He had been at Leeds United from the age of nine, and later got his first taste of men’s football on loan at Rushden and Diamonds and then Hull City, who he would later play for in the Premier League.
Venturing outside the Leeds bubble was an ‘eye opener’, but it would prepare him for the rough and tumble of proper competitive football at the Spireites.
He was made to feel welcome from day one, a genuine and honest set of lads who would make national headlines in their remarkable League Cup run in 2006.
“A team like Chesterfield, when you are up against those teams, you have nothing to lose,” Folan, who scored in the cup wins, told the DT. “It kind of brings you together more, I sensed that in the team. The cup run brought out all these other qualities in team spirit which I sensed from the beginning which was amazing.
“I was watching the highlights reel of that cup run recently and we were good you know! The way we dominated those teams was just incredible.
“I was in a bit of form around that time in general. I felt really good anyway and that filtered into those games.
“Saltergate was an old school stadium and it makes me sad to think it is not there now. When I was looking at some of the videos I was like ‘wow, look at that, the atmosphere was insane.’”
Life after Chesterfield saw Folan play in the top flight with Wigan Athletic and Hull, who he joined for a then club record fee of £1m.
When playing for the Republic of Ireland he faced Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro, who he regards as the best defender he has faced, along with Leeds pair Lucas Radebe and Jonathan Woodgate and Chelsea’s John Terry.
His best strike partners were Emile Heskey at Wigan, Dean Windass and Fraizer Campbell at Hull and Robbie Keane for the Republic of Ireland.
His Tigers boss, Phil Brown, who Folan describes as a ‘breath of fresh air’, was his favourite manager.
On the same day that Folan signed for Hull, Nigerian midfielder Jay Jay Okocha, who had shone in the Premier League at Bolton, also joined.
“He was frightening,” Folan said. “I had never seen someone like that. I think my time at Hull was probably my best time in my career in terms of feeling belonging. It reminded me of Chesterfield in terms of everyone being down to earth and a lot of togetherness.”
Folan left Hull in 2011, and it was around this time that he decided he needed a change due to things in his personal life.
He had spells at clubs in America, Asia, Malaysia, Burma and Trinidad and Tobago.
These places brought about some incredible life experiences but Folan can’t help but wonder if he made the move abroad too soon.
He added: “When I look back do I regret maybe going at that period of time? Maybe…
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