The recent streaming of the FA Cup semi-final match against Middlesbrough in 1997 prompted Paul Searle to get in touch and recount his memories of the trip to Old Trafford...
I am from Bristol and have been a Bristol City fan since the early 70's.
I met a Chesterfield girl and got married in the Church up Brampton back in 1993.
During my years visiting the in-laws I would always take in a game at Saltergate where I met many friendly and kind people who then became friends. Always drinking in the Derby Tupp after games and on non match days too. I became a Chesterfield fan from afar and even dragged my non footballing wife to Wembley for the 1995 play off final against Bury.
Long forgotten amongst the highs of that FA Cup run in 1997 is that Chesterfield actually played Bristol City in the third round at Saltergate. I attended the game during a timely visit standing on the Kop with my 'Chesterfied mates' very quietly! Little did I know the victory would be so significant.
I feel very privileged that when the semi final came round my friends sourced me tickets for the game at Old Trafford. We all travelled together over the top to Manchester. I had my face painted blue on the coach journey there which was to the amusement of all who knew I was also a Red Robin. My overriding memory of the game is it was so so sad that the miracle did not happen. VAR would have changed the history books but that's not to be.
Spirits were high on the return journey after the equaliser and I will never forget passing through Stockport with people out on the pavements clapping the coaches as we passed. Everyone was supporting us that day and I felt proud. The Derby Tup was the venue for the evening where I ended up sleeping on the sofa at my friend's house in Whitt Moor. The in-laws and wife were not best pleased when I eventually turned up back in Brimington on Sunday.
I organised another in-law visit at the same time as the Hillsborough replay and again we all travelled up to Sheffield full of excitement. However it all felt predictable and I think everyone knew deep down there was to be no second chance. We again returned to the Derby Tup for a late evening of sombre drinking.
It's a long time ago now. Winning the cup may be bread and butter for the big teams but coming so close for us small clubs is so much more exciting than they will ever know. That's why we are celebrating the club's achievement and treasuring the memories it has given us.
My friend and his dad have their names in the brick wall at the new stadium. They go father and son to all the games and it is a pleasure to have met them all those years ago.
I sincerely hope that the good times will return to Chesterfield FC and will always remain a Robin and a Spireite.......
Thanks for getting in touch, Paul.