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My Favourite Silkmen Memory: Dan Brightmore

29 May 2020

Recently, we asked all our loyal fans to get in touch with us and let us know what their favourite memories involving The Silkmen are. In the next instalment in a series of recollections, Dan Brightmore takes us back to the 1996 FA Trophy Final at Wembley Stadium.

"Wembley, Wembley, we're the famous Macclesfield and we're going to Wembley"

Words that echoed around in my head from the minute the third goal went in against Chorley in the first leg of the semi-final.

Cec Edey and Neil Sorvel saw to it that the boast would become a reality a week later and here's my collection of memories from that wonderful trip to the capital...

We went down - me, my dad, uncle, nanna and one of my dad's mates who was actually living 'behind enemy lines' in Northwich at the time.

We'd bought our tickets from the temporary shop in town along with scarves and that kit with the huge collar and press studs on the v-neck. It was then a seemingly endless wait and sleepless nights till the big day itself.

We got into town at what felt like the crack of dawn and met the assembled masses in the car park behind Pete's Chippy. Call it the naivety of youth or spoiled on success or something (I was 11) but at no point did I ever consider anything other than a Macc win that day.

The thought that all that excitement and anticipation might have all been for nothing, but that never occurred to me as with Price, Payne, Wood, Power etc, Northwich didn't have a chance.

One by one the fleet of coaches pulled up; executive looking ones, average to medium ones too and then one that looked like it had been rescued from the scrapyard. Guess which one was ours? Yep. To this day my dad swears we were sitting above of a wonky wheel all the way there and back... but i didn't notice, I was far too excited for details like that!!

Off to London we went, yours truly with his nose stuck to the window all the way there, counting the Macc coaches and cars with the blue and white scarves hanging out of the windows. I could barely sit still and my nanna's sugar infused picnic wasn't helping either.

After what seemed like a million years, the coach swung round and there they were: those majestic, famous Twin Towers. The first time I'd seen them in the flesh & they were just as incredible as on every FA Cup final and England game on the tele. Jaw-droppingly amazing.

"She wore, she wore, she wore a blue & white ribbon..." Of all the sights & sounds to see as I jumped off the bus, "Mad Kev" belting that out and waving his arm with the trademark scarf around the wrist above his head... the day just kept getting better.

Soon enough we'd found someone (I think it might have been Elaine Mercer but I might be well out there) who painted my face blue & white and then we headed down Wembley Way for my first visit to that famous old stadium.

We got in, found the seats and settled in for the game. It was all magic.... right up until some 6 foot-something giant sat in front of me.

I might have all the legroom I need on Ryanair these days, but the downside was just as bad then as now... there was no chance of me seeing past this mountain so that was it, afternoon finished and the teams weren't even in the tunnel. Heartbreaker.

There was not a chance the old man was going to let that happen, no, he was straight up to the nearest steward and asked him (still remember the words) "do you honestly want his first memory of Wembley to be of the back of someone's head?".. before too long we'd moved back in the stand into a seat that gave me the perfect view of Steve Payne rising like a fresh salmon to head home the first. Delirium!!!

Things just got better and better and better with the second goal (although I'm still slightly gutted that my Silkmen hero Phil Power wasn't able to get the final touch). None of us knew it at the time, but the man we'd be doing bucket collections to pay for the following year got some (not mine, no chance) nerves jangling with a well taken goal and by then Northwich were threatening a comeback.

The red card changed all that though. It might well have been devastating for the Vics player involved, but no-one with a blue persuasion would agree with that and as for Hemmings? Well, what else can you say? There was only him with the lung and leg capacity to make that run, gliding over the turf like a gazelle before having the presence of mind to slot it past Greygoose (who always seemed to wind up the Star Lane when he played against us) and send the Macc faithful into raptures.

Those last few minutes passed by in a blur of overwhelming joy that climaxed when Neil Howarth, captain marvel, lifted the trophy high in the air- not even bothering to wait for the rest of the team to get up those magic steps.

They'd all get their moment in the limelight the following day with the open top bus tour to a packed market square outside the Town Hall. Not only did dad finish work early to take me down, but even managed to talk his way to the front so my newly adopted pen pal from Australia (we'd met them on the us before and she was home visiting her sister who lived in Macc) and me could have pictures with the hero himself Tony Hemmings and the trophy too - he was her favourite player and she was made up to meet him... and when I managed to pick my jaw up off the floor for a photo, so was I.

They really were a couple of truly magical days in a time packed with one high after another. Hindsight might reasonably dictate that the following two seasons would cast a shadow over our Wembley day out, but there's not a person there that will ever forget that time and just how incredible it felt.

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