Five Stars: Macclesfield Town's best players in the 21st century
Macclesfield Town supporters have had a lot to cope with over the last couple of years. Keith Alexander and Richard Butcher will never be forgotten at the Moss Rose, but football ploughs on past tragedies and Macclesfield fans can also reflect on some great players to have graced their turf. Matthew Brown picks five stars.
Ask a Macclesfield fan for his or her best five players from the 1990s, and they’d tell you they were spoilt for choice. Two Conference titles, one FA Trophy win and promotion to Division 2 produced enough heroes to fill a starting eleven. A few, like Silkmen legend John Askey and Chris Byrne, also played for the club in the 2000s, but their best years were behind them, and so I’ve left them out of this list. The story of the Silkmen since 2000 has been one of survival, occasional glimpses of the potential for greater things, and one season challenging for promotion. Here’s the five stand-out players of the 21st century.
The Silkmen haven’t had many goalscorers in their time in the Football League. Tipton’s first spell at Macclesfield, from 2002-2005, were the best years of his career. A quick, skillful striker, Tipton was at his best running straight at a defence with the ball at his feet. In three seasons the ‘Welsh Ronaldo’ scored 14, 19 and 14 respectively. Nowadays, that form would earn a move to a bigger club.
For some reason it didn’t happen for Tipton, and following the Silkmen’s play-off defeat to Lincoln in 2005 he made a sideways move to Mansfield that didn’t work out. He returned to Macclesfield on loan in 2006/07, but struggled to get into the starting line-up. Released by parent club Bury that summer, and disillusioned with the professional game at only 27, he dropped into the Conference North for the next two seasons, with Hyde United and later Droylsden.
A career that had promised so much seemed to be over. But not quite. To the surprise of many Macclesfield fans, Tipton returned to the club on trial during the 2009 preseason, and won a one-year contract. Short of fitness, he still came close to his old self on occasions, and scored a few goals, but again didn’t quite cement a first-team place.
Some Macclesfield fans feel Tipton never quite fulfilled his obvious potential, and they may have a point. But he performed consistently well for three seasons, in teams that both struggled and challenged for promotion. He is the club’s record goalscorer since promotion to the Football League in 1997, with 51 goals. He also formed one half of the most dangerous strike partnership the club has had since 2000, with the next player to feature in this top five.
Only one Macclesfield player since 2000 scored more than 20 league goals in a season: Jon Parkin. It is fair to say that hopes for the man who became known as ‘The Beast’ weren’t particularly high when he arrived at the Moss Rose in February 2004. Over the years the club had signed numerous disappointing strikers, Matthew Tipton aside, and there was no reason to think that a free transfer from fellow strugglers York would bring any improvement to the team.
Parkin was one of three signings made by club legend John Askey during his six-month tenure as manager. Although Askey himself didn’t benefit from these signings as manager, his successor Brian Horton certainly did. Parkin, along with Graham Potter and Paul Harsley, went on to form the backbone of Horton’s play-off semi-finalists in 2004/05.
The Beast epitomised the meaninglessness of the cliche ‘good touch for a big man’. He had a good touch by any standard, along with a willingness to chase any loose ball and the skills to carve out chances all by himself when the team wasn’t providing. A prolific goalscorer can be all it takes for a team that struggles one season to challenge at the top in the next, and Horton’s Macclesfield were built around Jon Parkin. He finished 04/05 with 22 league goals.
Inevitably the big clubs came sniffing, and he transferred to Hull in January 2006. Currently at Cardiff, and at 29 years old, the prospect of The Beast terrorising Premiership defences is still a possibility. Next time Fabio Capello heads to South Wales to check out Jay Bothroyd, he may want to keep an eye on the bearded fat guy with the notoriously good feet.
A proper local lad who came through the Silkmen’s youth system, Danny Whitaker was a bit of a late starter. Already 21 when he scored in his first team debut in early 2002, he quickly made up for lost time by becoming a regular. The following season he scored 14 goals – a very respectable tally for a central midfielder. This included an unusual League Cup hat trick against Barnsley, with all three goals being scored in the second half of extra time.
Whitaker was a creative player with fast feet and an excellent shot from distance, able to score spectacular goals or thread careful passes through for a team mate to score. At his best he could orchestrate an attack with a driving forward run from midfield. Although his form was patchy at times, he was a key part of Macclesfield’s midfield in the mid-2000s.
Darren Tinson and John Askey were the last men standing from Macclesfield’s Conference-winning side of 1997. But unlike Askey, who made comparatively few appearances during the 2000s, ‘Tinno’ was a regular starter right up until his final appearance in 2003. Tinson was a powerful centre-back built like the proverbial brick outhouse.
He looked more like a body builder than a footballer. Stuart Hall memorably said that Tinson ‘looked like Tarzan but played like Jane’ after his error allowed Jermain Defoe to score for West Ham at the Moss Rose in an FA Cup tie. But against league opposition, Tinson was as solid a centre half as any in the division at the time.
Kevin McIntyre was a member of both the best and worst Macclesfield Town sides of the 2000s. Joining in December 2004 on a free transfer from Chester City, the archetypal ‘utility man’ slotted into the side that made the play-offs that season. McIntyre’s versatility meant he initially suffered from not having a settled position, at times appearing at left back, left midfield and in the centre of midfield.
Eventually he made the left-sided central midfield position his own, and his consistent, energetic, ball-winning performances made him a fan’s favourite. During the Silkmen’s disastrous start to the 2006/07 campaign, McIntyre seemed to be the only player performing well in a side that didn’t win a league game until December. New manager Paul Ince closed an 11-point gap and kept the club in the Football League, with McIntyre in the midfield engine room. Although not the most technically skilled player, McIntyre deserves his place for sheer effort.