BY his own admission, John Askey’s personal memories of Wembley are bittersweet at best.
And that’s why he’s determined to redress the balance by leading Macclesfield to FA Trophy glory on Sunday.
The Silkmen twice reached the final of the competition during the Moss Rose legend’s playing days, but neither occasion was particularly satisfying for Askey.
“A win at Wembley would be my biggest achievement. I haven’t won anything yet apart from minor trophies, so it would be huge for myself and for the club,” he said.
“Personally, my memories of Wembley are not great, I played in 1989 and we lost 1-0 against Telford. I got injured in the first 20 minutes and ended up having to come off – so not a great memory!
“I’d started the game off really well and then somebody came through the back of me and run their studs down my calf.
“But I can say that I played there, and there’s not many can claim that.
“It’s not so much unfinished business because in football you just have to keep moving on.
“If you stand still and look at what you have achieved or what you haven’t achieved, then you’re dead. It’s all about moving forward and trying to improve as a manager and improve the team.”
Askey’s place in Macclesfield folklore is already well established, but he wants his current crop of players to ensure they too are remembered with similar affection by supporters in years to come.
And that means winning the final
“It’s really important we finish the season well with a trophy – it’s no good just turning up and thinking ‘it’s a nice occasion’,” he said.
“Our sole focus now is on winning that trophy. If you don’t win it, it soon gets forgotten so we are trying to make our own little bit of history.”
If the Silkmen can pull it off against a York City side relegated from the Vanarama National League a few weeks ago – despite assembling a squad which looked good enough to challenge at the top end of the table – then it will represent a very successful year for everyone at the Moss Rose.
“The main aim and ambition for these players is to get back into the Football League, but we’ve had a good run in this competition this season and reached the final, so it would be great to win it,” said Askey.
“Our budget is small but we’ve challenged for the play-offs right up until the last couple of weeks of the season, and we’ve reached the final of the biggest competition available to non-league clubs – because let’s face it, we’re not going to win the FA Cup.
“So hopefully we can round the season off in style and become the third team in this club’s history to lift the trophy.
“We were the first ever winners of the competition, reached the final in ‘89 – which I was part of – and then won it in ‘ 96 when I was injured, so we do have a good tradition in this competition.
“To get to the final four times in 47 years isn’t a bad return for a club of our size.”
Having experienced what it’s like to walk out at the home of football for a big final, Askey is mindful of the potentially energysapping release of adrenalin players feel when realising a lifelong ambition to ply their trade at Wembley.
That’s why the manager was so keen to get his players down to London a couple of days ahead of the big occasion to take in the surroundings and the sheer scale of the venue.
“There’s something inside that ignites when you walk out at Wembley and the hardest part is controlling the adrenalin
‘If you don’t win, it soon gets forgotten so we are trying to make our own little bit of history’
that you have to cope with, as you do in any big game.
“You have to ensure it doesn’t sap your energy.
Sammy McIlroy was manager of the Macc side which lifted the FA Trophy in 1996