Humble Confession of an Amateur Football Writer
If there is one thing I have learned about football writing it’s that you should never be shy about highlighting just how right you are. No matter that the huge “Messi to Cowdenbeath Shockah!” article you wrote predictably came to nothing or that the team you finally decided would win the title after months of flip-flopping between six rivals (hello Robbie Savage!) actually ended up outside the top four.. what ‘s important is that one-out-of-thousands transfer rumour pulled out of your rear end that actually came true or the fact that back on October the 15th you correctly predicted who would emerge as champions before you stacked your chips firmly elsewhere. Football writing, essentially, is all about throwing as much stuff at the wall as possible and then having a self-congratulatory backpat when some finally sticks. This, here, is me doing the opposite.
Back on the 5th of June 2013 I wrote a story for this fine website about the appointment of John Askey as permanent manager of Macclesfield Town Football Club. Within that story I described the news as “a rather underwhelming job appointment” and threw shade at Askey for the statistics of his previous spell in charge. Even when I was searching out positives they were amongst the his-legend-status-will-allow-us-to-accept-medicority variety and the whole atmosphere of the article was a resigned sigh in the face of inevitable future disappointments. It’s time for me to come out and say: I was wrong.
The ill-fated Steve King era seems a long time ago now (and forgive the football writer instincts in me for saying “I was right” on that one). Things got pretty bleak for a while. Death-of-the-club bleak. You don’t think it will happen to you (like cancer, or enjoying a Taylor Swift record) and then it does. Ask Darlington. Ask Hereford. Ask Kanye. The appointment of Askey seemed a wise, albeit uninspiring, decision to steady the ship amidst a massive campaign of ship-steadying. Expectations had to be lowered after the hedonistic era of free-spending under the elfish King (who aptly is now in charge of Whitehawk – a snowy mountain town just south of Lake Yorgrim in the fictional game Skyrim) It seemed to scream “Don’t Get Your Hopes Up”. The ultimate acceptance that the Conference National was our level. His first full season at the helm seemed to back that up – finishing a solid fifteenth with plenty of breathing space between both the relegation zone and the play-offs. Surely this season would be the same. Why wouldn’t it be? Everyone seemed in agreement.
I didn’t want to write this initially. Seemed too much of a risk. As football fans our brains are wired slightly wrong. I know of people who boycott any item created by the sponsor of a rival club or who will refuse to wear an item of clothing in that team’s same colours. That’s not even unusual.. we likely all know somebody like that. We accept it. That behaviour seems normal somehow.
I kept putting this article off. Merely mentioning the good form, our unbelieveable run, seemed to be drawing attention to it in a potentially hazardous way. As if previously the secret to Macc’s success was in it being unheralded – the classic “quietly going about our business” tactic. That my placing a spotlight on it would lead to some inevitable collapse.
It’s madness and, worse than that, it is a disservice to the management and players of Macclesfield Town Football Club. They are second in the league not due to some superstitious sorcery but down to the talent and fight and drive of a team cobbled together through necessity and yet playing and scrapping for all the right reasons. Each and every member of staff deserve maximum credit for this incredible campaign and if they fail or fall at the last hurdle it’s not down to what I write here or a lapsed fan finally deciding to return to watch the team once more despite fearing his attendance will curse them in some way (and there are fans that feel this way.. choosing superstition over much needed money for the club) but more that they were involved in a race they weren’t even scheduled to take part in. A race that, through desire, determination, grit and the odd Spectacular Hashtag Wondergoal they forced their way into. A wonderful football moment. A wonderful football story.
I was wrong. I accept it. I will never be a Henry Winter or Oliver Holt. Will never write clickbait nihilism pieces for the Mail about Jamie O’Hara’s girlfriend’s breasts or nursery rhymes in crayon for the backpage of the Star. Will never grace Jimmy Hill’s kitchen or bedroom or secret Fifty Shades of Andy Gray dungeon.
I was wrong. I was wrong, I was wrong, I was wrong.
I was wrong and I couldn’t be happier.