RETURN OF THE MACC
Macclesfield Town are heading back to the EFL
THE champions boarded the coach ahead of the journey home and, at the top of their voices, saluted Macclesfield Town’s return to the Football League after six years away: “The Silkmen are going up with a tenner in the bank!”
Just over an hour earlier they had sealed the National League title with a 2-0 win against Eastleigh and completed a Non-League fairytale.
Led by the manager the fans call ‘Sir’ John Askey, Macc had defied the odds to win the league with a tight squad and on one of the division’s smallest budgets.
“I’m still trying to take it in,” an emotional Askey said straight after. “It means so much, it means so much to so many people.”
Mitch Hancox, who scored the decisive second to secure the three points that got them over the line, was the only contracted player last summer.
Club legend Danny Whitaker, the team’s Peter Pan at 37 years old, his talented midscored field partner Danny Whitehead and defenders George Pilkington and David Fitzpatrick all returned for another season, but the rest of the team was made up of new arrivals.
Despite that, despite running on a small squad, despite being expected to fall away from the title race long ago, Askey’s men got there with a game to spare. And they did it playing some excellent football.
“It’s absolutely unbelievable,” Whitaker said. “At the start of the season, no one gave us a prayer. One of the lowest budgets in the league, a completely new team.
“It’s the flip of a coin at that point which way it is going to go, but the lads have gelled and worked and worked. We complemented each other very well and we’ve reached it. We’ve reached the Promised Land of League Two.”
Macc took a giant step towards the title in the space of four February days.
On the Saturday they travelled to promotion rivals Aldershot Town and came away with a 2-1 win.
Then, the following Tuesday night, they were away at one of their biggest threats, Tranmere Rovers. A scintillating performance brought a 4-1 win and sent a message to the rest of the league they should be taken very seriously.
There have been late winners, late January wages blamed on an admin error and advances from Football League clubs for Askey’s services during the season. But they did it.
Life hasn’t always been easy since relegation from the Football League in 2012. The club have been hand to mouth, but in Askey they have someone who breathes Macclesfield. He won promotion with Macc in 1997, was still working full-time in their first season in the Football League and jumped into the stands to celebrate with fans when he his last ever goal back in 2003. If there was one man to do it, it had to be him.
With tears in his eyes, he paid tribute to people like (former vice-chairman) Andy Scott, who had kept the club going in difficult times, to the supporters who have stuck by them, and to the players he says have the “biggest hearts” in the league.
“Not only are they good footballers,” said Askey, “they are good people. If you get enough good people in a team who can play then things like this happen.
“I’m so pleased for them because every single one of them gets on. There’s not one I wouldn’t go out and have a drink with. I’m just glad we’ve got some reward for their hard work. They will always be remembered.
“You can have all the money you want, you can go and play for teams for money. But it’s about winning. No matter what happens in their life, the people of Macclesfield will always remember this team.
Money can’t buy that.”
Matt Badcock, of our sister publication The Non-League Paper, reflects on how Macclesfield Town have earned their place back among the top 92…