Mike Goodwin was in the stands the last time Chesterfield made headlines in FA Cups, a semi-final in 1997 against Middlesbrough engraved in the annals of the great competition.
Spireites were the third team at the time and took on a Boro side full of talent. But they more than held on, and drove into a 2-1 lead before journeyman Jon Howard hammered a shot that cannoned over the crossbar and over the line.
Still, the referee waved it away, Middlesbrough roared back and a draw resulted in a 3-3 draw.
“The David Elleray goal,” Goodwin, now Chesterfield’s chairman, said sadly.
“It was definitely over the line. Had VAR been there, we would have been ahead 3-1 with 20 minutes left and probably going into the FA Cup final. That was the only bite we were going to get at it.
“It was a magical day at Old Trafford and I will never forget it. But it comes with that little ‘what if’ moment.”
This weekend, and now chairman of the club he loves, Goodwin will be in the director’s box at Stamford Bridge and watch as Chesterfield – now at the top of the National League and seeking to return to the Football League – host the European champions.
“It’s a game that comes once in a generation,” he says I.
“The last one was 1997, and yes, it was a semi-final, but it’s just as important considering where we were 18 months ago, compared to where we are now.”
Where they were, tumbling down the leagues and under threat of relegation to the National League North under an owner – Dave Allen – who wanted out.
Goodwin, a former CEO, looked messy and urged the Fan’s Trust to launch a bid for the club. It has been a huge effort to steer the club away from the abyss.
“My wife looks less to me now than before I retired,” he adds.
“The club was having a really hard time, the owner wanted out, and no one was ready to come forward. I said to the fund’s CEO – someone needs to save our football club, why do we not make a bid?”
They first faced skepticism from the fan base due to their inability to compete financially.
But that’s not how it went. The board includes a doctor of psychology, a former football coach, a former headmaster and the man who designed the club’s stadium – and they are all supporters of the club.
“I have always said in any business that if it is not right at the top, it will not be right at the bottom,” he says. “We had to put a new culture in the club, where people were happy to come to work. The board is fans of the club, and that’s what matters. ”
Chesterfield is a model for clubs that see flag ownership as a viable alternative to short-termism. Under highly regarded manager James Rowe, they have assembled a team that has created real momentum.
“There’s a myth that high-flying Chesterfield bought us our way to the top – nothing could be further from the truth,” Goodwin said.
“We surprised a few people because we paid a reasonable amount for (Kabongo) Tshimanga (from Boreham Wood), but we bought him on ‘never never’. We bought him over three seasons and were assured by our manager that he “would be an asset for us, and if we were to sell him, we could. It was a calculated risk.”
This weekend’s glamor slips will help. “It will be another lifesaver for us,” Goodwin says.
“We wanted a good cup race and I think it will be worth somewhere in the range of £ 350,000 to £ 400,000.
“We’ve sold out our 6,000 fans and tickets are like rocking horse dirt!
“It did not attract television, which I do not really understand. Maybe they think we’ll be beaten six or seven zero, who knows? ”
When Chelsea were the opponents they missed playing in 1997, Goodwin feels there are “unfinished business”.
“I’m not saying we’ll win the match, but if they do not take us lightly, they may be surprised,” he insists.
“I’m sure he’s going to put some of his under 23s in, but we’re fine and his confidence is good. We’ve lost one in 22 games or something. We’ve only been beaten once all season. , so we do not become a pushover. We play really good football. “