Archive for August, 2009

The Deva Stadium

The Deva Stadium

Founded as Chester FC in 1885, the club was formed from the merger of Chester Rovers and Old King’s Scholars FC, joining the Combination League in 1890 after five years as friendly and tournament specialists.

Initially playing home matches at Faulkner Street and later The Old Showground, the club moved to Whipcord Lane for the 1901 season after The Old Showground was destroyed for housing, leaving the club without a home at the turn of the century. A purpose-built ground on Sealand Road (right) was to become their home for ninety-five years, and Chester Football Club officially moved in with a 4-0 win over Bangor City on 15th December, 1906.

Their greatest successes were to be had at The Stadium, with the first being the Combination League title in 1909. The following year Chester joined the Lancashire Combination, staying their until they founded the Cheshire County League in 1919.

A Bright Future

Eleven years later, Chester first tasted league football as Charlie Hewitt guided them into Division Three North, and throughout the 1930s they never finished outside the top ten in that division. It was during this period that Chester recorded their highest ever win, a 12-0 thumping of York City in the league, and Chester won the Welsh Cup after beating rivals Wrexham in 1933.

Although Chester won the Welsh Cup and finished third in the league in 1947, Chester’s fortunes took a grim turn, and the team never finished in the top half of the league until after the North and South Third Divisions were merged in 1958, when Chester were placed in Division Four.

After the surprise appointment of South African Peter Hauser as manager in 1963, Chester’s fortunes looked brighter, with an entertaining promotion challenge in the 1964-65 season ending with the unique statistic of three strikers scoring twenty goals each in that season. This fortune did not turn into promotion, however, and with injuries to full-backs Bryn Jones and Ray Jones the following season, they failed to gain an almost certain lift to the next tier of English football.

The following few years were not inspiring for Chester’s fans – save a glorious period in 1971 when they missed promotion by a point – until in the 1974-75 season, with Chester the only team in the Football League to have never been promoted, Ken Roberts lead the team into Division Three after scraping into fourth place in Division Four on goal difference. That season, they also ran to the League Cup semi-finals, only to be beaten at Villa Park in a thrilling 5-4 rollercoaster by Aston Villa.

Consolodating their status as a Third Division club, Chester enjoyed a modicum of success with runs to the fifth round of the FA Cup in both the 1976-77 and 1979-80 seasons, and missed promotion again by a point after finishing fifth in 1978. Chester also won their first English national trophy after beating Port Vale in the short-lived Debenham’s Cup.

Chester City Football Club

But this success faded after the £300,000 transfer of local hero Ian Rush to Liverpool, and in 1982 Chester again found themselves in the doldrums of the Fourth Division. The club – now styled Chester City Football Club – finished bottom of the Football League in 1983, but were re-elected in a landslide to secure their place.

Moving On

In 1986, under the stewardship of Harry McNally, Chester were promoted once again to the Third Division, for their last visit to date. McNally worked wonders with a meagre budget, and City narrowly missed out on a playoff spot in 1989. But more bad news was to come, as Sealand Road’s owners forced the club to move out, and Chester were left with no choice but to play home matches at Macclesfield’s ground, Moss Rose. The club avoided relegation by the slightest of margins in successive seasons, this despite tiny attendances, and after the restructuring of the Football League in 1992, moved into their new home, the 6,021-capacity Deva Stadium, just a mile away from Sealand Road.



Back in Chester, the club were relegated by a landslide, but survived to be promoted again the following year. But in the close season of 1994, the shock resignation of manager Graham Barrow, and the resulting exodus of players, left Chester with a threadbare squad – they were relegated, and stayed in Division Three for five years.

Dark Times

Falling into administration in October 1998, Chester nonetheless were undeterred and comfortably avoided relegation to the Football Conference, and the club again seemed to have a good future as American tycoon Terry Smith bought the club at the end of the season. He appointed himself as manager after Kevin Ratcliffe resigned in August 1999, and was forced to yield his position after just four league wins up to January 2000, allowing newly appointed ‘Director of Football’ Ian Atkens with the task of uprooting Chester from the very bottom of the Football League. Despite his efforts, Chester were relegated on the last day of the season, ending 69 years in the Football League.

Atkins resigned, and Smith appointed fans’ favourites Graham Barrow and Harry McNally as manager and ‘consultant’ respectively. But as one of Smith’s biggest critics, McNally quit after a week. Barrow managed to lead the Blues to ninth place in the Conference, winning the Conference Trophy in the process, but Smith deemed this a failure and sacked Barrow in favour of his friend Gordon Hill, an appointment deeply unpopular with fans. With tensions rising and the future of the club in jeopardy, with just one win in twelve matches at the start of the 2001-02 season, Smith sold the club to Liverpool businessman Stephen Vaughan.

The Vaughan Era

Revitalised, with a new owner and new manager in Mark Wright, Chester avoided relegation to the Conference North in 2002 and went on to miss-out on promotion in the playoffs the following year in a penalty shootout against Doncaster Rovers.

Beginning the 2003-04 season as promotion favourites, Chester clinched their first national league title after fending off Hereford United and beating Scarborough 1-0 to claim elevation to the Football League for 2004-05. But, despite being tipped for a second successive promotion, manager Wright resigned the day before the first game of the season. Caretaker Ray Mathias saw-off Notts County the following day, before Ian Rush returned to Chester to ensure their survival despite being heavily criticised for playing a bland style of football.

In April 2005, Keith Curle took over, but despite better-looking football, Chester dropped from a promising fourth place in December to sit bottom of the newly-named League Two by March. Mark Wright returned, and thanks to a run of five wins Chester again scraped by to remain once again in the Football League.

After a largely unforgettable 2006-07 campaign, Chester started the 2007-08 season on a high, with new manager Bobby Williamson leading the team to a competitive playoff position by October. But a run of bad results with just one win in fourteen saw Vaughan resign as chairman before Williamson was sacked, and youth team coach Simon Davies was placed in charge for the remainder of the season. He managed to keep the club afloat on the last day of the season as Chester clinched a point over Stockport County to end the season in 22nd place, their worst position since returning to the Football League.

Chester were relegated after another forgettable season and now ply their trade in the Blue Square Premier League.

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Crewe Alexandra Crest

Crewe Alexandra Crest

Chester City entertained Crewe Alexandra reserves this afternoon in a behind closed doors friendly that gave their rivals from across the Cheshire Plain their second reserve victory in two games.

After taking a 2-1 lead, the Alex stayed committed and came out with a 3-2 result with another convincing performance at the Deva Stadium.

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Chester City striker Gregg Blundell

Chester City striker Gregg Blundell

Gregg Blundell & Fabian Yantorno will take a further step towards their first team return tomorrow night, when they entertain Crewe in a behind closed doors friendly.

Blundell has been out injured since signing for City, whilst Yantorno pulled up just after signing, meaning both players missed the start of the season.

The Blues are desperate to increase their options up front, and the return of both Blundell & Yantorno would certainly boost that situation. Currently Nick Chadwick & Lloyd Ellams have been running the front line for City.

Shaun Kelly, is also set to return in the friendly at the Deva tomorrow, and Chester could certainly do with the centre half returning to bolster a defence that despite conceding 8 goals in its first two games, managed a clean sheet at Luton.

Manager Mick Wadsworth is now urging Chester to gain “consistency” which he believes is the key, and that the standard has now been set following the performance at Kenilworth Road.

Chester City have been drawn against Nantwich Town in the Qualifying Round of the FA Youth Cup, the game will take place on Wednesday 9th September, which is a day after the first team take on Tamworth at the Deva Stadium.

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Evertonians watching the news on transfer deadline day (26 March 1998), expecting that massive signing which would turn around the abysmal form of a weak Everton squad, were puzzled and bemused by the one permanent signing Howard Kendall made.  A 17-year-old unknown from Chester City of the 3rd Division!

“One for the future” says Howard Kendall, explaining why McKay played no part in Everton’s survival struggle. Matt McKay broke through into Chester City’s first team this month and has played just three first team games.  This season he scored a hat-full of goals for their youth team and a few for the reserves too. 

Kendall signed Matt McKay “in the face of strong interest from other teams.”  He has signed a five-year deal and went straight into a Reserves match against Aston Villa.   With Chester City going through severe financial problems, cynical Evertonians cannot help wondering if paying such a high price for an unproven prospect is simply a charitable contribution being directed toward ex-Evertonian Kevin Ratcliffe in the Deva hot-seat. 

During the 1998-99 season, Matt McKay was virtually invisible, with just one full appearance in the Reserves.  He has spent most of his time in the Everton’s Youth Academy Under-19 team, despite being listed in the first-team squad.  Even that listing quietly disappeared from the Matchday Programme by April 1999, although he did return to the list for the 1999-2000 season.  

However, his chances of making that elusive first-team debut under Walter Smith were slim in the extreme, and he again slipped off the back of the Everton Programme by February 2000.  So another season passed by with him still playing mainly in the Under-19s

Signs at the start of the 2000-01 season were just as ominous, when McKay’s name was left off the list of Premiership Squad Numbers…  Steady if anonymous appearances for the reserves throughout another unproductive season left McKay’s career in limbo.

Matt McKay, out injured for most of the 2001-02 season, was forced to retire from football at the age of only 21.  McKay joined Everton from Chester for £500k four years earlier, but failed to make an appearance for the first team.

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Save Our SealsChester City Football Club have thanked their Conference compatriots as they finally crash landed into the Blue Square Premier at the weekend.

The Blues, who threw away a two-goal lead to lose 4-2 to Cambridge United, say their future depended on the vote from 23 of the league’s chairman after the Conference put the club’s fate in its member’s hands.

City insisted if they hadn’t received the unanimous Yes they would be left kicking their heels this season – and the lack of income would have taken them under.

Chester finally received affiliation on Thursday night after the FA backed down when the Conference confirmed their club’s commitment to accepting the troubled Cheshire side.

They had their opening day visit to Grays Athletic and Tuesday’s match with Gateshead called off – and have now been punished for not settling their creditor’s debts with a 25-point penalty.

But manager Mick Wadsworth said: “I think it’s great to see and it’s fantastic to witness clubs helping each other out in the way that they have done.

“We needed that and we needed their vote and I think it gives us all here a warm feeling to know that we’re not everyone’s enemy. All we can do is send our thanks to everyone who have kept this club alive.”

Managing director Bob Gray said: “We needed 100 per cent of the vote and we got it. That’s solidarity in its entirety.

“I remember when Leeds and Rotherham were in the same position. We were one of only a few clubs to support them so I’m delighted in a way the favour has been returned. It’s great of the clubs and it certainly won’t be forgotten.”

Conference chairman Brian Lee was quick to pay tribute to the league’s chairman who voted to accept the relegated League Two side despite “not ticking all the boxes”.

He said: “As ever, you feel sorry for your brother. Chester chairman Mr Vaughan is very grateful that we have fought for their preservation.”

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kenilworth roadChester City finally earned their first point in the Blue Square Premier as they recorded a first clean sheet since April which put there points tally to minus 24!!.

Despite Luton’s high flying start, Chester City looked the more likely to score with Nick Chadwick forcing two saves from Hatters keeper Mark Tyler and hitting the bar with a header.

Unhappy Hatters fans booed their team off at the final whistle as the game pettered out to a goalless draw.

Luton Town: Tyler, Reynolds (Murray 58), Pilkington, White, Blackett, Jarvis, Nicholls, Gallen, Burgess, Craddock, Basham (Howells 58).
Subs: Gore, Gnakpa, Patrick.

Booked: White.

Chester: Danby, Roberts, Ryan, Lynch, Lea, Wilkinson (Meynell 84), Kay (Owen 74), Vaughan, Ashton, Alessandra (Platt 95), Chadwick.
Subs: Murphy, Ellams.

Booked: Wilkinson, Lynch

Attendance: 6,563

Referee: Steve Creighton (Reading).

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It has been announced today that Chester City have re-arranged their home league match against Gateshead for Tuesday, September 15.

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