Over the last few weeks we’ve been chatting to those who work behind the scenes at the Technique Stadium and deserve recognition for the job they do. Today we hear from long-serving volunteer Phil Tooley, who has operated in numerous different roles over the years and was even on the club’s board at one stage!
Phil first got involved with the Spireites when he joined the Supporters Club committee in 1977 and it’s fair to say he’s got plenty of stories to tell about what’s happened since then. His wide-ranging contribution includes commentating for Spireites Digital, editing the programme and, more recently, heading up the fundraising team to enable the Memorial Garden to be built.
Here’s our Q&A piece with Phil…
What’s been your favourite role and why?
PT: “I love to host events that supporters attend. We’re all supporters of the team and we all have our favourite players, so enabling supporters to meet up with their heroes and with my knowledge of the players gleaned over the years, eking out tales and anecdotes that delight and amuse which may not otherwise have been told gives me the greatest of pleasures.”
What’s your favourite memory?
PT: “There are many things I’m proud of, but two are head and shoulders above all others. Attending the Football League’s annual meeting with Ian Yeowart in 2001, with that expulsion order hanging over the club was the most important event in my time. We lobbied as much as we could on the Thursday evening that the event started and throughout the day on Friday, explaining that Darren Brown had gone and true supporters were now in charge. We worked non-stop throughout that day, with the actual AGM due on Saturday morning. I had to leave at midnight on Friday to catch a ferry for our holidays and, in the morning, in a layby in France, I received a call from Ian confirming that the motion had been withdrawn. That was an unbelievable moment!
“When I was asked to get involved in fundraising for the Memorial Garden at the start of 2014, little did I know that our £35,000 target would be achieved and well beaten within a few months and on September 28th that year, my wife Sylvia’s birthday, it would be formally opened by Ernie Moss and Jamie Hewitt. With the team, we managed to get the public to really buy in to the concept and when Ernie & Jamie cut the ribbon, I was the proudest man in Chesterfield.”
You were on the club’s board at one stage. What was that experience like?
PT: “It was a time when the club had absolutely no money to speak of and for much of the time, the business was being run in administration. Initially, it was all about looking in cupboards for skeletons, of which there were plenty, followed by trying to communicate as best as possible with supporters so they were able to grasp how serious times were.
“At the time, I was involved with Peak FM on matchdays and for home games, I’d be first in, generally along with Alan Walters, to do my bit ahead of picking up a microphone, whilst on other days I’d be doing what I could to communicate via the website and message boards to keep fans as informed as possible as to what was going on.
“Without doubt, the worst experience as a director came as we tried to make Saltergate as welcoming as possible. Phil Taylor led the rebuilding of the terracing after the Kop was condemned, whilst I did a few bits and bobs inside, including replacing the toilet seat in the referee’s room. The stand had been built in 1936 and I’m certain that toilet seat had been there since then, certainly the glutenous mucous that oozed out of the fixing areas looked like something from the Hammer House of Horror!”
What’s your favourite thing about volunteering for the club?
PT: “That’s a simple question, if someone says ‘thank you’ for something I’ve done, I’m extremely happy. Whether it’s an article in the programme, a quiz I’ve set or an event I’ve been involved with, having someone appreciate it makes it more than worthwhile.”
How much are you missing the Spireites at the moment?
PT: “The break has been much longer now than the normal close season, which generally is punctuated with a holiday, so without that being possible, the gap seems enormous. It’s the longest I’ve gone without seeing the team since I started going regularly 48 years ago and it’s tough.”