THE HISTORY OF MACCLESFIELD TOWN FOOTBALL CLUB
The beginnings of the club can be traced in part to the 8th Cheshire Rifle Volunteers who played their first match in 1873. The Olympic Cricket Club also played football in Macclesfield, and in October 1876 the two organisations amalgamated to form Macclesfield Football Club. Initially, alternate rugby and football matches were played but gradually football became the main game with the eleven aside format fully adopted for the 1879-90 season. In 1891 they moved to the Moss Rose where Macclesfield Town still play. The team first entered the FA Cup competition in 1882.
Macclesfield FC became members of The Combination League for the 1890-91 season remaining until the end of the 1896-97 season when they had to withdraw due to financial difficulties. A local amateur side Hallefield moved to the Moss Rose from 1897-98, and for the next three seasons played in the Stockport and District League (when they were champions without losing a match) and then the North Staffordshire and District League. Macclesfield FC re-emerged for the 1900-01 season when they became members of the Manchester and District League, where they finished as champions in 1909 and 1911. By then they had won the Cheshire Senior Cup five times. Having formed a second senior side in the Lancashire Combination Second Division at the start of the 1911-12 season, Macclesfield then reverted to one side from 1912-13 onwards continuing to play in the Second Division of the Lancashire & District League gaining promotion as runners-up to the First Division for the 1914-15 season.
Macclesfield were founder members of the Cheshire County League in 1919 winning the League Cup in 1925 and achieving the League and Cup double in 1932. They retained the title in 1933 and finished runners-up the following year when Albert Valentine achieved the club’s goal scoring record of 82 goals, and added two more Senior Cup triumphs in 1930 and 1935. The post war years saw five more Senior Cup wins, a League Cup win in 1948 and championship victories in 1953, 1961 and 1964.
1968 the club reached the third round of the FA Cup losing 2–4 at Fulham, but again finished as League champions and winners of the North West Floodlight Cup.
Northern Premier League
At the beginning of the 1968-69 season they became founder members of the Northern Premier League, topping the table 12 points clear of Wigan in their first season. The feat was repeated the following season when they also won the inaugural FA Trophy at Wembley against Telford United, in addition to which they were finalists in the League Cup. There were Cheshire Senior Cup wins in 1969, 1971 and 1973.
In 1979 the club finished bottom of the Northern Premier League but returned to winning ways with the Cheshire Senior Cup in 1983, and in 1985 reached the first round of the FA Cup for the fourth successive season.
The 1986-87 season saw the Silkmen win the Northern Premier League and promotion to the Vauxhall Conference. The League Cup and the President’s Cup were also won to complete a fantastic Northern League treble.
In their first season in the Conference the Silkmen reached the third round of the FA Cup losing to Port Vale after beating Carlisle and Rotherham. In 1988-89, they reached the FA Trophy Final at Wembley for the second time, losing 1–0 to Telford United in extra time. They won the Cheshire Senior Cup, in 1991 and 1992.
In the 1992-93 season they enjoyed a good run in the FA Cup playing nine games, eventually being knocked out by Stockport County in the second round, having disposed of League side Chesterfield in a penalty shoot-out in the first round.
The former Manchester United and Northern Ireland international, Sammy McIlroy, was appointed manager at the start of the 1993-94 season. He achieved immediate success with victory in the Drinkwise Cup and another league scalp was added when the Silkmen beat Hartlepool United in the first round of the FA Cup only to be knocked out in the following round at Crewe Alexandra.
The 1994-95 season saw the Silkmen win the Vauxhall Conference, heading the table from 5th November 1994 until the end of the season, but were denied promotion to the Football League due to ground criteria, however, on the way they had set a then Conference record of ten consecutive victories.
Success under McIlroy continued when in 1996 the Silkmen won the FA Trophy at Wembley for a second time against Northwich Victoria. However, their greatest triumph to date came at the end of the 1996-97 season when they won the Vauxhall Conference by five points, having trailed by 15 points at one stage. On this occasion success was rewarded with promotion to the Football League.
In the 15 years as a Football League Club, the Silkmen found themselves in a mid or lower table position using eleven different managers including Sammy McIlroy, Brian Horton and Paul Ince.
There was instant success in the 1997-98 season, when they finished as runners-up in the Nationwide League Division Three, gaining automatic promotion, and were the only club to be unbeaten at home in all the Divisions of the Football League. They also won the Cheshire Senior Cup. Nevertheless, they found life in the Second Division difficult, and finished the 1998-99 Season in bottom place and were relegated for the first time in their history.
In the following seasons, they won the Cheshire Senior Cup in 2000, but their most successful time in the league came in 2004-05 when the completed the season in fifth position, only to be beaten in the Play-off semi-final by Lincoln City. The Silkmen then faced some difficult years and never regained a top-half position.
However, they reached the third round of the FA Cup on seven occasions, playing against Coventry City, West Ham United, Watford, Swansea City, Chelsea, Everton and Bolton Wanderers, and were narrowly beaten by Carlisle United in the Northern Area Final of the Football League Trophy in 2005-06.
In their 13th season (2009-10) the Silkmen become second only to Wycombe Wanderers for continuous membership of the Football League since automatic promotion was introduced. However, this season proved unfortunate, with the sudden and untimely death of manager Keith Alexander in March 2010. Further tragedy hit the club almost twelve months later when midfielder Richard Butcher died in his sleep just a few days shy of his 30th birthday. Despite this Gary Simpson led his team to a respectable 15th position in the league.
The Silkmen were hit by numerous injuries throughout the 2011-12 season which impacted on their overall performance and, having failed to win a single match in 2012, they finished bottom of the npower League 2 and were relegated to the Blue Square Bet Premier League.
Return to the Conference
Steve King was appointed manager in the summer of 2012 for the Silkmen’s first season back in non-League football. Playing attractive football they were often chasing a play-off position and reached the fourth round of the FA Cup for the first time in their history when they lost by a single goal to the eventual winners Wigan Athletic. Towards the end of the season King was dismissed with John Askey taking over as caretaker manager, the team completing the campaign in 11th position.
John Askey was appointed manager in the summer of 2013 with former Silkmen Efe Sodje as his assistant, completing the season in 15th position in the league and reaching the third round of the FA Cup going out to Championship club Sheffield Wednesday after a replay at Hillsborough.
The 2014/15 season saw a successful season for the Silkmen ultimately end the club finishing just a point and place from the Vanarama Conference Play-Offs.
With Askey handed an improved deal, the club once again fought for a place in the top five during the 15/16 season and again during the 16/17 campaign, but they just fell short once again.
The 2016/17 campaign did deliver success in the FA Trophy and FA Cup though. The Silkmen reached the Second Round of the FA Cup and got a live TV game with Oxford where they nearly caused an upset.
In the FA Trophy, they went even better and after beating Tranmere over two legs they reached the new Wembley for the first time in their history. Despite a fantastic performance at the national stadium, York City would run out winners. Nevertheless it was a day to remember for the near 8,000 Macclesfield fans in attendance.
For a detailed history of Macclesfield Town, including a whole host of Silkmen based stats please head to the Silkmen Archives page.