30 July ~ After winning promotion from the Evo-Stik Division One North last year, fans of Chester are eagerly anticipating the coming season. Rather than aim for a year of consolidation or a play-off charge, there is a real feeling that the club can win the league (two levels below the Blue Square Premier) at the first attempt. FC Halifax Town and Colwyn Bay were the teams that went up from the division last season, and both had just come up from the Evo-Stik North.
After years of financial misery and chronic mismanagement, Chester City were liquidated in March 2010. The previous owner, Stephen Vaughan, had taken the club out of the Conference in 2004, only to lead us back in again with a massive 25-point deduction and little hope of reaching the end of the season. The supporters mobilised to set up City Fans United and, when it became apparent that the club was terminally ill, they began planning for a phoenix club, Chester FC.
The average home attendance in the club's debut season was 2,400, a huge amount for the eighth tier of English football, and especially when compared to the paltry 460 people who turned out for Chester City's last home against Ebbsfleet. The club is attempting to build a new fanbase, with the £50 Under-16 season ticket proving popular, not least because the price includes a team kit. It is not just new faces who are coming, however, as the club has tempted back many of those who were disillusioned under the old regime.
Spending what you earn is now the core financial strategy. Once a pariah of the business community in Chester, the football club is these days seen as a fantastic opportunity. The sponsorship boards around the stadium were once few and far between, but now there is barely any space left. To further this goal community projects are being set up to further emphasise Chester's new philosophy – a supporter-owned club that gives back to its local community.
Last year manager Neil Young was building a squad from scratch, which meant there were a lot of comings and goings throughout the season. This continual change perhaps contributed to some of our inconsistent form, so with a more settled squad Chester should be able to fully concentrate on the promotion push. Of course, it will not be easy with several good teams aiming for the play-offs at least, but Chester ought to be in a strong position to be challenge. Richard Bellis theblueandwhitefanzine.co.uk