Strife For Silkmen
We are delighted to publish this guest blog from Macclesfield Town fan Scott Knowles. Scott used to write for the now disbanded football league blog The Seventy Two.
A few years back I found myself being unwillingly ejected from a relationship that, to my mind, had been going rather well up to that point. The justification I was given for my sudden switch to singleton status was the classic “I need to see other people” line (indeed, the need was so great that it later transpired she had already started the search pre-break up). My response to this unexpected turn of events was a drastic overhaul of my lifestyle which involved cutting out alcohol and junk food, the implementation of a strict exercise regime, and a complete revamp of the way I both dressed and behaved. I smartened up and became more attentative. I rolled out of bed each morning and performed an obscene number of sit-ups. My thinking being that the old me was clearly not working and if I was ever going to enchant/fool a girl into believing spending time with me was a sustainable proposition again a reinvention was needed.
I was reminded of that transitional period of my life by the current goings on at Macclesfield Town; whose reaction to relegation has been similarly drastic. It is all the more baffling coming from a club that, since the suicide of former chairman Arthur Jones in 1996 and subsequent threat from creditors of his metal business looking for £300,000, has been run with a relative stability that a lot of teams would be jealous of. Demotion from the football league, however, has seen the club press the metaphorical panic button and the chain of events that has followed have been nothing short of worrying.
Since the final match against Southend, Macclesfield have seen top scorer George Donnelly leave for Rochdale, young Welsh prospect Elliott Hewitt sign for Ipswich, fleetingly brilliant midfielder Ross Draper head to the SPL, and 16 more senior players be released including goalkeeper Jose Veiga who, during that final game, had made his 100th appearance for the club and was later named the fans player of the season (or, as the man collecting submissions during the last home game had correctly titled it – the “least bad player of the season”).
That is just to mention the changes amongst the playing staff. Off the field things have been similarly traumatic. The irrelevant final game at Southend had been played sans manager after Brian Horton, the somewhat surprise choice to save the club following the removal of Gary Simpson, decided that failure to complete the task he had been brought in to do meant he could just wash his hands of the club and walk away before the season had even finished.
When a new manager did arrive it wasn’t the expected Steve Burr – former Macc forward, current Kidderminster boss, and overwhelming choice of both fans and, seemingly, directors – but instead Steve King, a man who had previously successfully engineered promotions at Lewes and Farnborough. To the casual observer it would be easy to see the disappointment at King’s appointment as the butthurt reaction of insular supporters who had their hearts set on the arrival of a club legend, but closer inspection showed every reason for skepticism. For starters King’s managerial experience has been, up to now, primarily based in the lower leagues of southern England. His only spell managing in the north, and indeed at the level Macclesfield now see themselves playing at, came during a brief stay at Northwich Victoria during the 2008-09 season whom he resigned from in the February with the side second from bottom of the table. Then there are the (unproven) rumours that, when at Lewes, he signed a former player and friend from his time at Farnborough on a handsome contract despite knowing he was suffering a long term injury and unlikely to kick a ball all season. Further (again unproven) murmurings suggested he acted as an agent to move on youth players to other clubs for his own financial gain. At the very least the knowledge that he was first suspended, and then mutually removed from his post at Lewes prior to his latest appointment should ring alarm bells.
What is certain is his arrival caused ruptures in the previously settled Macclesfield boardroom that led to the departures of Vice Chairman Andy Scott and stepping down of executive Mike Rance, who seemed concerned about the direction the club were taking with the appointment of the new manager. Subsequently this led to the appointment of Jon Harris as chief executive – a man who is no stranger to controversy himself after a stormy spell at Wrexham that included, amongst other things, a take over attempt in conjunction with disgraced Claims Direct founder Colin Poole. Since becoming boss King has not been shy in reshaping the squad. Twelve players have joined the club up to now including Togalese international Euloge Ahodikpe, and three former Luton Town players (a Silkmen Supporters Trust meeting with owner Amar al Khadi shortly after King’s appointment raised concerns over whether the new manager would be signing primarily southern based players set to use the club as a stepping stone. The question was vehemently denied. Jack Mackreth of Barrow has so far been the only northern arrival). In interviews King has repeatedly stated his desire for the club to go forward playing attractive football – something sorely missing from Macclesfield in recent times, and the type of player brought in so far certainly seems to back up those claims.
For now the jury is out. As fans of Crawley Town will attest having an unpopular manager is easy to swallow when your side are winning games and topping tables. If that winning comes with a style of exciting, attacking play then all the better. If King stays true to his word it will be difficult for the crowd to hold a grudge for long. My own particular reinvention lasted only a couple of days before the lure of alcohol, laziness, and emotional detachment became too much to ignore and I slipped happily back into my old ways. Only time will tell if the new look Macclesfield Town stick to their own plan of regeneration or whether they fall back into the comforting arms of failure that has seen the club fail to win a single league match all year.
The next few months should, at the very least, be interesting.
Once again, a huge thanks to Scott for this excellent and insightful article. Hopefully, this won’t be the last we see of Scott on Under The League. You can follow him on twitter: @fragilegang