Chester FC The football club that wouldn't die
PUBLISHED: 16:20 02 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:41 20 February 2013
Chester's football club has been re-born and they are targeting a rapid return, as Paul Mackenzie reports
When Chester footballers run out for their first match of the new season, there will be hardly a dry eye in the house. Ive joked that we should have the match sponsored by Kleenex, laughs Jeff Banks, one of the people who has been dedicated to ensuring there is still a club in the city.
The future looked bleak when they were unable to complete their fixtures last season but thanks to the determination of Jeff and a team of like-minded fans, the club has bounced back.
They will kick off this month in the EvoStik First Division North, four promotions away from the Football League but Jeff is simply happy to have a club to support.
We thought at one stage we would not have a football club, so whichever league we play in will be better than not having a club at all, Jeff said.
The club was bought in 2001 by Liverpool boxer-turned-businessman Stephen Vaughan and under his ownership they won promotion from the Conference. But they fell back a couple of seasons later and went into administration in 2009 and were bought by Vaughans son, Stephen Vaughan junior.
Towards the end of last season the club - which was in its 125th year - failed to fulfil their fixtures and were expelled from the league.
For a time it looked like the club which produced internationals Ian Rush and Lee Dixon would cease to exist, but the two largest supporters clubs merged to create City Fans United and to safeguard its future.
It has been a long march back, said Jeff. Fortunately we had already held meetings with the council so we were able to hit the ground running.
We applied to re-form the club and were able to take the history from the old club to the new. Then we went to the fans to decide which name to adopt and 75 per cent voted for Chester FC, which is what the club was known as before 1983 and we held a launch night at Chester Guild Hall.
We now have 2,200 members so things have really taken off well. To have that many people already is wonderful. It seems odd to say it but Barcelona have the same system as us - we are both owned by the fans, so no single person can ruin things again.
Former Colwyn Bay manager Neil Young has been brought in with a clear mandate to guide the club to promotion. Anything less than that will be deemed as a failure, Jeff said. We have to get back to where we were. The fans demand it and Neil knows that.
Despite their new lowly status, season ticket sales are set to break the club record and Chester are ready to be seen as one of the giants of non-league.
It has been very, very difficult for the fans to go through this but we are all just looking forward to the new season now. We will be visiting grounds we have never been to before and we will be one of the big teams - I dont mean that to sound arrogant but we are expecting to take 500 or 1,000 people to away games and the average attendance at some clubs is about 200. At others its nearer 50.
The playing staff are part time at the moment but we will re-assess that in a couple of years when hopefully we will be playing at a higher level. I would like to see Chester FC back in the Football League one day but the Conference North is the first aim - that is the three year plan, then we will re-evaluate.
It is exciting and challenging and we are all looking forward to that first match. I cant wait to see the lads run out - there will be a few tears shed that day and Im sure Ill be crying too.