THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

{mosimage} 11 May ~ Just after midnight on May 6 the news that all Chester fans had been waiting for was finally announced by the media. In the end Cheshire West and Chester Council made the logical and sensible decision to award the lease of the Deva Stadium to the Chester supporters' group, City Fans United (CFU), rather than the Danish consortium, Fodbold Selskabet. Chester FC were up and running.

Although it was a move that had been widely anticipated there was a certain degree of nervousness as zero hour approached. It's fair to say that Chester fans have suffered more than most over the last few seasons so it was inevitable that a certain amount of pessimism would begin to creep in. The Danish bid had been greeted with suspicion, and news that Gary Metcalfe, friend of former owner Stephen Vaughan, was involved set alarm bells ringing. Suffice to say, had the lease been handed to the Danes the impact on football in Chester would have been devastating.

Now that stage one of the CFU's master plan has reached fruition, steps are under way to appoint a manager for the new campaign. At the moment it is not known in which league Chester FC will compete. It is widely expected to be the regional arm of the newly branded Evo-Stik League, although a start in the Evo-Stik Premier has not been completely ruled out. With nearby Witton Albion and Cammell Laird both competing in the Southern section it looks like the fans will be programming the TomTom for trips to Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire.

Organisationally, the CFU have pulled off a coup with the appointment of Bank of America's Steve Ashton as CEO to help the new club get off the ground. Steve, the head of sports partnerships at the bank and a season-ticket holder at the Deva until two years ago, will carry out the role free of charge on an interim basis, at the cost of the banking giants who are the area's biggest employer. It's a big leap forward from the previous regime when the chief executive was the former kitman.

At the moment there is a massive amount of goodwill and enthusiasm for the new setup and the CFU have won over many doubters with their professional approach. Their commitment to a community-based club seems to have struck a chord in the city as a whole and there is certainly the will and desire to make this work. With membership of the CFU now standing at more than 1,600 there is a palpable sense of excitement mounting for the new season and a clean slate.

The one danger in all this is the expectations of supporters brought up on games against Football League giants like Bury and Rochdale. How will they adapt to games against the likes of Glapwell and Market Drayton Town? There is currently a warm, fuzzy glow surrounding the Deva Stadium but will the support be there when Chester FC find themselves losing 1-0 at home to Quorn on a wet Tuesday in November?

Despite these concerns most fans appreciate that it is not going to be all plain sailing. All they ever wanted was a well-run, friendly club that lived within its means. The CFU have started to deliver and the future looks bright for Chester FC. Chas Sumner

Comments (1)
Comment by garyjthompson 2010-05-12 11:55:22

Good luck Chester. And well done to all involved in CFU. The City needs a thriving club and i'm sure i won't be alone in watching out for your results next season and beyond and hoping you make it back up the football pyrimid to the Football League one day. I guess AFC Wimbledon and Aldershot have prioved, to varying degrees, that it can be done. I'm sure you'll be 'back' I remember going down to Sealand Road for a league cup tie, and to the Deva for a 3rd round FA Cup tie against my team, Man City. Also saw you at Maine Road in the 90's. Always had a soft spot for Chester since i collected my first Panini sticker album in 81 and saw you had Alan Oakes in your team! Plus when you added the "city" back to your name it made you an abbreviated version of us in a silly childish way. Apologies if this sounds patronising, its not meant to, just me reeling off my memories of your club and how it impacted on my own. Man City could easily have gone the way of Chester on several occasions in the last 20 years. Badly mis-managed until less than 2 years ago - there but for the grace of god go a lot of clubs.

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