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Wednesday saw the end of the Paul Cook era become a reality as two players who formed the spine of his success departed the Proact Stadium, leaving new boss Dean Saunders with a task to maintain Chesterfield’s momentum of recent years.
Out-of-contract Jimmy Ryan opted for a move to League One counterparts Fleetwood Town hours before Gary Roberts’ anticipated move to Portsmouth was confirmed, following Cook to Fratton Park after a second bid for the 31-year-old was accepted.
Despite the disappointment of losing 26-year-old midfield orchestrator Ryan without a compensatory fee, the sale of Roberts can be seen as good business as an ageing top earner with notorious hamstring trouble moves on from the Proact.
Saunders is now left with an improved playing budget to fill the holes left in Chesterfield’s midfield following the loss of Cook’s mainstays.
It would seem that Cook’s raiding of the Proact for trusted players and staff will now come to a close following the loss of assistant manager Leam Richardson and Roberts, and chief scout Paul Mitchell’s decision to stay with the club despite an offer from Pompey will come as a boost to Spireite fans.
Mitchell, whose reputation continues to grow following the recommendation and development of Ollie Banks, Dan Gardner and Charlie Raglan in recent seasons, has been promoted to head of player development and recruitment at the Proact and will undoubtedly be influential in Saunders’ pursuit to reconstruct Chesterfield’s squad somewhat depleting.
But Saunders this week told The Chesterfield Post that he wants the departures of Ryan and Roberts to be the last outgoings of this window.
The club is likely to have its resolve tested again with Sam Clucas and Tendayi Darikwa the subjects of interest from several clubs, as confirmed by Saunders in his Friday press conference. Should the duo move on this summer, the Spireites will lose an integral generation of young talent which notched up a combined 105 appearances in the last campaign.
Now a month into the job, Saunders and his recently appointed assistant Brian Carey have a job on their hands to maintain the momentum which has seen Chesterfield soar from the wrong end of League Two to the League One play offs via a Wembley appearance in just over two years.
The acquisition of renowned striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake was a statement of intent from Saunders, with a forward of championship calibre with Premier League experience set to undertake a rare full pre-season and lead the line in Blue this coming season.
Saunders confirmed that the former Manchester United trainee is already working with fitness coach and ex-SAS serviceman Mal Purchase in his bid to regain the form which saw him tipped for a Premier League return before breaking his leg while playing under Saunders for Wolves in 2013.
But now it is clear that the new management team must prioritise a midfield makeover and capture talent of a similar ilk to Chesterfield’s latest acquisition if they are to start the season with the success that the old regime finished the last.
The departures of Ryan and Roberts will perhaps finally provide the closure on the Cook era and afford Saunders the required room for manoeuvre to implement his own identity at the Proact Stadium, ahead of the season opener at home against Barnsley on August 8th.