WHEN Martin Allen led Eastleigh to Brentford in the FA Cup two seasons ago he got a hero’s reception at his old Griffin Park stamping ground.

Those scenes are unlikely to be replicated on Saturday when the 53-year-old returns to the Silverlake as manager of Chesterfield.

It will be his first time back at Stoneham Lane since an ill-fated 14-match reign as Spitfires boss, which brought just two victories – one league and one cup – and left fans fearing for the club’s National League future.

But one man who’ll be pleased to welcome back one of football’s most unpredictable and charismatic characters is new Spitfires boss Ben Strevens, who played for Allen at Barnet, Gillingham and Eastleigh.

In his eyes, the Spitfires didn’t see the best of the man who arrived with a big reputation built on title-winning successes with the Gills and the Bees.

“I was about 19 or 20 when Martin came to Barnet to help with training and then became assistant and eventually manager,” Strevens recalled.

“I can only talk as I find and he’s been great for me in my career.

"When he left Barnet for Brentford we were all gutted. Then at Gillingham we won the league.

"Martin’s got a real fun personality and he’s great to be around.

“Results didn’t go his way here, but not for lack of effort or hard work. He’s really good at all the small details in terms of organisation and planning.

"I’ve got a lot of respect for him, but sometimes, hard as you try, things don’t go right.”

When Allen arrived in December 2016, he was already Eastleigh's third manager of a turbulent campaign.

“We started the season with Toddy (Chris Todd) who had ideas of what he wanted to do, then we had Ronnie Moore who came in with his own ideas,” said Strevens.

“Then Martin came in and, at that point the group was strong, but very quickly players left – some were Martin’s decisions and some because they were good players that other people wanted.

“Joe Partington was one of the best players ever to play for Eastleigh in my opinion and Andy Drury is probably the best midfielder I’ve played alongside at the club.

"Luke Coulson and Mikael Mandon also went and those four leaving was a big reason why things didn’t go so well on the pitch.

"Martin's always preferred younger, fit players and he has a certain way of playing.

"At Barnet and Gillingham it worked for him, but here some players didn't quite suit the way he liked to do things."

Saturday will be Strevens’ first home game in official charge of Eastleigh.

He admitted: “It’s going to be weird being in the opposite dugout to Martin. He’s a different character to me, he's quite animated on the touchline.

"I think he’ll get a mixed reaction, but Eastleigh fans are quite respectful.”

While the Spitfires have lost just one league game in 11, Chesterfield have not won in 17 since opening the season with three straight wins. They are, however, on a ten-match unbeaten league/ cup run – eight being draws.

On Tuesday they won 3-1 at Billericay in an FA Cup first round replay thanks to a hat-trick from 6ft 7in forward Tom Denton, signed from Alfreton.

Michael Green (groin) is still struggling for Eastleigh, but Chris Zebroski is back in training and Oscar Gobern got through an hour of a behind-closed-doors friendly against a young AFC Bournemouth side.

The Spitfires, who also fielded a predominantly young team, hit the post through Tom Bearwish early on and eventually lost 1-0 to the Cherries.

“It was no disgrace losing to them," said Strevens.

"Ross Flitney, Zeb and Oscar played and the rest were youngsters like Tom Bearwish, Lewis Harvey, Callum Baughan and Ollie Dennett. Cav Miley and Joey Jones did a bit too.

"It was a good opportunity to get the lads game time and also take a look at some Bournemouth youngsters who could be available for loan in January."