Posts Tagged Chesterfield

I [heart] Saltergate

When the makers of The Damned United were searching for locations suitable for the adaptation of David Peace’s novel, one of their tasks was to find a contemporary football ground which could represent Derby County’s Baseball Ground as it looked in the early 1970s. They were probably expecting to have to settle for somewhere which was similar in its original structural design but, inevitably, in a much more modern condition.

Then they found Saltergate. In the end all they needed to do to travel back in time by 40 years or so was to cover the main stand’s blue paint with green. Chesterfield Football Club decided not to bother repainting in the main stand after filming had ended – after all, it had needed a new coat for years, and with the club due to relocate just a few months later, there wasn’t really any point.

Here, Brian Clough (Michael Sheen) directs the Derby County players’ training session. This scene is great for views of Saltergate: this shot sees the Main Stand in the background, complete with era-authentic advertising hoardings (Texaco) added. The bright patch over a hole in the Main Stand roof (top left of picture) was there before filming. The stand looks a lot darker than in real life due to all the green paint. And what the hell have they done to the pitch??

As Clough and his Chairman, Sam Longson (Jim Broadbent), argue, The Kop is visible in the background.

And as they continue, we see the Cross Street end, where many an away fan would get soaked by the North Derbyshire rain, and laughed at by the home fans (“you’re getting wet, you’re getting wet, we’re not, we’re not” – oh the wit).

There’s very little of the Compton Street stand visible in the film, presumably because, with 1,000 or so bright blue plastic seats it was the most un-1970s-Derby-County of all the stands. It’s visible here behind Clough as he argues (again) with Longson. I assume they covered the seats with a bit of grey tarpaulin to achieve some kind of non-descript terracing effect.

On the other side of the Main Stand is (oh… ‘was’. It breaks my heart to correct myself in that way) the main entrance to the club. Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor (second from the left, Timothy Spall) welcome three new signings to the club. The rusty corrugated iron with its paint peeling off was, again, not added for the benefit of filming.

Here’s a clearer view of the main entrance. CFC’s official club letterbox remains visible, at least in this photo (not taken from the film).

And finally, here’s a close-up of the press box, its surroundings painted green for the film (I’m not entirely sure why a section of the roof has been removed).

(Many thanks to the kind gentleman at DoingThe116 for the use of the photo of the press box, taken during a wander round the ground which he details in a wonderful, touching post here. And indeed, reading here, he appears to be more more of a Spireite than me. These posts are all in Dutch, so you might want to have the Google translation bar, or something similar, at the ready)

I was genuinely delighted when I heard that Saltergate would be used as a location in the film, meaning that a personally evocative, but to others obscure, part of my life would be immortalised. I didn’t know it at the time, but the choice of Saltergate would also come to mean that the savagely crushing realisation that my digital camera’s memory card had failed during the last ever match there (thereby forever losing the photos carefully taken from my own long-standing vantage point within the ground) was slightly eased.

Only slightly, mind. I’m still bloody upset about it.


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Queen’s Park, Chesterfield

This is the only place to begin, frankly. A small but perfectly formed venue for cricket, it’s quiet, pretty, and ideal for the English county game (ie. it’s not very big but that’s ok because there won’t be many people coming anyway).

Its size and setting means specatators are able to take a full 360 degree wander around the boundary, and it hasn’t been too sullied by the commercial side of the game: there’s invariably an ice cream van or two, perhaps a couple of burger stalls, and maybe a small rickety table selling cricketing memorabilia and/or second hand books. In short, just about the right amount of stuff you would want/need/feel able to put up with.

Derbyshire County Cricket Club stayed away from this venue for several years in the 1990s and early 2000s, but have recently (re)adopted it as their ‘on the road’ home venue for when they’re not playing at Derby’s County Ground (more on that later). In practice this means around one ‘proper’ county game and two or three limited overs games a year.

I have lots of fond memories of Queen’s Park, including being unable to find my way back to my Dad from out in the middle at the end of a tea break (in the days when spectators weren’t generally suspected of being terrorists), and, many years later, playing football on the same outfield with my Dad and my, then 18-month-old, firstborn. Speaking of which, the park itself also features plenty of places to explore and play; ideal for those with a slightly shorter attention span.



The Crooked Spire

Church of Mary and All Saints, Chesterfield, Derbyshire


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Pitch invader

The final ever match at Saltergate.

1-1, 90 minutes on the clock, and the ball sits up in front of the longest-serving player on the pitch, who had made a recent comeback from cancer, and who is 20 yards away from the goal in front of the Kop.

As the man says: “Hit it!”

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It’s a praise about Ray

A good friend of mine goes by the name of Ray Wittering. We met through work and he initiated our first conversation by asking what the bowl containing lumps of brown, sugar-y looking things next to the pots of tea and coffee was. I replied that, as Mick Jagger would say, it was brown sugar, he asked how come it tasted so good, and BOOM! we never looked back.

It always struck me as odd, not to say impressive, that despite my French degree, time spent working in France, and look-at-me-I-can-speak-French-you-know pretensions, his knowledge of French music and film verged on the encyclopedic whereas mine was more monosyllabic.

For just over two years we spent a fair amount of time commuting to work together in tight enclosed spaces, either by train or car, or on foot (after getting out of the tight enclosed spaces first). A lot of this time (and, it must be said, a lot of our actual ‘working’ time) was spent laughing at things we saw, and the things we (mostly he) said. We (mostly he) devised a number of comical characters (including, hilariously, a fat man who loved gravy) and wrote a number of scripts (mostly he. Look, he has a degree in English Literature & Film, ok) for TV shows, called things like Mummy, Make It Stop.

Relatively quickly I became more of an ‘additional material’ kind of contributor, but I was happy with that, as it was still always a pleasure to read his scripts, including Mondo Raymondo, a documentary-style programme based on the fictionalised life and times of Ray Winstone (featuring Ray in the lead role).

Despite making contact with, for example, Ray Winstone’s office, none of our (mostly his) TV ideas seemed to hit the right note for the TV execs. However, two words helps explain this: James fucking Corden (I know, I said two words, but you can have the fucking for free).

We also dreamt up a number of fictional Morrissey albums (Havana Good Times; The World In A Pie Crust), and went to a few football matches together. Our teams had the good grace to exchange a couple of 4-2 wins at Saltergate in consecutive seasons, and he also suffered a freezing February afternoon on the away terrace at Belle Vue, watching a truly awful game only enlivened by a late, solitary goal by the Spireites.

Ray has a wonderful blog, and it was during one of our conversations by email that he prompted, urged, or even dared me to do my own. You have a lot to answer for, Ray.

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Publicly convenient

The Recreation Ground, Saltergate, Chesterfield, featured al fresco toilets behind both the home and away ends (The Kop, and The Cross Street). Happy, happy times indeed.

One fine individual has gone so far as to create a 1:76 model of The Kop, complete with roof-less toilets.

The model is available for sale or rent. My birthday is 4th April. Don’t make me spell it out to you.

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