Macclesfield Town: Down but not deserted
Those of you who have followed the site recently will have read the thoughts of Macclesfield Town supporter Kieran Knowles ahead of D-Day at the foot of League Two. Sadly, Macc didn’t pull through and will kick off next season as a non-league club. Kieran offers his final thoughts on his side’s slide out of The Seventy Two…
On the day that Rickie Lambert helped his Southampton side reach the milk and honey land of the Premier League, his former side Macclesfield Town went in the opposite direction and slipped quietly from the Football League altogether.
The contrast between the two parties since parting ways has been remarkable. Rickie arrived at the Moss Rose in 2001 after being dumped by Blackpool the previous year and went on to score ten goals in 49 appearances for the Silkmen before Stockport took him off our hands a little over a year later. Since then Lambert has blossomed – scoring 175 goals, experiencing three promotions (one with Bristol Rovers, two with his current club), been involved in a six figure transfer, and in March was named the Championship player of the season. In the same period Macclesfield have mostly hung sulkily around the lower reaches of League Two, only once threatening anything other than bottom half obscurity.
Macc went into their last home game of the season against Burton Albion knowing realistically that only three points would put them in a position to escape the dreaded drop back to non-league, but you wouldn’t have thought it from the performance. The players were full of running but lacking in ideas and once more looked toothless in attack. In the opening ten league games we scored twelve goals. In the ten leading to relegation we have managed just four.
Burton for the most part looked ordinary but even that was enough to defeat a Macclesfield side bereft of confidence or belief. That a team battling for their lives against relegation finished the game without a single player being booked suggests they went down without a fight. This was not a club being dragged kicking and screaming from League Two. Instead they marched obediently into the woods, fell to their knees, and silently awaited the bullet.
Our last demotion had occurred after an unlikely season in the third tier. For the most part of that campaign relegation had a feel of inevitability about it. We were the football equivalent of Chantelle Houghton in the Celebrity Big Brother house – desperately trying to convince the likes of Manchester City (Dennis Rodman) and Fulham (Rula Lenska) that we deserved to be in their company. This time around it was different. A bright start to the season had raised hopes of perhaps another shot at the play-offs if we could keep our squad intact and injury free. Neither of those conditions occurred.
Yet even after a dreadful run that has so far seen the side fail to record a single win this year, there was a feeling we could recapture the form that had earlier seen us score four past both Hereford and Wimbledon, and defeat Swindon and Crewe amongst others. It didn’t happen. Barnet and Hereford both convincingly overcame their opponents on Saturday whilst Macc rolled over and accepted a 2-0 home defeat that rightly condemned them to relegation. The prediction long made by journalists in season previews had finally come true. Macclesfield were relegated.
Here is my favourite football memory – the final game of the 2002/03 season and Rochdale visited Macc with neither side having anything to play for. With 88 minutes gone Rochdale led 2-1 and looked comfortable for victory when club legend John Askey, at the age of 39 and playing his final game for the club, pounced on a parry from the Dale keeper to slot home an equaliser before throwing himself into the home crowd. Two minutes later Matthew Tipton slotted home the winner from outside the box to secure an unlikely 3-2 victory.
The joy I felt at that moment is something rarely felt in life. A happiness that seems to inflate inside you, that presses against the inside of your skin and makes you bound involuntarily, fists clenched, hugging the person beside you whether you know them or not. That’s not an emotion confined just to League Two fixtures though – it’s the joy of football, of those special moments in the sport just as likely to appear in the Blue Square Premier as they are the Premier League and just as prevalent in the FA Trophy as they are in the Champions League. If you care enough about a club then it matters not what level they are playing at or who they are playing. Those moments are what we pay our money for, what we stand in wind, rain, and snow in the hope of experiencing. The moments that keep us coming back when common sense suggests otherwise.
The fans of Southampton will perhaps be taking as much pleasure in the demise of Portsmouth as they will their own ascent, just as Pompey fans will have revelled at their rivals languishing around the bottom half of the Championship when the FA Cup was added to the Fratton Park trophy cabinet for a second time in 2008. Football is funny like that, almost cyclical in a way.
I do truly believe Macclesfield will be a league club again. Maybe not next season or even any time soon after. Where they will be the season after next can’t be predicted but where I will be is a certainty – on the terrace at the Moss Rose, awaiting the next inflation of joy, whoever it comes against – that next Football Moment.
Me, you, and everyone else who loves the sport.