2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 15 – Saturday 19 October 2019: Oldham Athletic v Macclesfield Town

Matchday programme cover

The M62 motorway that runs east to west in the north of England is a main artery for travelling fans during the season. I’m on it again today as I make the twenty odd mile journey from Huddersfield to Oldham. Interestingly the footballing clash between the respective clubs is referred to as the M62 or A62 ‘derby’. Today though Oldham’s opponents are Macclesfield Town. It will be interesting to note which teams I see on the most occasions on this journey, this being the second Macclesfield match I will have attended, having also seen Carlisle twice so far.

Boundary Park the home of The Latics, is no distance at all when you turn off the M62 at Junction 20. The venue was originally called the Athletic Ground when it opened in 1896 for Oldham County FC. When they were disbanded in 1899, Pine Villa FC (founded 1895) moved in and changed their name to Oldham Athletic. Boundary Park is known as a cold ground and sometimes mistaken as the highest venue in the top four tiers, it is in fact second highest, the highest being the Hawthorns, home of West Bromwich Albion, but do you know the third?

My memories of Oldham come from them reaching the Final of the League Cup in 1990 and getting promoted to the newly formed Premier League in 1992. There was also the 1993/94 FA Cup Semi-Final under Joe Royle, when Oldham were denied progress to the Cup Final when Manchester United equalised in the last minute of extra-time. I remember exactly where I was that night! I was watching the game in a pub on the Fulham Road, The Somerset Arms the local of my girlfriend at the time. When we got home, we found out that we had been burgled, and the Police informed us that we had probably disturbed them, so it’s all Mark Hughes fault for taking the game into extra time!!

View across to Joe Royle Stand

So to the action on the pitch, which in all honestly was a quiet one for the first-half. The only real moments of note were a header from a corner that ex-Oldham player Theo Vassell put wide and a long-distance effort from Oldham’s Tom Hamer that flew past the post shortly before half-time. Macclesfield edged the half on possession, but at the break it was goal-less.

The Latics came out better in the second-half and had an early chance from a free-kick, that Mohammed Maouche directed wide. However, Macclesfield gradually worked their way back into the game and Theo Archibald had a couple of decent half-chances as the last twenty minutes approached. The breakthrough for the visitors came with just four minutes remaining. Oldham conceded a free-kick on the edge of their box, allowing substitute Jack McCourt, who had only been on the pitch six minutes, to step up and fire past De La Paz and into the far corner. Oldham nearly snatched a point in the final minute of the game as a header from a corner was somehow cleared off the line. At the whistle though, it was The Silkmen who went back to Cheshire with the three points courtesy of a 1-0 win.


Saturday 19 October 2019

Sky Bet League Two

Oldham Athletic 0 Macclesfield Town 1 (McCourt 86’)

Venue: Boundary Park

Attendance: 4,428

Oldham Athletic: De La Paz, Hamer, Wheater, Stott, Iacovitti, McCann, Missilou, Sylla (Eagles 90’), Maouche (McKinney 69’), Smith, Azankpo (Wilson 59’)

Unused substitutes: Woods, Smith-Brown, Gaskell.

Macclesfield Town: Evans, Kelleher, Vassell, Gnahoua (Horsfall 90’), Harris, Ironside, Archibald, Welch-Hayes, Kirby (McCourt 80’), O’Keefe, Osadebe

Unused substitutes: Charles-Cook, Stephens, Gomis, Ntambwe


Steve Blighton

2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 10 – Saturday 07 September 2019: Macclesfield Town v Crawley Town

Matchday programme cover

As detailed in an earlier article (Match Day 3), 2019/20 had seen Bury expelled from the Football League and Bolton Wanderers clinging onto their league status by their fingernails. Another club on the brink of financial ruin along with them were Macclesfield Town, and they became my destination of choice on this opening Saturday of September.

Macclesfield Town had never come across my football radar until they made it into the Football League in the late 90s, but they do have a long and illustrious amateur record. They were formed in 1874 as Macclesfield and have played at Moss Rose since 1891, so a long standing ground still being used in the Football League (15th in the list). The beginnings of Macclesfield Town Football Club can be traced, at least in part, to the 8th Cheshire Rifle Volunteers who were formed in 1873 and played regularly in Macclesfield from October 1874. It was agreed at a public meeting on 21 October 1876 that the 8th Cheshire Rifle Volunteers and the Olympic Cricket club teams be merged to form Macclesfield F.C. and initially matches alternated between association and rugby rules. At the beginning of the 1878/79 season Macclesfield United Football Club merged with Macclesfield Football Club. The club played in the FA Cup competition for the first time on 18 November 1882, losing 4-3 to Lockwood Brothers and first entered the Cheshire Senior Cup in the 1879/80 season, winning this competition for the first time on 22 March 1890 when they beat Nantwich 4–1 and went on to be winners on three more occasions before the turn of the century. Macclesfield became members of The Combination League at the start of the 1890/91 season and moved from Victoria Road to the Moss Rose on 12 September 1891 which remains the home of the Silkmen today. In terms of honours, they are two times FA Trophy winners (1970 the season my football journey begins and 1996), three times National League champions (once refused promotion due to the state of their ground) and three times Northern Premier League winners. With such a history, it would be a shame should they go out of existence.

The visitors to Moss Rose, Crawley Town are another relatively new team to the Football League becoming members following promotion under Steve Evans in 2010/11.

Teams prior to kick-off

The game kicked-off on a bright afternoon, with the Silkmen quickest out of the blocks as Theo Archibald fired a shot over the bar in the opening minute. It was though an even opening to the game with Bez Lubala looking dangerous for the visitors Crawley. Macclesfield though took the lead on twenty-one minutes when Theo Vassell stabbed the ball home following a corner that Crawley failed to clear. Chances were few and far between in the rest of the half, but the visitors had two good opportunities in the final five minutes before the break. First a defensive lapse by the Silkmen let in Lubala with Vassell’s tackle saving the situation and then Nathan Ferguson had a golden chance to level when inside the box but blazed over the bar.

Crawley dominated the start of the second half with Macclesfield playing on the break and but for two excellent saves from the visitors ‘keeper Morris from Archibald and Stephens would have had a second goal. However, the pressure from Crawley finally told, when with seventeen minutes remaining, the lively Lubala scored with an excellent free-kick. He nearly manufactured a second just five minutes later as his shot was saved and fell to Ollie Palmer, who put the rebound wide with the goal at his mercy. Both sides went in search of a winner in the closing minutes of the game, but at the whistle it finished 1-1, which was probably about the right result.

As I write, the EFL have ended the League Two season and implemented Points Per Game to decide on the final league placings. The Silkmen because of an eleven point deduction due to failure to pay players and cancellation of fixtures earlier in the season, find themselves next to bottom, with Stevenage in the relegation spot. However, the EFL has brough further charges against the club in relation to wages issues and if Macclesfield are docked three or more points they would then drop into the National League. Worrying times for all associated with the Moss Rose club.


Saturday 07 September 2019

Sky Bet League Two

Macclesfield Town 1 (Vassell 21’) Crawley Town 1 (Lubala 73’)

Venue: Moss Rose

Attendance: 1,788

Macclesfield Town: Evans, O’Keeffe (Horsfall 78′), Welch-Hayes, Kelleher, Vassell, Archibald, Kirby, Harris, Osadebe, Stephens (Gnahoua 67′), Ironside (Gomis 90′)

Unused substitutes: Charles-Cook, Clarke, Ntambwe

Crawley Town: Morris, Sesay (Young 76’), Tunnicliffe, Dallison-Lisbon, Doherty, Bulman, Camaro, Grego-Cox, Ferguson (Enigbokan-Bloomfield 45’), Lubala, Palmer

Unused Substitutes: Francomb, Nathaniel-George, Allarakhia, Gallach, Luyambula.


Steve Blighton

Book Review: The Singing Winger by Colin Grainger and Hyder Jawad

In 1950 the United Kingdom had George VI on the throne, with Labour under Clement Atlee in power after winning a second term in February of that year. In the world of football in England, Portsmouth took the First Division title, Tottenham earned promotion to the top flight after winning the Second Division, whilst Arsenal won the FA Cup beating Liverpool 2-0 at Wembley. On the international front England slipped to a shock 1-0 defeat against the USA at the World Cup in Brazil. Later that year in October, a seventeen year old lad from Yorkshire called Colin Grainger, pulled on his boots to make his Football League debut for Wrexham in the Third Division North.

Now it is not a name that will be familiar to many, but during his career, Grainger became a household name in not just one field, but two. In terms of his football exploits, the winger/outside left, came to play seven internationals for England, scoring two goals on his debut against Brazil at Wembley and as a singer he toured the country up until 1970, even releasing a record in 1958 and appearing on the bill with The Beatles. This dual success lead to his show billing as The Singing Winger – and taken as the title of this interesting book.

Grainger with journalist Hyder Jawad detail life on the pitch and on stage in chronological chapters (from 1933 to the present), with a brief introduction (Exordium) in which Grainger pays tribute to his parents and his family. The debt of gratitude that Grainger feels to his mother and father is evident throughout the book, typified by the recurring phrase, “Son, no way you’re ever going a pit.” Football was in the Grainger genes, with brother Jack, having a career at Rotherham United, Lincoln City and Burton Albion, and cousins Jack and Dennis Grainger and Edwin Holliday all playing professional football.

Given that Grainger is looking back on his life, is it no surprise that this is a very reflective book. The world described is a very different one not only on the pitch but in the wider context of everyday life in Britain. In terms of the football story, the reader is taken to the highs of his career as an England International, where all his seven caps were earned in an eleven month period, through his journey and lows of injury that saw his play in all four divisions of the professional game with, Wrexham, Sheffield United, Sunderland, Leeds United, Port Vale and Doncaster Rovers. Grainger continued his career in non-league allowing him a quite unique record of playing in the FA Cup, League Cup, FA Trophy and FA Vase.

Within his football career there are some interesting insights, with Grainger quite open about the illegal signing-on fees prevalent at the time, an honesty about the managers and players from his era and some observations of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor, long before their management success with Derby County and Nottingham Forest.

If there is a criticism of the book, is it that as a reader an expansion and further exploration of some of the footballing tales and indeed Grainger’s time on stage in the music business, would have added to the enjoyment. However, essentially this is an intriguing look at a unique career that simply wouldn’t be possible in the modern era.

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