Hallam FC

Playing football since 1860 at Sandygate, The Worlds Oldest Football Ground

A Foot In Both Camps

I'm a Sheffield born and bred Chesterfield supporter. It's not particularly unusual to meet someone from the North Derbyshire town who has gone the other way, preferring to jump on the relative success of United or Wednesday just over the border, but to do the opposite seems to be far less common.

But the Spireites are in my blood. My Dad has supported them since the 1970's, and his Dad since the World War II years. In fact it was my great uncle

Mike Watterson, who sadly passed in March of this year, who saved Chesterfield from virtual extinction in 1983 and later went on to be chairman of the club during a spell that saw them lift the Fourth Division title in 1985.

The past decade has been a rollercoaster as a Spireites fan. From being a season ticket holder in the Compton Street stand at Saltergate, to the East Stand at the Proact, as well as gaining experience in the press box for a number of years, in the past ten years alone I have seen Chesterfield win two league titles, earn two trips to Wembley in the Football League Trophy (one win, one loss), reach the League 1 play-offs, suffer back-to-back relegations and a loss of football league status, and seven different permanent managers - John Sheridan now returning to the post he previously held from 2009 to 2012 and saving the side who were at one point flirting with yet another relegation last season under Martin Allen.

Nobody can say it hasn't been eventful.

I was just four years old when I made my first ever visit to Saltergate, Chesterfield's home of 139 years, back in 2000. David Reeves earned the honour of scoring the first ever goal I witnessed for my team, but the day didn't end so positively as opponents Barnet ran out 2-1 victors. A month and a half later, I'd see the Spireites win for the first time, 1-0 over fellow promotion chasers Brighton and Hove Albion in a controversial season that would see both clubs ultimately promoted despite a nine-point deduction for Chesterfield.

Nineteen years later, and with a live football obsession that has grown year-on-year, I attended my five hundredth live match, visiting the world's oldest football ground to watch Hallam beat Winterton Rangers 2-0.

As a lifelong Sheffielder and football fanatic, I'm hugely proud of the incredible football history my city has as the birthplace of the game we all love. I regularly attend matches at both Sheffield FC's Coach and Horses ground, and Hallam's Sandygate - the latter being one of my favourite non-league grounds of all with both it's history and iconic slope that often results in some intriguing battles on the pitch!

A 177-ground strong 'groundhopper', my football travels have taken my across the globe as far as California to watch famous Mexican side Club America play at San Jose Earthquakes' ground, to Moscow for a duo of World Cup games, to Paris for Euro 2016 and most recently to Portugal for England's unsuccessful Nations League finals campaign.

I've been to Barcelona, Bayern Munich, PSG and Manchester City to name a few...but sometimes you just can't beat a midweek match at Sandygate! The July meeting between the two clubs is always one of my highlights before the real stuff starts, and tonight's match will be the fourth of it's kind that I have attended - the previous three ending with a victory each and one draw. The most memorable of these three by far came in 2013, when Chesterfield ran out 6-2 winners in a game that saw former England and Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Chris Waddle don the blue and white jersey of the hosts at the age of 52.

The start of a new season is always an exciting time for every football supporter, no matter their club, and both Hallam and Chesterfield will head in to their new campaign's with realistic dreams of promotion. Ideally for me, as a Chesterfield-supporting Sheffielder, that will be how things end up next May!

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