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Remembering Saltergate: Fan was "hooked" after 4-4 draw

5 May 2020

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John Taylor, formerly of Chesterfield and now living in Northumberland, recalls an eight-goal thriller at Saltergate 60 years ago which ignited his love affair with the Spireites.

My first recollection of going to Saltergate was in 1960 to an FA Cup match against Oldham Athletic. My dad took me along with a couple of his friends who had travelled over from Oldham for the game.

We were in the Cross Street Wing Stand and saw an exciting match which ended 4-4. From that point I was hooked, but not many games lived up to that early promise!

I then recall that for most games we were at the Kop end where I would stand on a small box taken in by my dad to improve my view. I recall goalkeeper Ron Powell waving to me as he took his place between the posts, as we had spoken with him earlier that day whilst looking at carpets in Eyres! 

Gradually, as I grew taller, I began to follow the half-time exodus and follow the crowd round the pitch to the Cross Street end for the second half. As time passed, me and my friends used to transfer into the Wing Stand and, occasionally, the Centre Stand for the last ten minutes after the exit gates opened.

Quite liking this ‘luxury’, we began to take part in a ‘game’ with stewards and police. This involved climbing round the fence at the corner of the Cross Street terracing, when their backs were turned, to get into the Wing Stand without paying! The older I got, I used to split my attendance between the Kop and the terracing in front of the Main Stand where it was possible to move to whichever end the Spireites were attacking.  

As time began to tell on the old bones, I moved into the Centre Stand where my wife and often daughter joined me until that final game against Bournemouth. 

I recall inviting my Sheffield Wednesday supporting friend to come to a game to experience proper football, only to find that his ticket entitled him to a space in row B but with no actual seat! 

The wear and tear was also in evidence in September 2003 when a skied clearance from Ibrahima Sonko, the Brentford centre back, crashed on to the roof above us, with a dagger like piece of corrugated sheeting arrowing down between my feet. Although my wife felt that we had a lucky escape from a nasty accident, I was more concerned with retrieving the piece of roofing and still have it to this day!

Overriding memories of Saltergate (apart from what happened on the pitch and the Bournemouth experience) were of tapping on the small ticket window, the rather unique toilet facilities and of painting the bottom of a floodlight yellow, after Mike Watterson had asked for volunteers in the 1980s.

But perhaps what sums it up most were the words I overheard a Burnley supporter saying to his young son when walking along St Margaret’s Drive in 2000, 'Make sure you remember this, it’s what you call a proper football ground!'

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