37 year old Jack Lester has been given many nicknames in his time; one of these is the ‘Robinho of League Two.’ This could seem a somewhat strange nickname for a player who has spent the entirety of his career outside of the top flight but Lester has proved to be the talisman at a number of clubs that he played for.
Lester began his career by coming through the youth system at Grimsby Town. In 1994 he made his debut for the first team and became a regular in a side which went on to win promotion via the playoffs in 1998 and also lift the Football League Trophy. His career at Blundell Park came to an end during the 1999-2000 campaign when he was sold to Nottingham Forest. He spent three years at the City Ground before moving up the road to Sheffield United in 2003. However, Lester’s time at Bramall Lane was short lived and he returned to Forest after just one year, where he played another three seasons.
At the end of the 2006/07 season Lester found himself on the list of released players at Nottingham Forest and as such was a free agent. However, he was not a free agent for long and in the summer of 2007 he moved to Chesterfield in League Two, signing a three year contract. Fans at Saltergate were extremely excited by the prospect of Lester playing for their team, having seen him line-up against them on a number of occasions previously.
Manager at the time Lee Richardson made the bold move of moving Jack Lester into a striking role. This was known to be his favoured position but in his time with Forest and Sheffield United he had been occupying an attacking midfield role in the hole behind the strikers. This move into a more attacking role immediately paid off as he scored 27 goals in all competitions; making him the third top goal scorer in the league. It was in this season they he also became the fastest post-war Chesterfield player to score 20 goals in a season, a fantastic achievement for a man who had been at the club for such a little amount of time. His fantastic goal scoring record in his first season, coupled with his all-round style of play made him an instant hit in Derbyshire.
Despite scoring fewer goals in the 08-09 season, Lester set yet another club record by becoming the first striker at the club to score 20 or more goals in successive seasons. He also finished the term as joint top-scorer in the division; whilst also reaching the milestone of 100 league career goals. In 10-11 the striker went to achieve 17 goals in 29 games in a season which saw Chesterfield win the League Two title during their first campaign at their brand new stadium. His partnership with Craig Davies went from strength to strength throughout the season and propelled his side to promotion. His form in this season saw him sign a new two year deal therefore keeping him at the club until June 2013.
However, following the club’s promotion, things did not go to plan in League One and the side were subsequently relegated as a result. The club were not helped in their quest for survival by the injuries to number one goalkeeper Tommy Lee and also a broken arm suffered by Lester in the home match against Leyton Orient. This arm injury kept him out of action for three months and despite the best efforts of loan striker Leon Clarke, the lack of fire power was clear to see. The high point of the season for Chesterfield was the success in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Lester had a huge role to play in the success as he scored the decisive goal at Boundary Park against Oldham Athletic in the semi-final. After unfortunately limping off in the final at Wembley, Lester, who captained the side on that day, was able to lift the trophy as his side beat the much fancied Swindon Town 2-0. The trophy win was a high point in what was largely a thoroughly disappointing season for the Spireites.
Starting the 2012/13 campaign at the ripe old age of 36 it was perhaps not surprising that Lester featured in the majority of his games off the bench. Throughout the year he only made 11 starts in a season which saw Chesterfield once again fall way short of expectations. Regardless of his lack of playing time, Lester still managed an impressive 11 goals from just 1,454 minutes in total. With him turning 37 years old part-way through the season manager Paul Cook made the decision to not renew the striker’s contract, much to the dismay of many of the Chesterfield faithful. Most fans were in agreement that even despite his age, Lester still had much to offer but ultimately the decision was down to manager Cook.
Lester had broken the news in an interview and stated his intentions to play on, even after he had left the Proact Stadium. However, his decision changed and he announced his retirement from the game at the end of the season, this allowing the club to show their appreciation to him on their last match of the campaign. Lester’s last professional game was on the 27th April 2013, where the club held ‘Jack Lester day’ in the home match against Exeter. The match was a big event for the town and became a fitting tribute to a man who had achieved so much since joining the club in 2007. Lester scored two goals in the game and left the field in the 70th minute to a standing ovation from all sides of the ground, even including the travelling Grecians. Jack Lester is arguably the greatest player to ever pull on the blue shirt of Chesterfield and he will be greatly missed by the Spireites.