Picture – if you will – a summer Saturday morning in 1978. Now add into that picture a Ford Escort van speeding through the centre of Macclesfield towards Congleton. Then consider the people in that van: a boy in desperate need of a hair cut, wearing his winter parka zipped up to the neck; and a man in his early forties, wearing oily overall’s – who was telling a rather elaborate tale about mending tanks and other military ironmongery for ‘E2R’. In a world before seatbelts being compulsary – or in this case, available – the boy was hanging on for dear life and hanging on the man’s every word.
…and then, quite casually, the man points out of the window and says, ‘That’s Macc Town’s ground you know’. The boy feeling something was required of him said, ‘Wow!’ – and then added – ‘Really?’ I was young, a football ground, any football ground, was a strange and exotic place in those days.
Since then, the haircut issue has been resolved – rather unsatisfactorily in my opinion, I tend not to wear my winter coat in summer, my Dad still goes on about the army, I always wear my seatbelt and I will always remember the first time I saw the Moss Rose.
To chart the history of Macclesfield Town FC, you have to go back way further than 1978 though – way, way further.
Flushed with cash from the production of silky things for the well-heeled all over the world – the town fathers decided that what any self respecting manufacturing town in the North of England needed was – a canal! Having got this out of their system in 1831 and secured direct access to Marple(!) with a state of the art transport link – they felt that more was required to really put Macc on the map, perhaps an expensive furniture shop with a funny Italian name for example. But no! The voices of reason prevailed and some time in the 1850’s(ish) a football team was formed. A Rugby Union football team.
After twenty odd years of trying to understand the difference between a ruck and a maul the good townsfolk of Macc elected to ‘sack that for a lark’ and decided to give this new Association Football thingy a bash. So, in 1874 – Macc finally had a proper football team. Hussah!
For the next 70 or so years the gentlemen amateurs of Macclesfield dazzled the footballing world with their shimmery, jacquard woven football strips to such an extent that no-one seems to remember any of the games, scores or indeed what league they were in. However, following that spat of bad form known to the history books as WWII – Macc were back! Now know officially as Macclesfield Town FC they joined the Cheshire County League for the 1946/7 season – presumably in sensible cotton shirts – and after a few years of squad building won the Cheshire League title in 1953 having already picked up three Cheshire League Challenge Cups along the way.
The 60’s marked yet more progress including: a first outing in the first round of the Football Association Challenge Trophy in 1960, a hatfull of Cheshire League titles, the clubs first foray into the third round of the FAmous Cup against Fulham in ‘that’ London in 1968 and being founder members of the Northern Premier League (sort of like the Conference – but in black and white) also in 1968 – which they won in 69 and again in 70.
In 1970 Macc made their first visit to Wembley for the inaugural FA Trophy final, where they brushed aside Telford 2-0. Making them just about the winningest team in Cheshire at that time – what could possibly go wrong?
Sadly, the rest of the 70’s went a bit ropey – probably due to small boys gawping at them from the windows of Ford Escort vans. In 1979 the best teams in the Northern Premier League nicked off and formed the Alliance Premier League (later know as the Football Conference) meaning Macc who were languishing at the foot of the table after seasons of decline were effectively relegated.
However, after a few cracks at it, Macc managed to get themselves into the Conference in 1985, finishing mid table and producing a decent FA Cup run. In 1989 they even managed another trip to Wembley in the FA Trophy where they faced – Telford, again. Telford had clearly spent the intervening 15 years on some pretty detailed planning, because it was they who took the spoils, winning 1-0. After the Wembley trip, Macc – as is their tradition – went rubbish for a bit culminating in a brush with relegation in 1992/3.
But lo! St. Samuel of McIlroy looked upon the land of Macc in the year one thousand, nine hundred and ninety three – and he saw that it was good. He bound up the Macc-ites wounds, wiped away their tears and gave unto them his words of wisdom. The Macc-ites heard his words and knew that they were good and raising from their degradation followed the wise St. Samuel into the promised land – after they’d got the ground improvements sorted n’that
So, into Football League Div 4 in 1997, onward to Div 3 in 1998, back to Div 4 for 99/00. Verily and foresooth – St. Samuel did bunk off soon after and ply his trade with the Northern Hibernians and was never seen in the land of Macc again. Although they did name a stand after him – which was nice.
n recent times a selection of managers including the recently unemployed Paul Ince have done a decent-ish job keeping Macc in Div 4 in spite of dwindling attendances and tightening purse strings – high points included an outing in the Div 4 play-offs in 2004/5 – losing out in the semis. In 2006 they met Chelsea in the FAmous Cup 3rd round – losing 6-1. According to official Macc sources this was all down to the ref sending off their keeper (future Dale heart-throb Tommy Lee) after a blatant dive by Shevchenko and was in no way related to the fact that Chelsea had spent the gross annual product of Germany on players.
Managed to finish 20th – one point above Bournemouth, who started the season with a 17 point deduction. Had Bournemouth and fellow deductees Luton had their points back, Macc would have finished just above the drop zone.
Having watched them twice last season, current manager Keith Alexander seems to have built a team with defence in mind. They did defend quite well in both games vs. Dale – the problem was not nearly well enough. Most teams discovered that with application Macc could be unpicked – this made them one of the leakiest teams in League Two last term. 77 goals conceded.
To compound the problem of letting them in their own goal, they struggled to score themselves. Their top scorer Gareth Evans netted 12, Simon Yeo scored 7 and Nat Brown weighed in with 6 – from a team total of 45.
Well – they got rid of a load of players after the end of last season – and during the summer they have brought a load more in. Those that have come in look somewhat less than world-beaters and the class of 09/10 will be missing last season’s top scorers Evans and Yeo, who have moved on.
I can see Macc conceding plenty, not scoring many and without the comfort of teams with points deductions acting as cushion below them – this could be a very long season with a very disappointing end for the Macc-ites. Maybe time for new messiah – or at least minimal gawping from small boys with bad haircuts.
Macclesfield the place?
Macclesfield was at one time the world’s biggest producer of finished silk goods. Their star turn was silk fabric woven from many different coloured threads incorporating highly complex geometric designs or designs from nature (flowers and such). This was achieved through a rather clever piece of kit called a Jacquard loom. Exactly how a Jacquard loom does what it does is still something of a mystery to me – and I have seen one in action at one of Macclesfield’s four silk museums. However, in summary it uses a stream of cardboard patterns which tell the loom where to weave or not to weave and what colour to do it in – no wiser? It was invented by the French – what do you expect? In any case the nice lady at the museum having all but given up trying to explain the mysteries of the loom to me said, ‘think of it like a very early computer – in fact many of the design features of the Jacquard loom, such as binary, are the basis of modern computing’. ‘Ah right – I get you now. Can I play Halo on it then?’ Her ‘look’ was sadly unprintable.
In addition to a great many silk and silk-related museums, Macclesfield is on the west coast mainline – which means you go through it on the way to London by train. Whilst waiting at the station you will have the opportunity to look at the numerous overpriced tables, chairs, sofas and other assorted household paraphernalia in the window of Arighi Bianchi. If you are planning to pop in at any time – selling your house should raise the required funds for a coffee table
I have been to Moss Rose many times in the roofless away end. On pretty much every one of those occasions the weather was less than clement. However, with a few simple precautions you can avoid the worst effects of the elements: stout shoes, a hat of some kind, a waterproof coat and – most importantly of all, be indoors listening to the game on the radio/internet – it’s the only way to be sure.
In addition to silk, canals, railways, furniture shops and rain, Macc is richly endowed with famous sons: Ben Ainslie, Olympic gold medal winning yachtist; Peter Crouch, footballer and giant; David Dickinson, orange bric-a-brac enthusiast; Mr. Methane, auto-gaseous musician; The Macc Lads, singers of luridly graphic songs and the legend that is Ian Curtis, front man of Joy Division (also Stephen Morris, drummer from Joy Division).
Macclesfield Town in a word?
Written by Richard Eden-Maughan on 13th August 2009.