FanZoner Tom Bates has high hopes for Chesterfield next season if Paul Cook and Lee Richardson get their summer recruitment right.
It is eight weeks since we said our last goodbyes to Jack Lester in the 4-0 thumping of Exeter City in the Spireites' final game of a frustrating season which saw us finish just one place off the play-offs, and two points behind promoted Bradford City.
In the interim there have been wholesale changes at the club and Paul Cook's new broom has certainly swept clean, with first team, reserve, and youth academy coaches all being shown the door, along with other backroom staff - even the kit-man - while Cook's former assistant at Accrington, Liam Richardson, has been brought in.
The two are not only good friends, but share a football philosophy which, dare I say it, is reminiscent of another famous managerial partnership which began at lowly Hartlepool United and Cook & Richardson seem intent on emulating Brian Clough and Peter Taylor in their determination to manage in the higher divisions - with Chesterfield. Indeed, Richardson's comment that they are "targeting the Championship" may be regarded as rhetoric by some, but it was music to the ears of many long-suffering Spireites fans who have been starved of such ambitious spirit for many years.
However, my previous comments that Cook would need a replacement for Lester, but had a good nucleus of players around which to build a promotion push was completely blown out of the water when the retained list was released.
Apart from Jack Lester, the exiting players include skipper Hird, Trotman, Whitaker, O'Donnell, Clay, Waddle, Wafula and Boden while Henshall and Townsend have returned to their parent clubs.
Again, this mirrors the Clough/Taylor partnership at Hartlepool where Clough's 'new broom' also swept clean. He brought in Taylor as his assistant manager and the duo went on to become arguably the greatest ever managerial partnership in English football. But of course, Cook and Richardson are not Clough and Taylor so we don't expect to win the European Cup anytime soon.
We do however, expect to mount a strong promotion challenge next season and so far Cook has only signed midfielder Jimmy Ryan from Scunthorpe United and Eoin Doyle from Scottish Premier League club Hibernian, and as we reach midsummer with just FIVE weeks to go before our first friendly game of the new season against Huddersfield Town, playing resources are so thin that at the moment the manager would be hard pressed to put out a full side.
Latest reports suggest that negotiations with targeted players have been on-going, but have stalled or 'hit snags', and it seems likely that with a club with limited resources and a reported deficit of around £6m, those 'snags' are most probably financial.
None of us want another season where we have to rely on loan players, so this is a dilemma which demands some action. Cook knows the calibre of player he wants, but also that money is tight and time is of the essence and that the more new players you bring in, the longer it takes to mould them into a successful team. He will also be well aware that he cannot afford another bad start - last season's cost us promotion.
How long does it take to put a squad of players together - and then to mould them into promotion contenders? How long does it take to get players disciplined and resourceful enough to play consistently to a set pattern or style of play, and to adapt confidently when necessary? How long does it take for a squad of new players to get to know each other's strengths and weaknesses?
Maybe like Clough and Taylor, the duo of Cook and Richardson can and WILL work a football miracle at Chesterfield.
By Tom Bates, FanZone's Chesterfield blogger.