apparently natural leadership qualities have gone a surprisingly long way towards plugging the gap.
When the team formed a huddle seconds before kick-off on Saturday, Nelson was animated, presumably expressing words of motivation to his peers – some of which are vastly more experienced.
The Millwall lad has plenty to say for himself, he’s what you’d call a character and if Robbie Weir’s injury is a serious one, Nelson’s name could well crop up in the next captain conversation.
You don’t have to be an extrovert to become a hero.
Chris O’Grady has borne the brunt of not only battling gargantuan centre-halves, but supporter criticism over unfulfilled expectations this season.
He appears, from a distance, to be a man of fewer words than most and whilst he’s as intimidating a presence physically as any Spireite, he’s softly spoken.
None of that will matter if he knocks another few goals in off his ‘massive frame,’ to borrow Louis Dodds’ wonderful turn of phrase, and plays a key part in the great escape like he did in the weekend win.
Andy Kellett, with his slight, almost willowy build, is another you can’t imagine bellowing his opinion for all to hear, and yet he too was a hero on Saturday.
Setting up O’Grady’s goal with a wicked cross and scoring a beautiful one of his own, Kellett’s contribution was a match winning one.
Taking responsibility for finishing off that counter attack and backing himself to beat a defender and find the net were acts of leadership.
He embarked on a grand total of 16 one versus one dribbles against the Robins and on 10 occasions he came out on top with the ball.
His performance should inspire his team-mates.
Drew Talbot, already a legend in the making in the eyes of fans, did his reputation no harm by returning to the side and strolling to a Man of the Match display.
His decision making, desire to win tackles and headers and all round solid display marked him out as a leader.
Everyone involved in Chesterfield’s squad should look at Nelson, O’Grady, Kellett and Talbot after Saturday and realise they each have an opportunity to become a hero at this football club.
If Lester is to guide Town to safety, it will be talked about for decades to come.
Being remembered as the man who scored the goal that shut the trap door, or the player who made the last gasp tackle to keep Chesterfield in League Two, should be something they crave.
Anything from which they can gleam motivation or inspiration, to send them at full speed into that challenge or block, should be utilised.
And for the visual learners among them, watching the wondergoal their boss scored in his hat-trick against Stockport on New Year’s Day 2011 might help.
It’s not so much the skill he showed to beat defenders, but the final burst of energy as he did everything physically possible to get to the ball before the keeper.
That heroic moment, doing whatever it takes, sums up everything this club needs right now.