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Birch, a fans hero

By Seb Barnes
August 13 2004

Seb Barnes has chosen Alan Birch as his favourite all time Saltergate legend. Here is his take on why he was so special to the Chesterfield faithful. We signed Alan Birch from Walsall back in 1979 and in my opinion he has been one of the most skillful players ever to grace the beloved blue of Chesterfield.

Alan was an instant crowd favorite despite his 'Keeganesque' blond bubbly perm! Arthur Cox was the manager back then and I guess all Arthur told him was to play his best and take people on which he did game after game.

Sometimes you felt sorry for some of the defenders arrayed against him because he would genuinly make them look ungainly and silly at times.

Alan revelled in one of the best Chesterfield sides ever and his performances and goals would (and should) have easily graced the old First Division.

I'm not a 'statto' kind of guy so I cant with accuracy give the exact games,opposition etc but I remember some superb solo efforts and some cracking team play.

I remember him scoring (in fact chipping!) a keeper from well over 35 yards....he cut in near the Main Stand...looked up and chipped the guy......amazing. I still remember the cries of theres only 'One Alan Birch' ringing around Saltergate.

Alan the player was very impressive and I guess I expected a big ego to go with it but on the few times I met and chatted to him he seemed a real gentleman with a cheeky Black Country sense of humor.

I also remember him reduced to tears after we failed to go up....I among hundreds waited for him to come out after the final game of the season and he seemed genuinly humbled at the adoration he rightly received.

Well all good things come to an end so they say and despite some more excellent performances the following season we just came short of promotion yet again.
His individual performances had attracted a then big offer of 200k from Wolves and off he merrily went (and I wont go into the way we were screwed by Wolves but even now some fans still gnash their teeth when the Wolves 'deal' is mentioned.)

A few years later Alan returned to Saltergate under John Duncan but despite some good games unfortunately he would never recapture the form and game changing performances that everyone remembered from his first spell here.

Alan left us and went to a few other clubs before eventually retiring and going into pub management which I hear he still does now in the West Midlands.

In closing in my opinion I'm yet still to see another one as good or as skillful as 'Birchie' pull on a blue shirt or a side as good as the one he was in but (fingers crossed) I pray the good times will return soon....ya never know eh ;-)
Thanks for the memories Alan.

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