Rough guide to
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Rough guide to... Chester City
18 June 2004
In a nutshell
A 120-year-old wheezer who has recently discovered the fountain of youth.
Their finest hour
Supporters of some clubs will delve through dusty history books to find their finest hour: a championship secured in the 1892-93 season, a 1950s victory over some European side, or reaching the FA Cup semi-final in 1939, perhaps. Ahem. Chester, however, are bang up to date: a 1-0 victory over Russell Slade's Scarborough on the penultimate Saturday of last season saw the club's first championship in 77 years, regaining their League status in front of a capacity home crowd. "People were hanging in trees, standing on roofs and thousands were locked out," says Chester-based Mariner Mike Worden. For 'finest hour', though, read 'finest 63 hours'; the whole of last season was pretty spectacular. More of that later.
There's a theme emerging in these here rough guides though: many clubs' finest hours involve run-ins with the Grim Liquidator. Chester suffered a bout of administration and a near-death experience in the 90s: their move to the new Deva Stadium in 1992 coincided with relegation from the league; then came all sorts of controversial skulduggery with hugely disliked American Terry Smith buying the club and buggering it up right royally. Fortunately, he sold Chester to Liverpool businessman Stephen Vaughan in 2001, and things have been looking rosy ever since.
Despite the proximity of Everton, Liverpool, Tranmere and Crewe, only Wrexham are the recipients of the two-fingered salute. The Deva resounds with songs suggesting ovine penetration – ironic, given the stadium's geographical position (see trivia section below).
How was last season? Well, pretty bloody good, you have to say. Hereford pushed them all the way – beating them on the last day of the season when it was all too late - but Chester still finished top of the Conference with 92 points, a goal difference of +51 and only one home league defeat all season. Cup competitions were unspectacular, falling at the first hurdles of the FA Trophy, LDV and Cheshire Senior Cup. Also, they only made it to the second round of the FA Cup; but hey, they were 'concentrating on the league' - right from the start of the season. They thought nothing of stringing four, five, six wins together, and how about this for a Christmas-time set of results: won 5-1; won 5-0; won 6-2. Throughout the season, only Arsenal had better form.
Who's the Dadi?
With 30 goals in 30 appearances last season, the Deva diva we should look out for is Chester's Jersey-born 26-year-old striker... yes, yes: it's Daryl Clare. Add his scintillating form to the Law Of The Ex, and take into account that he actually missed the start of last season after a knee operation, and that he previously won the Golden Boot at Boston... it's plain to see that we're going to be in big trouble.
And let's not forget Bungle's (oh how we might have to eat that nickname) strike partner Darryn Stamp, who also knocked 20 past opposition keepers last season. Yes, two players, 50 goals. Gulp.
Elsewhere, goalie Wayne Brown is a fans' favourite. Also look out for some of Chester's summer signings: defender (and son of chairman – nepotism!) Stephen Vaughan – a star in Liverpool's reserves last season; striker Michael Branch also recently signed a three-year deal. Although according to Soccerbase, his real name is Paul, so maybe that contract's void, eh.
Manager Mark Wright is a major factor in the upturn of Chester's fortunes. BBC motor racing correspondent and Chester fan Jonathan Legard eulogises that his "demanding, abrasive management has fashioned a team in his own image - ambitious, determined and self-assured, qualities rarely associated with the club." Good news, then, that Wright has just signed a new three-year deal, and has been busy picking up the signatures of some potentially exciting players these past few weeks. Our man on the spot Mike Worden notes that expectations in the town are high, but has concerns over last season's bumper crowds being sustained should the team start to splutter. There's little difference in class between the third and the Conference, though, so I'm going to stick my neck out and say that Chester will have another fine season, finishing fourth.
When I was at university in Aberystwyth, Dyfed was a 'dry' county – it was illegal to buy or sell booze on a Sunday. A pub a few miles down the road sat on the border with the next county, and Sunday drinking in one half of it was outlawed; in the other, perfectly legal. In a sort of similar situation is the Deva Stadium, with the car park and the club offices situated in England, while the other stands and the pitch are in Wales. And I'm not sure you're allowed to drink on the pitch on Sundays. Mike Worden has been delving deeper: "Close inspection of the OS map reveals that the rumour about being able to take a corner in Wales and score in England is simply untrue. It would however be quite simple to hoof the ball out of Wales and into England simply by kicking it over the East Stand. Tony Crane should manage it fairly easily."
Time Team lovers among you will know that Chester's stadium is steeped, marinated, and deep-fried in history, as Deva was the Roman name for the city. "Sadly the same kind of approach to naming didn't make it as far as the stands, which are simply called after the points of the compass," emotes Mr Worden. Oh well, at least it makes it easy to find the right seat, yes? No. Mike goes on to explain: "Town fans will be housed on the South Terrace, which is actually at the eastern end of the ground, together with seating at the eastern end of the West stand, which is actually at the southern end of the ground." Blimey. Big long Latin names would have been easier.
Finally, two words guaranteed to bring a smile to the lips of every Town fan: Paul Futcher. Born in, raised in, and started his career in Chester.
The term 'official site' has become synonymous with the Premium TV template over the past few seasons; how refreshing, then, to find that this is not the case with Chester. Well, not yet, anyway. So, where is the official site? Interesting question. This 'un claims to be the official site, but hasn't been updated for five years; the official official site seems to have been set up recently, and it shows, I'm afraid; meanwhile the 'Official Site' link from the BBC's CCFC page leads you to this site, which clearly states its unofficial status. It's this last one that's the pick of the bunch, anyway: constantly updated, fantastic history section, and a Panini-style squad section. Well done, that webmaster.
Elsewhere, Rob Ashcroft's True Blue site takes the sentiment a little too seriously: the front page has blue text on a blue background, which send your eyes a bit funny. Overall, it looks like an unfinished project. Finally, the slightly haphazard layout of Early Doors is redeemed by loads of content and hundreds of photos. Plenty there for you to be going on with.
Copious thanks to Mike Worden for his most excellent assistance in compiling this rough guide