THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

20 November ~ The supporters of the reborn Chester FC have been requested to "arrive early to avoid turnstile congestion" for today's Evo-Stik League Division One North game with second-placed Skelmersdale United, as a 3,000-plus attendance is expected. The club is thriving again after a torrid start to 2010. On Friday February 26, Chester City were expelled from the Conference, following months of abandoned games, unfulfilled fixtures, pitch invasions and boycotts. This action was followed by the liquidation of the club in the High Court in London the following Wednesday. The last game the club played was at home to Ebbsfleet United on February 6 in front of a hardy 460 supporters. Anchored to the bottom of the Conference following a 25-point pre-season deduction, Chester were 33 points from safety at the time of their putting to sleep.

Spurred on by a "hope for the best, prepare for the worst" mentality, the supporters and community of Chester rallied behind their supporters' trust, City Fans United. Membership grew exponentially early in the new year, as supporters become more and more disenfranchised with the club's owners. When the inevitable happened last February, the support was fantastic. A crisis meeting at the historic Chester Guildhall – which had been labelled a "bingo hall" by our previous chairman in a mad rant on Sky Sports News – attracted a huge crowd, with more people than had attended the Ebbsfleet game just weeks previously. A business plan for a community driven, co-operative football club was presented to our local authority; in May the council offered the supporters the lease on the stadium.

MBNA, the largest local employer, became the club's main sponsor and appointed a chief executive whose first task was to find a new management team. The young local pairing of Neil Young and Gary Jones, who had taken Colwyn Bay to promotion from our division the previous year, were a perfect fit. Armed with a great knowledge of the division, they set to work. Over 1,500 supporters made their way up the coast to Colwyn Bay for a friendly in July, followed by home gates of way over 1,500 for Wigan and FC United, and almost 2,000 witnessed a 2-1 win over traditional local rivals Tranmere Rovers. On August 24, 2010, in front of a sell-out all-ticket 1,300 Chester following, Rob Hopley scored Chester FC's first league goal, away at Warrington Town. Since drawing 1-1 that night, Chester have built up a six-point lead at the top of the league, but chasing teams Skelmersdale and Curzon have games in hand. Average home attendances stand at over 2,600, an incredible feat for a club playing at the eighth level of the English pyramid.

A little bit of spice has been added to the Skelmersdale game as their chairman, Frank Hughes, was quoted in the press at the start of the season as saying Chester supporters are "being rewarded for failure", a comment that was at best insensitive, even ignorant – the failure was absolutely nothing to do with the supporters of the club. There are currently 2,679 owners of this 125-year-old institution, with its new motto, "Our City. Our Community. Our Club". They are finally masters of their own destiny and are enjoying every last second of it. God knows they deserve it. Mark Howell Chester FC City Fans United

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