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Silkmen A-Z: Alan Zelem

30 June 2019

We conclude our look back at the Silkmen stars of yesteryear by featuring a popular goalkeeper, who was renowned for his shot-stopping prowess.

Born in February 1962, Alan spent his early playing days at a number of North West sides including Skelmersdale United, Winsford United and Stalybridge Celtic. Searching for a club where he could make his mark he also spent time on Preston North End's books, before signing for Bolton Wanderers.

It was whilst at Burden Park that Alan caught the eye of the Silkmen. Macclesfield already had two well-respected goalkeepers in Mike Sherlock and Peter Eales, with both highly regarded in the lower leagues and had served the Silkmen well. However, both Sherlock and Eales chose to move on at the end of the 1983/84 season - leaving the team without a recognised 'keeper.

Alan subsequently signed on at the Moss Rose during the summer of 1984 and made his debut on the first day of the new season - a goalless draw at home to Marine. Fans quickly noticed that although unusually slight in stature for a 'keeper, Alan was an excellent shot-stopper with his cat-like reflexes. He quickly became our first choice in goal - only making way for understudy Glen Blackley four times during his first season.

Having suffered a few tough seasons in the late 1970’s, Macclesfield were finally on the up and Alan was a core part of our revival. The hard work started to pay off when the Silkmen finished runners-up in the Northern Premier League at the end of Alan’s first season.

Two more successful campaigns followed, with the club finally reaching the summit of the non-league pyramid in 1987. As well as winning the NPL championship, the Silkmen also claimed the League Cup and the Presidents Cup - with Alan playing a crucial part in that historic treble-winning season.

In 1989 The Silkmen reached the FA Trophy Final for the second time in our history. The opponents were to be Telford United - the same team that we had faced nineteen years earlier in the inaugural final.

By all accounts the match at Wembley Stadium was one to forget. Goalless after normal time, the game was to be decided by a single strike where Alan was sadly off his line as the ball looped over him and into the back of the net. Although he made a world-class save just moments later, the team ran out of time and headed back to Macclesfield with runners-up medals.

Alan remained at the Moss Rose for another three seasons and was voted Player of the Year at the end of the 1989-90 campaign - reaffirming his fan's favourite status.

Leaving the club in the summer of 1990, Alan went on to enjoy spells with Hyde United, Witton Albion and Chester City, before taking up managerial roles at Curzon Ashton, Mossley, Ashton United and Winsford United. He then retired from the game to set up a cleaning business with his brother Peter, who had also been a footballer - mainly with Chester City.

As part of the Northern Premier League's fiftieth anniversary celebrations last year, a vote was held to find the top one hundred NPL players. Alan was named in 47th position, which celebrated his contribution to the Macclesfield cause and also highlighted the respect that he had earned across the non-league community.

Alan’s legacy continues in his daughter Katie. A respected midfielder who currently plays for Manchester United, Katie has regularly cites her father as the inspiration for her career and talks about fond memories of training with him during her childhood.

Having turned out almost three hundred and fifty times for the Silkmen, Alan remains in the hearts of many of Macclesfield Town fans as being one of the very best to wear our goalkeeper's gloves. He will always be remembered fondly here at the Moss Rose and is undoubtedly a poignant character to complete our A - Z feature.

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