In the latest edition of our 'Introducing' series we caught up with young Spireites defender Dylan Hand ahead of Saturday's match with Grimsby at Clay Cross (11am).
Coming off a 9-0 victory in their last match with Lincoln City, it’s fair to suggest that the youth team players can’t wait for Saturday’s fixture with Grimsby, none more so than Dylan Hand.
The central defender’s parents and younger brother Adam, are all coming over from their home in Athboy, Ireland for the game, not that Hand feels any added pressure, as his father has been to watch him previously – with slightly contrasting fortunes.
During his most recent visit, his father had arrived in Chesterfield to take in his son’s game with Oldham Athletic, only for it to be postponed on the morning of the game due to a frozen pitch.
Thankfully the previous visit was much better, with Hand scoring a superb goal in the FA Youth Cup against Carlisle United.
On the visit the defender said: “It was good, my dad was over for the game, and it was my first time playing at the Proact.
“I scored a free kick, which I managed to put over the wall and into the top corner; I didn’t expect to score in the game so it was quite a shock to do so.”
Sadly the young Spireites went on to lose the match 2-1, and exited the competition. It was a result that was symptomatic of their season so far.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs really,” Hand said.
“We didn’t play to the best of our abilities before Christmas, but thankfully we came back with a 9-0 win last week.
“It was a good performance, they weren’t great but everybody put a shift in. The difference last week compared to earlier in the season was that we took our chances.”
Hand has been with the club since July, signing a two-year scholarship deal, a deal which came about after a meeting with fellow Athboy resident and academy coach Darren Molloy.
“I started out with a team called Park Villa when I was eight; I then played for Dundalk before I came to Chesterfield,” he explained.
“I used to go to Dundalk for regional trials and I was spotted there. I was contacted by Darren after my first U16 Ireland trial, and he told me that Chesterfield wanted me to come over.
“He’s from the same town as me, and I’ve known him for quite a while, and so it was an easy decision for me to sign.”
Hand has certainly enjoyed a successful spell at Chesterfield to date, being a regular in both the youth and reserve team match day squads.
“I’m enjoying it over here, in particular the football side,” he said
“It’s great coming in each day and knowing that you’re going to be playing football.
“Playing for the reserves is more physical and it’s a lot quicker than youth team games, but it’s been a good experience playing alongside the likes of Sam Hird and Laurence Maguire, who talk to you throughout the game, they’ve been very helpful.”
Learning from the likes of Maguire – who has come through the system - will only aid Hand’s development, though he knows he has to continue to work hard if he’s to achieve his goals.
“Long term I’d like to earn a professional contract here and maybe one day play for Ireland,” he said.
“I’ve been trying to build my body up and get to the right size; I’ve also been doing a lot of speed work which I started doing that a year before I arrived, so it’s something that I’ve been used to.”
Hand’s optimism isn’t just confined to a personal level either; he has high hopes for the remainder of the youth team’s EFL Youth Alliance campaign – starting with the Grimsby match on Saturday.
He added: “We played Grimsby earlier in the season and we beat them 4-0, but since then they’ve had a new coach and done well, it’ll be a tough game.
“I would say that we could go unbeaten and then finish in the top two, that’s something that’s doable as we’re more than capable of beating any team in the league - if we take our chances of course.”