RYAN ASTLES says Chester’s players are ‘incredibly grateful’ for the ‘unbelievable’ efforts of the club’s supporters since news of their financial plight broke.
The Blues were plunged into a financial crisis a fortnight ago after the full extent of their cash-strapped situation was revealed, with the club needing to raise £50,000 within a month to avoid going out of business.
For the playing staff, that raised immediate concerns about potentially not getting paid or losing their jobs before the end of the current campaign, but the club’s supporters have rallied around to close in on their short-term cash target and stave off insolvency.
The 23-year-old centre-half moved to thank the supporters and pointed towards the situation over the past week at Macclesfield Town – where players were paid late – as an example of how important Chester’s support has been.
““I think the news came as a massive shock to most people connected with the club, it came out of the blue,” the Birkenhead-born defender said.
“But what the fans have done since, raising over £40,000 and more, it’s been unbelievable really.
“We are incredibly grateful as a group of players. You see down the road at Macclesfield, some of their players aren’t getting paid on time. It’s not a nice situation for anyone, in any line of work, if they don’t get paid, it’s not nice to see.
“So our fans have effectively backed us and the club by raising this amount of money in such a short space of time. I think they are unbelievable.
“All we can do now is to focus on Saturday, the Woking game, and hopefully start to pay back the fans for what they’ve done for the club these past two weeks.”
Less than 48 hours after the full extent of Chester’s financial plight was revealed at a CFU meeting, the Blues took to the pitch away at Maidenhead United but failed to raise any cheer amongst their travelling supporters, going down to a 3-0 defeat.
Astles refused to blame off-pitch circumstances for the loss, but did accept some of his team-mates may have been affected by the uncertainty surrounding their futures.
“It’s hard to say really if any of our players were affected at Maidenhead,” he explained.
“Personally I wasn’t, I just tend to get on with things and I wasn’t thinking about the off-field news. But maybe it does affect some of the lads, I’m not sure.
“What I can say is we simply weren’t good enough at Maidenhead, and they took full advantage. Despite James (Jones) being sent off early, I don’t think it made a great deal of difference because the way we played, we’d have lost with 11.
“I can only be honest and I know that wasn’t at all near the standards we want to set.”
Attention on Chester has almost entirely been focused off the pitch in the past fortnight but the Blues are back in action on Saturday away at Woking, before facing crucial back-to-back home games against Eastleigh and Leyton Orient.
“All we can do is get our heads down and work hard, as we can’t affect anything off the pitch,” he added. “We’ve got 15 games left and to use the cliche we just have to take them one game at a time, starting with Woking. It’s huge for us and we have to go down there and get a positive result. A couple of wins and we could drag ourselves out of the bottom four, it’s pretty close still.
“Woking is a big game then we’ve got back-to-back home games with Eastleigh and Leyton Orient which look really important. We can’t be looking at anything less than two wins from these three matches, we’ve just got to start picking up more points full stop.
“We’re pleased to see Sam (Hornby) and Andy (Firth) both stay until the end of the season. It was a blow to lose Lynchy but we’ve now got two good keepers from higher leagues so we’re not in a bad position.”