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Silkmen A-Z: Sammy McIlroy

15 June 2019

We continue our look back at the Silkmen stars of yesteryear by featuring an Irishman who masterminded the most successful period in our long and proud history - Sammy McIlroy.

Born in Belfast on 2nd August 1954, Sammy became the last of the illustrious ‘Busby Babes’  when he signed for Manchester United back in 1969.

He made his debut for The Red Devil’s two years later – scoring in a three-all draw against Manchester City.

Sammy would go on to make almost 350 appearances for United - scoring 57 times and collecting a Second Division winners medal in 1975, as well as lifting the FA Cup two years later.

A real fans favourite Sammy departed Old Trafford in 1982 and made the move to Stoke City, where he picked up the club's Player of the Year award three years later.

Spells at Manchester City, Bury and Preston followed, as well as a glittering international with his beloved Northern Ireland which saw him capped 88 times and represent his country in both the 1982 and 1986 World Cup finals.

After a short spell as manager at Northwich Victoria, Sammy arrived at the Moss Rose in the summer of 1993. He inherited a side who had only avoided relegation from the Vauxhall Conference with a final day victory at champions Wycombe Wanderers, yet Sammy was setting his sights on more than mere survival right from day one.

Together with his trusted assistant Gill Prescott, Sammy began to create a side which would etch their names in the history books forevermore.

A seventh placed finish in his debut season at the club was coupled with lifting the Drinkwise Cup thanks to a 4-1 aggregate victory over Yeovil Town.

Despite a relatively successful season, nobody could have predicted what was about to follow and as the 1994/1995 season began, many Silkmen fans were hoping for another solid season – but not Sammy.

After setting a Conference record of ten successive victories with a 2 - 0 win against Woking, Sammy’s men found themselves leading the way and they went on to lift the illustrious trophy for the first time in our history.

Promotion to the Football League was rightfully ours, yet we were cruelly denied this due to ground regulations which had to be in place a year earlier.

It would have been easy for Sammy to have moved on at that point and offers were certainly flooding in – yet the Ulsterman displayed incredible loyalty to the club as he set his sights on curing an unjust situation by lifting the Conference trophy once again.

Although his side finished fourth the following season, Sammy cemented the club as one of the most feared outside the Football League.

Not only that, he also masterminded an FA Trophy victory against Northwich Victoria at Wembley Stadium, as the memories and medals continued to rain down with devastating regularity.

Sammy not only created a side who were blessed with a incredible amount of passion and tenacity, he also created one full of character.

Ryan Price, Neil Howarth, Darren Tinson, Steve Payne, Steve Wood, Phil Power -  the list is endless and when the whole club's resolve was rocked to the core at the start of the following season, we were not found wanting.

On a cold September morning back in 1996, Macclesfield Town awoke to the news that our much loved Chairman Arthur Jones had tragically taken his own life.

With very real questions surrounding whether or not the club could continue, Sammy led us all into realising Arthur’s dream of achieving Football League status and what was to follow would prove to be one of the most defiant and inspiring periods in our history.

Residing fifteen points behind Kidderminster Harriers at Christmas, Macc went on to secure the Vauxhall Conference title for the second time in three years courtesy of a devastating second half of the season which culminated with a 4 - 1 final day victory at Kettering.

The tital was secured. Promotion was gained. Arthur’s dream was realised. Yet the fairytale was not over just yet.

Our debut season in the Football League saw Macc achieve consecutive promotions, as we finished the season in second place behind Notts County. Not only that, our home record was the envy of the whole nation as we remained unbeaten at the Moss Rose and conceded the least amount of goals in the country.

Sammy was rightfully hailed as a hero, as we took our place alongside the likes of Manchester City, Stoke City, Preston North End and Fulham.

Despite the fact that we would ultimately be relegated from Nationwide League Division Two, Sammy's illustrious side let accumulated an impressive 48 points and were determined to regain their status in the third tier of English football.

Having cemented his place in Moss Rose folklore, Sammy then was offered his dream job of managing his beloved Northern Ireland and nobody could deny him such an opportunity. His last game at the Moss Rose came against Cheltenham Town, where he was given the send off he so richly deserved.

After spending three years at Windsor Park, Sammy had a brief spell at Stockport County before taking caretaker charge at Morecambe. This was made permanent in May 2006 and in his first full season he guided The Shrimps into the Football League courtesy of a Play-Off Final victory over Exeter City.

He remained at Christie Park for five years, before resigning in May 2011 and can now be regularly seen working for Manchester United TV.

Sammy made us believe in our dreams. He took a team of players and made them run through bricks walls for him. The success which we enjoyed under the Irishman will never be forgotten and the passion which he elicited in us all is still a vibrant part of the club today.

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