By Paddysboyz
Thursday 11 Aug 2016 23:05:00
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WHEN? Friday 18th November 2016

WHERE? The Mcllroy Suite, Moss Rose Stadium, Macclesfield

HOW MUCH? £20 including a two course meal

WHY? Just read what's below!!

It is with great pleasure that following the success of the event that celebrated our wonderful treble winning team of the 1986/7 season, the Volunteers of Macclesfield Town which consists of Phil Gibbons, Dan Ashton, Dean Holmes, Robert Stirling, Sean Worth and yours truly are working their proverbial socks off to relive those glory years of the 1990's under Sammy alongside many of the players who helped Sammy to create the most glorious years in the history of our beloved Silkmen.

The legend that is Sammy first took the managerial reins at Macclesfield Town for the start of the 1993/94 season despite the one and only Peter Wraggs ‘great escape' and half decent F.A. Cup run during the 1992/3 season. Sammy was already a legend in the annals of football from his playing days at Manchester United, not to mention 88 caps for Northern Ireland (that included featuring heavily in their Spain'82 and Mexico '86 squads) and so he took the helm at the Moss Rose with a less than salubrious managerial history at Northwich Victoria and Ashton United.

Whatever it was, the chemistry between the mercurial Sammy ably supported by the peerless Gil Prescott and the golden boys at the Moss Rose there became a magical reaction that was to forever illuminate the annals of our beloved blues. The start (PB remembers it well!!) was hardly the most encouraging with three losses out of the first four including a 5-1 hammering against Bath City, but with the astute signings of the likes of Steve Wood, Neil Howarth and Carl Alford, the Silkmen had a half decent season finishing a very creditable seventh and lifting their first piece of notable silverware under Sammy; the interestingly named Drinkwise Cup following a two legged victory over The Glovers of Yeovil Town that had been all but sealed at the Moss Rose with a 4-1 victory including a peach of a goal from Darren Lyons. PB can also remember (just about) the celebrations at Huish Park in their welcoming bar following the game and the 7a.m. return to Macclesfield in readiness for an early shift at 7.30am and to this day he cannot understand how he got through it! Oh, and by the way we were disqualified from the Cheshire Senior Cup after a 7-1 victory against Colwyn Bay with four from Darren Lyons. We then got this result expunged from the records with Darren dubiously alleged not to have registered for the Cup in time, although he did win a Staffordshire Senior Cup medal (please don't ask PB why?) with a two legged 14-1 two legged annihilation of Wednesfield with another useful little tally of four goals; legitimate ones this time!

The 1994/5 season was one of contrasts to say the least. The Silkmen; bolstered by the likes of Stuart Locke and Steve Payne (loaned from Huddersfield Town) and the inimitable Phil Power literally took all before them with a Conference record of ten (yes 10!!) consecutive victories. Having taken the leadership of the Conference in November 1994, this was never relinquished, and added to three (3) Managers of the Month awards for Sammy, that helped him to secure a position as the Silkmen's first ever full time manager and the Silkmen emerge as Champions of the GM Vauxhall Conference. Football can be a cruel game, and it was not the footballing gods but the bureaucratic ones that conspired against the Silkmen to deny them a deserved entry into the Football League despite tireless fundraising efforts from Silkmen Chairman Arthur Jones (aka ‘Boycie' because of his love of flash motors and cigars) and the intensely loyal fan base; in addition to unwavering support from the local council and even local Conservative MP Nicholas Winterton.

Sammy invested wisely in the squad during the course of the 1995/6 season with such acquisitions as the affable giant ‘keeper Ryan Price, Mrs PBs eye candy Darren Tinson, Cec Edey, and lightning quick winger Tony Hemmings. However, the Silkmen were plagued with bad luck which included the loss (for the season) of midfield dynamo Steve Wood following an industrial accident and a certain John Askey to a broken leg; anyone remember him? The Silkmen were also to lose a lifelong Silkmen benefactor and supporter Bob Isherwood and despite these setbacks, finished in a very creditable fourth place, with Stevenage Borough the eventual champions and including a certain Efetobore (Efe) Sodje! The consolation this particular season came in the form of the F.A. Trophy when after a less than auspicious journey into the quarter finals saw us beat Gresley Rovers away from home (what a weird ground that was!) and then a 4-2 aggregate victory over the Magpies of Chorley saw us at Wembley again facing Northwich Victoria; Cheshire rivals that we historically had far less distaste for than those from Greater Manchester.

Circa 6,000 Silkmen ignored the chance to watch the Silkmen at Wembley via SKY TV and headed to Wembley with hope of another victory at Wembley to add to the one that had seen us as the inaugural winners against Telford United in 1970. PB had shown some degree of organisation and initiative (a first for him) in going to Altrincham and securing a luxury bus; previously Leicester City's team bus which really was the ‘dog's b*l*cks' for its time and so with forty of his buddies including warringtonblue who had been dropped off by his father at the Flowerpot pub at 7a.m. (still absolutely paralytic from a stag do in Blackpool the night before) headed off to Wembley with hopes of another trophy to celebrate.

The game started well with the Silkmen two up with a Steve Payne header and an unlucky own goal, but the plucky Vics fought back and they deservedly got a goal back from Carwyn Williams and then they threatened an equaliser. Cue a certain Tony Hemmings who then provided arguably one of the best goals to grace the Wembley turf with an amazing sixty yard run from inside his own half that saw him jink his way into the Northwich penalty area and break Vics hearts with a clinical finish that sent the Silkmen faithful into hysterical celebration and saw a proud Neil Howarth emphasise the Silkmen as F.A. Trophy Champions and another feather in the cap of a certain Sammy Mcllroy. Warrington Blue is adamant he can remember every bit of that game. The other thirty nine on the bus that day would forever differ with him on that one PB can heartily assure you!

The 1996/7 season started with optimism amongst the Silkmen faithful but was rocked when the effervescent and hugely popular chairman Arthur Jones committed suicide in September 1996 prompting Sammy to say that he had ‘lost more than a chairman. I've lost a personal friend.'

The subsequent rationale for this tragedy was linked to the difficulties of Arthur's firm, and his bankrolling of the club, and in stepped Alan Cash to steady the ship, and Sammy to ‘do it for you' in memory of Arthur. The Silkmen driven by commercial impetus such as a share initiative and of course ‘It's just like watching Brazil' T-Shirts became the mantra of the Sammy years. The Silkmen boosted by ex-Northwich Victoria striker Carwyn Williams, veteran Peter Davenport of Nottingham Forest and Manchester United fame and the unbelievable talent and potential of Chris Byrne moved us up the Conference table and an incredible game at title rivals Stevenage on Easter Monday saw the Silkmen faithful believe that we could once achieve the dream of the Football League. PB took young PBJ (then only 8 years of age) to this game as well as Terry; his Manchester United supporting brother-in-law, and to this day Terry waxes lyrical that it is the best game he has ever attended. 2-0 and ‘Sir' John Askey having been sent off following two bookings, the Silkmen got into the game via a Steve Wood aka - ‘Woody' tap in, a coolly converted Carwyn Williams penalty, and of course a fairy tale finish when ‘Woody' curled a beautifully taken free kick into the corner of the net in stoppage time to send the travelling Silkmen fans into ecstasy.

Although the Silkmen did have a disappointing result away to Hednesford Town where the legend of the ‘smoking beagle' aka Dave Broughton was born, the Silkmen's upward trend continued, and around 1,000 Silkmen fans travelled to West Yorkshire to face Halifax Town with the Football League tantalisingly close. Young PBJ was allowed a late night by his Mum (even though it was a school night) and the Silkmen faithful were in uproarious voice when Peter Davenport put us 3-1 ahead with twelve minutes ago following earlier strikes from Chris Byrne and classy midfielder Neil Sorvel. Halifax then pulled one back and with five minutes to go, the cruellest of blows was dealt when ex-Silkman Kevin Hulme equalised to break Silkmen hearts and leave the Silkmen needing a win at Kettering Town.

So again PB, PBJ and about 2,000 Silkmen fans travelled to Kettering still believing in the impossible dream. Although rocked by an early Kettering goal, the Silkmen roared back with the equaliser from Peter Davenport, before the peerless Chris Byrne produced a master class of finishing with a hat-trick of the highest quality, to send the Silkmen into dreamland at half-time and 4-1 up. The second half was a blur and the final whistle was greeted with hysterical celebrations from both players and fans, and the proudest Irishman in England smiled the broadest of grins as the Silkmen had achieved promotion into the Football League! PB can remember little of the rest of the day and having dropped off his excited young son at the home of his parents, PB then joined hundreds of the Silkmen faithful partying long into the night and suffering for much of the next day!! None of us cared one jot though because we had reached the ‘holy grail' of the Football League and done it for our Arthur!

The Silkmen prepared for life in the Football League of the 1997/8 season with several decent signings such as Lee Martin and a certain Efetobore Sodje from Stevenage who was to become a cult hero at the Moss Rose during his stay. The Silkmen's first game in the Football League was against The Gulls of Torquay United and who else but bandana wearing Efe to mark a historic moment in the proud history of the Silkmen when he powered a header into the net to create an awesome crescendo of noise from around the Moss Rose, and then go onto claim a famous win with a Richard Landon goal helping to claim a 2-1 victory.

The Silkmen went on to take the honour of being the only Football League team not to lose at home in the 1997/98 season, coining the term ‘Fortress Moss Rose' and when The Imps of Lincoln City arrived at the Moss Rose with both teams in lofty positions in the league, the situation was explosive and there had been already a pitch invasion by Lincoln City fans before our legendary club mascot Roary the Lion proffered a cheeky little missive to the Lincoln fans behind the goal before a melee just after half-time when Martin McDonald's mistimed challenge on Lincoln' keeper Richardson led to an over the top reaction from the Lincoln stopper and a mass brawl that resulted in two red cards. How beautiful it was when ‘Woody' won it for the Silkmen in the 88th minute and the Macc fans there that day left the Moss Rose grinning like a Cheshire cat!

Incredibly, the Silkmen faced Cheshire rivals Chester City at home on the penultimate game of the season knowing that three points would take us into the third tier of football, and the Moss Rose was packed to the rafters in the hope of what really was a case of Mission Impossible. The Silkmen went on to win 3-2 and PB is not ashamed to say that tears flowed freely down his cheeks that day after having witnessed his beloved Silkmen reach the third tier of English football.

PB with the help of his plastic scouse brother-in-law Colin secured a mini bus that transported a select (not!) cohort on the merry trip to deepest Devon to play Exeter City following a hearty breakfast at Jaspers café on Park Lane at 6a.m. The merry band included the one and only Dave Smith aka ‘Tiff'; a brilliant bloke from Blackburn who had arrived in Macclesfield in his formative years and had become a lifelong friend of PB's in association with the lifelong friendship of Mrs PB and Mrs ‘Tiff'. The one and only ‘Tiff' is a legendary Bacardi drinker and he managed to drink one of his lesser mortals on the bus into oblivion well before the time we had reached Birmingham. Then we managed to run out of petrol and a certain Matthew Beresford (former administrator of a certain W2R) used a fag packet to state ‘Macc fans: out of petrol' and would you believe it a certain Bob Bleasdale; an ex-Macc resident and former school mate of ‘Tiff' who now lived in the South West of England, stopped and was able to rescue the situation (he got petrol from a nearby station) and we got to the game on time even having the chance to get a couple of pints in at a nearby hostelry.

The Silkmen went on to record a comprehensive 3-1 victory courtesy of goals from ‘Woody', Peter Davenport and Tony Philliskirk and PB's eternal memory of that game was ‘Tiff' going up to Peter Davenport as they paraded around the pitch to innocently ask ‘did you play?' despite him having scored his 100th goal of a notable career in football. The now almost surreal reality was that in the 1998/99 season the Silkmen would be playing in the same league as such esteemed company as Fulham, Stoke City and Manchester City!! Oh happy day!

The Silkmen started the historic campaign in the third tier of the Football League with the additions of ‘quality' Rae Ingram and the likeable but follicly challenged Spanish midfield maestro Pedro Matias (PB knows how he must have felt!) who had graced the Spanish First Division. The capacity of the Moss Rose was increased to 6,500 and the Silkmen started the season at home to Kevin Keegan's Fulham who could afford to have a certain Peter Beardsley on the bench and a player on the field Chris Coleman (remember him?) who was worth 25 times that of the Silkmen squad!! Despite a gallant display the Silkmen lost 1-0 to a goal by ex-England international John Salako, and it was not until September when the Silkmen first tasted success in this exalted third tier of English football when we defeated Oldham Athletic 2-1 at Ice Station Zebra aka Boundary Park where the one and only Stevie Wood (playing against his hometown club) sent Silkmen fans into ecstasy with the winner; coolly slotting in after having seen his penalty parried by the Oldham ‘keeper.

The following Saturday saw the Moss Rose packed to the rafters for the visit of a certain Manchester Citeeh who managed a scrappy 1-0 victory courtesy of Shaun Goater and sent Citeeh fans (a lot of them born and bred in Macc!!) into apoplexy. PB can still recall one of his former schoolmates (yes you Tim Bailey!!) walking down London Road chanting ‘1-0 in your cup final' whilst PB looked on absolutely gobsmacked! The away game against Citeeh in front of an impressive 31,086 fans (the highest attendance for a game involving the Silkmen home or away which includes appearances at Wembley) saw the Silkmen lose to a two goal margin. Whilst the Silkmen were to enjoy victories against Oldham Athletic at home (the double) and home victories against Burnley and Preston North End, it was ultimately a case of Goliath beating David, and the Silkmen succumbed to relegation back to the fourth tier of English football after so many games where goals so cruelly conceded late on in games meant that one (or none) points as opposed to three (or one) had such a catastrophic effect on our fight against the relegation trapdoor!

Despite this disappointment the Silkmen did enjoy some cup success with an impressive 3-1 victory against Potteries giants Stoke City in the Worthington Cup and progression to the 3rd round of the F.A. Cup which was sadly reflected in a 7-0 massacre (away) at the hands of Premiership stalwarts Coventry City where a certain Darren Huckerby had a particularly good day.

Sammy remained (and still remains) a hero to the Silkmen faithful and less than a week into the new millennium, the lure of managing the country of his birth was too great a pull and so he left for pastures new just six and a half wonderful years since he first arrived at the Moss Rose and leaving behind a legacy that will never be forgotten.


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