After 10 years for me, 33 years for my Dad and 139 years in total, the final countdown on Chesterfield’s home of Saltergate finally reached zero. Chesterfield’s game against Bournemouth was the last game ever to be played at Saltergate, before the side move to the B2net stadium next season.We took plenty of photos on this brilliant, yet sad day.
The day began at the Pomegranate Theatre in Chesterfield, where an event was taking place to look back at the history of Saltergate. Before heading to the theatre we popped up to Saltergate to buy the special programme for the game. It was wonderful programme, well worth the £6 price tag, full of stories, pictures and history
Old Chesterfield legends like Ernie Moss, Kevin Randell, Sean O’Neill and manager John Duncan were there talking about their memories. Also telling the fans their stories and memories were Albert Collins of the 1945 War Cup semi final side, Keith Havenhand, Bob Newton and from more recent times Gareth Davies and Aaron Downes.
The entire show was brilliant. Old videos and pictures from as early as the 1900’s were shown, clips from the 1995/6 FA Cup final run and videos of classic matches along with memories of the players and fans.
After this show we called in The Barley Mow pub on Saltergate and met Bournemouth fan Vinny Goodfield, who wrote an article for the programme today.We also called into another pub and caught up with Tim Rigby, from the brilliant groundhopping website ‘tims92’ , Duncan Adams from footballgroundguide.com and Owen Pavey who often takes photographs for the football ground magazine “Groundtastic”.All of these football ground lovers had made the effort to get to saltergate today.
With a sell out at Saltergate today, including season ticket holders, Bournemouth fans, groundhoppers and people who had just come for the occasion, the ground was a lot busier outside the ground than usual. We wandered around taking photos of the crowds building and taking in the atmosphere. It’s hard to believe that was the last time I will ever stand outside Saltergate on a matchday.
I then entered the ground through the turnstiles for the final time, went up the ramp I have gone up almost every week for the past few years, walked along Compton Street and sat in my seat, ironically numbered ‘147’ ,for the final time.
The ground was buzzing, even though ,barring a miracle, it meant nothing position wise. Though for me today wasn’t about league position’s, how good or bad the manager and team are, it was about the history and memories for every single fan that has ever watched a game at Saltergate.
Fans were dressed up, flags were being hung all around, the Kop was packed full of Spireites singing, every stand was almost full, with only a few empty seats and it reached the highest attendance I had ever seen at the ground in 10 years. 7,702 might not sound a lot to bigger teams, but for us that’s a lot!
The players came out of the tunnel for the last time to the tune of ‘The Final Countdown’, which has been playing for the past year in the build up of today!
Sadly the first half of the game was a bit flat and didn’t go the way I would have liked. Both sides had chances but neither really getting close to scoring. Right on half time Drew Talbot headed the ball into his own net to give the already promoted visitors the lead. I was very disappointed as I desperately didn’t want Chesterfield to lose their last ever game at Saltergate.
The second half didn’t get off to much of a better start, and I began to fear the worst. However on the 80th minute Jack Lester fired home for what seemed to be the last ever goal at the famous old ground. When the announcement went out that there would be 6 minutes added time, there was a real feeling from the fans that we could go on and win it. The fairytale ending came true on the 96th (!) minute when Chesterfield’s longest serving player, Derek Niven scored a wonderful goal from just outside the box to give the home side the win and write his name in the history books as the last player to score at Saltergate.
After the game there was a pitch invasion, and all the players, manager and chairman Barrie Hubbard sad a few words to the fans. The atmosphere was great and it felt like we had been promoted, never mind finishing 8th! There was a strange feeling as we walked around the ground for the final time on a matchday, knowing that I would never watch another game here again.
After 10 years I will definitely miss Saltergate as I have been going there since I was just 4 years old when I saw Barnet win 2-1 on 2nd September 2000. However if the club is ever going to move forward then they really need to move to the B2net stadium.
It may be falling apart, be covered in rust and have trees growing all over the stands, but Saltergate will forever be in every Spireite’s heart and memories…