Spireites links with European Championships

UEFA Euro 2024 will get underway on Friday evening when Germany face Scotland in the opening game at the Allianz Arena.

Chesterfield have two connections in the tournament and have also had links in previous iterations of the competition.

We take a look at six past and present Spireites that have been included in squads for the European Championships…

Gordon Banks

Gordon Banks started his professional career in 1958 at Chesterfield and quickly became someone destined for the very top. In July 1959, he joined First Division side Leicester City for £7,000.

England’s only World Cup winning goalkeeper was also the first goalkeeper to appear for the country in a European Championship. Two years after Banks and co lifted the Jules Rimet trophy at Wembley Stadium, the Three Lions flew to Italy for Euro 1968.

Sir Alf Ramsey’s side qualified top of a group involving Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland before beating Spain 3-1 in the quarter-finals to qualify for the tournament. Italy, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union made up the rest of the field.

England came up against Yugoslavia in the semi-finals at the Stadio Comunale in Florence. Unfortunately, Dragan Džajić struck with four minutes to go and secured Yugoslavia’s spot in the final.

The 1966 World Cup winners would play the Soviet Union in a third-place play-off – Bobby Charlton and Geoff Hurst scored in a 2-0 win.

For Euro 1972, Banks was part of the England side that once again topped their group but lost to eventual winners West Germany in the quarter-finals and failed to qualify for the finals.

Thomas Hitzlsperger

In 2001, Thomas Hitzlsperger joined the Spireites on loan from Premier League side Aston Villa. The German-born midfielder only played six times during his time at Saltergate and impressed before being recalled by Villa.

Seven years later, Hitzlsperger, whilst playing for Stuttgart, was named in the Germany squad for Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland. The three-time winners qualified for the tournament by finishing second in Group D behind Czech Republic – Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Wales, Cyprus and San Marino were also part of the group.

Joachim Löw’s side finished second Group B to qualify for the quarter-finals. They lost to Croatia, who won the group, but beat Poland and co-host Austria to secure their place.

After beating Portugal and Turkey by a 3-2 scoreline, Germany came up against Spain in the final at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion in Vienna. Hitzlsperger played 58 minutes before being replaced by Kevin Kurányi, but Fernando Torres’ first goal won Spain their first European Championship.

Hitzlsperger, who became a cult hero during those six appearances in 2001, played in all but one game – the defeat to Croatia in the group stage – as Germany finished as runners-up.

Jamie Ward

Jamie Ward joined Chesterfield in 2007 from Torquay United and quickly established himself as an important member of the squad. Thirty one goals in 74 appearances drew the interest of Championship club Sheffield United, who he moved to in January 2009.

The forward continued to impress at Bramall Lane and later at Derby County where his form caught the attention of the Northern Ireland national team. The Green and White Army qualified for Euro 2016 after 30 years without appearing at a major tournament – Ward scored once in qualifying during a 2-0 win over Greece.

Northern Ireland appeared in a very tough Group C alongside Germany, Poland and Ukraine. Michael O’Neil’s side fell to defeat in their first group game as Arkadiusz Milik scored the only goal in Poland’s 1-0 victory.

Northern Ireland would then get a massive 2-0 win over Ukraine before losing 1-0 in their last group game against Germany. Despite finishing third in Group C, Ward would get the chance to play in the knockout stages as one of the best third-placed teams.

The journey came to an end in the round of 16 as a Gareth McAuley own goal gave Wales a slender victory. Ward played all four games in the tournament for Northern Ireland.

Will Grigg

The only current Spireite that has appeared in the final squad at a European Championships is Will Grigg – in the same Northen Ireland squad as Ward. The striker was having the season of his career, scoring 28 times in 43 games as Wigan Athletic secured the League One title.

Heading into the tournament, he scored his first international goal in a 3-0 win over Belarus at Windsor Park. However, unlike Ward, Grigg would not play during the European Championships.

Despite the disappointment of not playing, Grigg’s name was arguably the most sung throughout the whole competition. He also placed joint 25th in UEFA’s 2015/16 Best Player in Europe award – level with Giorgio Chiellini and Paul Pogba of Juventus, Diego Godin of Atletico Madrid and Hugo Lloris of Tottenham Hotspur.

Seven years later, the 32-year-old would move to Chesterfield from MK Dons and almost immediately become a fan favourite. His 26 goals would help fire the Spireites to the National League title and return the club to the English Football League.

Liam Cooper

In November 2012, Liam Cooper moved to Chesterfield on loan from Hull City before joining permanently the next year. He was an integral part of the Spireites winning the League Two title in the 2013/14 season.

He became a target for Leeds United of the Championship, joining the West Yorkshire club in August 2014. Cooper became a massively important member of the squad and also became captain, leading Leeds back to the Premier League in 2020.

A year later, the defender was named in Scotland’s 26-man squad for the delayed Euro 2020 – the nation’s first international tournament since Euro 1996. Cooper started their first group game against Czech Republic, which ended in 2-0 defeat at Hampden Park.

The centre-back didn’t appear in the following two group games as the Tartan Army bowed out at the group stage. Cooper continued to captain Leeds as they were relegated from the Premier League in 2023 before almost securing an immediate return this campaign.

He was selected for Steve Clarke’s 28-man provisional squad for Euro 2024. Despite suffering a slight injury in Scotland’s warm-up win against Gibraltar, Cooper made the 26-man squad that will travel to Germany.

Aaron Ramsdale

Aaron Ramsdale is the only player going to Euro 2024 with a Chesterfield connection. The goalkeeper spent the second half of the 2017/18 season on loan from AFC Bournemouth.

Unfortunately, the Spireites would suffer relegation at the end of the campaign, and he would head back to the Cherries. Within a few years, Ramsdale would make over 100 appearances in the Premier League with Bournemouth, Sheffield United and Arsenal.

His form, whilst with the Blades, earned him a call-up to Gareth Southgate’s initial 33-man squad for the tournament. However, he would be left out of the final 26-man team.

Following an injury to Dean Henderson, Ramsdale was called back up to the squad. Jordan Pickford played every minute for the Three Lions, keeping Ramsdale out of the side, as they cruelly missed out on winning the European Championships after losing on penalties to Italy in the final.

The goalkeeper would earn a move to Arsenal after the tournament and has helped the Gunners to successive second-place finishes in the Premier League as well as a Community Shield victory over Manchester City in 2023.

Ramsdale has once again been called-up to Southgate’s squad for the Euros in Germany – alongside fellow goalkeepers Pickford and Henderson.

We wish Aaron and Liam the very best of luck in UEFA Euro 2024!