National League leaders Chesterfield have enjoyed a stellar start to the 2022/23 campaign, with the Derbyshire side enjoying the benefits of experienced manager Paul Cook.
It hasn’t been an easy start to life as Chesterfield boss for Cook. Having arrived in the midst of a scandal surrounding former boss James Rowe, a leg-break to talismanic striker Kabongo Tshimanga in his first game in charge of the Spireites set the tone for things to come.
Disappointment in the playoff would follow, with Chesterfield succumbing to eventual runners-up Solihull Moors at the semi-final stage, despite having held hopes of a title challenge when Cook arrived through the door.
A promising pre-season saw Chesterfield recruit well and an even better start to the campaign allowed them to jump to the top of the National League table, where they currently reside after an unbeaten start.
Just when it looked as if Cook’s luck was about to turn, the latest controversy surrounding the club would cloud over their impressive start on the pitch, with an unnamed Chesterfield player having been accused of allegedly assaulting Oldham Athletic’s Hallam Hope.
It’s difficult to say how any other manager would’ve dealt with such difficulties, yet given the experience the seasoned professional Cook has enjoyed in management, his leadership qualities have not been wasted in this difficult period for the Spireites.
In fact, Chesterfield’s latest result against Southend United in mid-week is perhaps the greatest demonstration of their credentials and an example of the sort of environment Cook has helped to create.
After Jack Clarke’s opener was cancelled out by Southend United’s Callum Powell midway through the first half, the Spireites were dealt yet another blow, when summer signing Ollie Banks saw a straight red just before half-time.
Predictably, the visitors took advantage of the extra man, with Marcus Dackers firing Southend in front almost immediately after the interval.
Of course, the score line wouldn’t stay like that, as a spirited Chesterfield fought back against the odds to come from behind and take a memorable three points.
Joe Quigley, a player who has often flattered to deceive in a Chesterfield shirt, started the comeback with the leveller just after the hour mark, before Jeff King netted the eventual winner later on in the game.
In isolation, it’s easy to pass off this result as an anomaly and an occasion when one of the division’s strongest outfits used their resources to the best of their ability and snatched an unlikely three points.
However, look deeper and the impact Cook has had on Chesterfield is clear to see, with the Spireites showing immense character, while positioning themselves amongst the favourites for the title.
Granted, given the size of the club and the players at their disposal, Chesterfield should be competing at the top end of the table. But, with Cook in charge, the Spireites possess a weapon few other clubs in the league have.
Just five years ago Cook guided Wigan Athletic to the League One title, having previously won league titles with both Chesterfield and Portsmouth.
A serial winner, Cook boasts a CV littered with promotions, at levels much higher than the one his Chesterfield side are currently operating at. While that doesn’t guarantee success, it does bring about the experience needed to navigate the trials and tribulations of a challenging league campaign.
It would’ve been understandable had issues off the pitch affected the results on it for Chesterfield, but as they sit top of the National League table, with a title challenge beginning to mount itself, it could prove to be a memorable campaign for Cook and Co. at the Spireites.
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