The Northern Premier League

Early Matches
Under the leadership of Frank Beaumont, the Blues' first ever Northern Premier League match was played at Boston United on 10th August 1968, with Macc going down 1-2 to the Lincolnshire side. However, by the following Wednesday and the first ever NPL game at the Moss Rose, the Cheshire League champions stormed back with a 4-0 win over Hyde United. In the FA Cup, our exploits of the previous year earned us exemption to the fourth qualifying round, which saw a 2-0 win away at Retford Town. In the first round proper, Lincoln City (then of the third division) ran out 3-1 winners at the Moss Rose.

A string of impressive results saw the Silkmen clinch the first ever NPL title with a 2-1 win at Netherfield on Easter Monday and we completed the season 12 points clear of our nearest rivals, Wigan Athletic. April 1969 also saw yet another Cheshire Senior Cup final victory over Northwich Victoria in a two-legged final tie.

One interesting fact is that the average attendance for all our NPL games, home and away, was 2426.

The following season was, until recent times, and still is for some, the most memorable ever in the club's history. It began with a 0-1 defeat at Gateshead but results soon improved and Macc were again challenging at the top of the table. In the FA Cup Altrincham were the defeated opponents at the Moss Rose in the final qualifying round and we were rewarded with a home tie against fourth division Scunthorpe United, who included in their line-up a young hopeful called Kevin Keegan.

History in the Making
After the FA Cup defeat against Scunthorpe United, the remainder of the season 1969/70 was dominated by the march to Wembley as they Silkmen were to become the first ever winners of a new national non-league competition, the FA Trophy.

Wins against Cheshire League club Burscough and Northern Premier League club Gainsborough Trinity in the early rounds were followed by a third round win at Bangor City which put us into the quarter-final and a visit to Southern League Burton Albion. A late goal by Brian Fidler set up a replay at the Moss Rose which the Silkmen won 4-2. This sent us into the semi-finals and a game against Barnet at Stoke City's Victoria Ground.

Dick Young's goal at Stoke is an everlasting memory for today's older supporters and so is May 2nd 1970, when over 28,000 people saw a 2-0 win over Telford United at Wembley Stadium: Macclesfield Town became the first name ever engraved on the Trophy courtesy of goals by Brian Fidler and Dave Lyon.

Just for good measure, 1970 saw a second successive Northern Premier League championship come to the Moss Rose, and, astonishing as that may have seen then, that was to be our last NPL championship for seventeen years.

Dissapointing Times
Season 1970/71 started with the hopes of the town of Macclesfield high, after the success in the FA Trophy at Wembley... but the decline was already starting. Fifth place in the NPL was very disappointing whilst in defence of the FA Trophy wins over South Liverpool, Scarborough and Dover were followed by a sad quarter final dismissal at Hereford United.

Season 1971/72 saw the Silkmen finish sixth in the Northern Premier League table but it was the first time for several years that the season was to end with no silverware. In the FA Cup we were unable to progress beyond the fourth qualifying round, and in the Cheshire Senior Cup there was a very disappointing home replay defeat against Sandbach Ramblers in the first round.

100 Not Out
Season 1974/75 was the club's centenary season, but that was about all we had to celebrate, the team finishing seventeenth in the table. Eddie Brown resigned early in the campaign and was replaced by former Liverpool and Scotland player Willie Stevenson. He lasted barely a few months before clubman John Collins took over the helm.

Financial Insecurity
Season 1975/76 started promisingly and was dominated by a good run in the qualifying rounds of the FA Cup culminating in a first round tie against Third Division Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough. In front of a crowd of 12,940 spectators the Silkmen put up a spirited display before going out 3-1. League form was again disappointing and the season drew to a close with John Barnes in charge of a club ravaged by financial crisis - the majority of the professional staff had been released to reduce the wage bill and there were serious doubts over whether the club would survive.

Season 1976/77 saw Macclesfield Town being run on a shoe-string. In the league we finished in our lowest position to date, nineteenth, the highlight of the season being a FA Trophy run which saw us out at the 2nd round stage away at Northern League Willington, ex Manchester City Dave Connor took over as player-manager and it was with his experience and enthusiasm that any hopes of success lay. However, season 1977/78 saw more disappointment as we finished second from bottom of the NPL, Dave Connor resigned mid-way through the season with the board taking control of team affairs. As the Silkmen hit these before unknown depths, surely things could not get worse... but they did.

Boom and Bust
1978/79 and Derek Partridge was in charge at the start of the season but after a string of disappointing results early in the campaign (0-6 at Runcorn, 1-7 at Mossley etc.) Partridge departed and was replaced by former Ashton United boss Phil Staley, the ninth manager in six years. Results failed to improve and it was inevitable that we would finish the season at the bottom of the NPL where any thoughts of joining the Alliance Premier League were of course futile, yet it was only nine years ago since the remarkable double of 1970.

Phil Staley was to stay in charge for the following season 1979/80 at at long last an up-turn in fortunes began to be seen. The Northern Premier League had, of course, been weakened by the departure of the bigger clubs to the Alliance Premier League but the Silkmen were to earn a creditable eighth place in the table come the end of the campaign and anything was an improvement on the previous season.

Season 1980/81 and it was hoped Phil Staley could build upon his achievements of the previous season and help continue the Silkmen's upward rise. However, an extremely disappointing start to the season culminated in a 6-2 defeat at Southern League Stourbridge in the FA Cup first qualifying round, and on 15th September 1980 Phil Staley was sacked, assistant manager Jimmy Williams taking charge of team affairs.

Frustrated by a string of poor results Williams resigned in February 1981 but this opened the door for the appointment of Brian Booth from successful NPL neighbours Witton Albion in March 1981. Attracting Mr Booth to Moss Rose was a major coup for Chairman Alan Brocklehurst and his board as indirectly this move was ultimately to see the Silkmen grow from strength to strength in the next seven years to again enter the top-flight of non-league football.

A New Start
Season 1981/82 and Brian Booth commenced his first full season in charge at the Moss Rose, after some promising results at the end of the previous season, and in the pre-season games Macclesfield was buzzing in anticipation as we entered our league programme in August.

With only three wins from out opening 19 games drastic action was required and in a determined attempt to halt the slide Brian Booth transfer listed his entire squad as he tried to secure more commitment from all of his players. This seemed the spur that was needed, the Blues won their next nine games in succession, progressed to the semi-final of the Cheshire Senior Cup and put together an unbeaten sequence of 16 games to provide the dwindling band of Macc fans with more excitement than they'd had for many years. Suddenly the Silkmen were the team of the moment and highlights of the season were a 4-0 win at Moss Rose against eventual league champions and an amazing 4-4 draw in the reverse fixture in North Wales.

1982/83 and at long last the Silkmen seemed to be resurfacing from the miserable depths to which they had sunk in the late 1970's. In his second season in charge, Brian Booth's influence was beginning to make it's mark at Macclesfield Town.

In the Northern Premier League the Silkmen held the top spot for much of the season. Serious title contenders, we finally finished fifth in the table; league champions were Gateshead who were promoted to the Alliance Premier League.
Long Awaited Silverware
The Cheshire Senior Cup saw our finest hour. John White's looping header and a 2-1 victory over Congleton Town at Gresty Road, Crewe, in April 1983 saw the first silverware at Moss Rose for ten years - the Silkmen were back in business!

After the relative excitement of season 1982/83, 83/84 was a somewhat disappointing season at Moss Rose, the Silkmen finally finished the campaign in sixth place in the Northern Premier League. Undoubtedly the highlight of the season was our FA Cup run which again saw succes through four qualifying rounds when we were to be rewarded with a home tie against Fourth Division leaders and eventual champions York City in the first round proper. A closely fought 0-0 draw at Moss Rose in fron of 3,409 spectators was followed by a narrow 0-2 reverse in the replay at Bootham Crescent. However the Silkmen were now starting to win a few friends from near and far - it would not be too long before we were once more competing at the highest level in non-league football.

Arrival of Legends
Season 1984/85 arrived and now Macclesfield Town had a team capable of competing with the best, a memorable campaign which saw the Silkmen chase Stafford Rangers for the Northern Premier League championship fight through to the final week of the season, finally finishing runners-up to the promoted Rangers side.

Steve Burr completed his first season at Moss Rose and ended the campaign as leading goalscorer following his transfer from Stafford in the summer of 1984. Perhaps the most memorable match was held at Stafford's Marston Road Ground on Easter Monday when Burrie's goal in the first half earned us a memorable victory before 2,268 spectators; a superb advert for Northern Premier League football truly confirming Macc's revival had at last happened. The same season saw the introduction of a young player called John Askey to the club.

In the FA Cup, a fourth qualifying round win at Dryrough Northern League Bishop Auckland earned us a home tie with Fourth Division Port Vale but events off the pitch instead of on it ruined the big day, final score 2-1 to Vale.

More Managerial Upheaval
Brian Booth announced his resignation due to ill health. Neil Griffiths was appointed to lead the team through 1985/86.

This season was a strange campaign, in many respects. It started so well, with us leading the Multipart League table for several weeks. In the FA Cup we reached the first round proper for the fourth successive season and this time Hartlepool United were the Moss Rose visitors - 2-1 the final score to the Fourth Division side who by their own admitance were played off the park on the day by a far from strength Silkmen side.

However, after the FA Cup match, events at Moss Rose took a downward turn and Neil Griffiths saw his side slide down from the top of the table with defeat after defeat.

Wraggs to Riches
Neil Griffiths was dismissed and it was not long before Peter Wragg was to be appointed from Hyde United.

When Alan Zelem suffered a dreadful facial injury in the Northern Premier League Challenge Cup semi-final against Hyde, the Silkmen were left without a goalkeeper and Nigel Shaw was forced to deputise for the final nine games of the season. The season finished holding much promise for the 1986/87 season, and rightly so!

Pre-Season Disaster
Season 1986/87, which ultimately was to prove one of the finest hours in the history of Macclesfield Town, could not have started on a worse note. Only one week before the big kick-off a car carrying four Silkmen players to our final pre-season friendly match at the Moss Rose was involved in a serious head-on collision. Nigel Shaw, Ian Elsby, Steve Waddington and Trevor Brissett were lucky to escape with their lives and in one cruel minute a third of Peter Wragg's team selection was wiped out and preparation for the new season was totally in ruins.

Despite this setback, the makeshift team went seven games without defeat and by mid-September were in second place in the Multipart League table, five points behind leaders Bangor City. By the time the Welshmen visited the Moss Rose on 27th September they had an eight point lead over the Silkmen and were now 13 games unbeaten. At half time the Blues were leading 4-0 and Bangor were wondering what hit them! The final score was 4-3 in a marvellous game. Bangor finishing second best as indeed they did at the end of the season.
Possible Promotion
The 22 match unbeaten run commenced just three days after going out of the Cheshire Senior Cup with a 1-0 win at Mossley, our first victory at Seel Park in 14 years and all the more remarkable as we were reduced to nine men for most of the match. Over the next two months the team grew in stature and confidence collecting valuable Multipart League points and battling through to the finals of the League Challenge Cup and the League President's Cup.

The first cup final was for the League Challenge Cup where over 2,000 spectators saw Brian Fidler's Burton Albion side beaten 2-0 at Maine Road, Manchester courtesy of two John Askey goals. The following Sunday morning saw a 0-0 draw at Marine in the first leg of the President's Cup final setting up possibly the most exciting game of the season for the second leg at Moss Rose. A 1-1 draw at full time was followed by 30 minutes extra time, into the dying seconds, and just as it seemed Marine had won by virtue of the away goals rule, up popped John Askey, 2-1 the score and two-thirds of the treble had been secured.

Dancing on the Plastic
One match now remained; the Multipart League decider on Hyde United's plastic pitch - the Silkmen had to win or else Bangor City would win the league title. Two goals from Steve Burr and one from team captain Elfyn Edwards did the damage in a 3-1 win. Macc had won the title and most of the 1,800 crowd danced around the artificial turf.