It says the Chester FC model is the right way forward
AUTHOR Daniel Gray brilliantly encapsulates the heroic journey every Chester FC fan has had to make in his new book, Hatters, Railwaymen and Knitters .
As part of his ‘ramble through the wonderful towns and teams’ of England, Gray stops off in Chester for a match at the Deva Stadium.
He dedicates an entire chapter to the Blues, tracing the demise of the old Chester City FC and triumphant rebirth of the fan-owned Chester FC.
The Middlesbrough-supporting writer had started to become disillusioned with many aspects of the modern game – but his trip to the Deva gave him hope.
Gray said: “I went to Chester with preconceptions that it is not a football town because of its middle class nature but I left absolutely blown away by what’s going at the club.
“I remember arriving with these preconceptions and getting into the taxi and saying to the driver what I was doing and I could see his eyes filling up as he said it’s ‘our club, it’s our club now’. I kept hearing that phrase everywhere I went.
“I knew going up to the match there was something different about the club. There was something special in their eyes and just a real buzz about the place.
“There is a model that is happening at Chester and it has to be the way forward, certainly for the smaller clubs and maybe even some of the bigger ones. It should be something to follow.”
For his book, published next week, Gray watched matches from Championship level down to the South West Peninsula Premier.
His love for the game is re-ignited by his visit to Chester for their home match against Marine in April last year, when Neil Young’s team collected the Evo-Stik Premier League championship trophy.
“I think the thing that will always stick in my mind is the pitch invasion afterwards when they got the trophy,” said Gray, a married father-of-one who lives in Leith, Scotland.
“First of all kids had piled onto the pitch and people were shaking their heads and shouting at them to get off. Then the kids’ parents went on, then a generation of grandparents eventually went on and were feigning headers in the penalty area.
“I thought ‘sod this I’m going on’ and sort of gate-crashed the party because something special was happening.
“Just seeing there is a really good future in football for clubs like Chester was a real highlight and when a town gets together it is so powerful.”
By 5pm, all of the preconceptions of Chester had been washed away in a sea of optimism.
And with talk of a possible stage performance of the book, it will be fascinating to see how far Gray’s artistry will go.
Daniel Gray is to give a 45-minute talk – followed by a question-and-answer session and book signing – at Chester Town Hall as part of the Chester Literature Festival. It will take place on Thursday, October 24 (1pm).
Hatters, Railwaymen and Knitters is published by Bloomsbury on Thursday (August 1). Cost: ï¿½12.99.