Macclesfield are a club reborn. It's been an incredible journey from the doldrums of liquidation to a memorable title-winning season.
In September 2020, Macclesfield Town were wound-up in the High Court after accruing debts exceeding £500,000. Having been relegated from the Football League at the end of a tumultuous 2019-20 season on and off the pitch, the future looked desperately bleak for the club.
But local businessman Rob Smethurst and his good mate, the former professional footballer Robbie Savage, joined forced with one shared passion – to help the club rise like a phoenix from the ashes. They rebranded the club as Macclesfield FC and embraced the complicated challenge of trying to get the club’s loyal supporters on side.
They did it and, despite facing plenty of obstacles and sleepless nights along the way, Smethurst and Savage were both left beaming.
A total of 543 days after the club went into liquidation, the realisation of a daunting dream became a reality as the Silkmen hammered Ashton United 4-0 to win the North West Counties Premier Division with three games to spare. Promotion to the eighth tier of English football next season is a solid stepping stone to grow a club steeped in tradition.
A commendable achievement given Cheshire-based business mogul Smethurst bought the club on a whim on boozy night out. He bought the assets for £500,000 and then rang Welshman Savage to tell him.
“I’m a massive risk-taker,” admitted Smethurst, who bought the club having seen it advertised on Rightmove.
“But buying Macc is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
Initially the club was losing £25,000 to £30,000 a month, but nine months later they broke even and then starting making a profit.
“Now the future for Macclesfield FC is very bright,” reflected Smethurst. “Financially the future is sustainable.
“I didn’t want the club to rely on a Sugar Daddy, but it’s been surreal.
“This is the start of Macclesfield, it is rise of the phoenix. We’re going to move up as quickly as possible.”
A view echoed by Savage, now a TV and radio pundit having hung up his boots after a 21-year professional career, which included a decade in the Premier League and 39 international caps for Wales.
“The journey so far has been exhausting, emotional, but I tell you what, it’s been f**king fantastic,” said Savage.
“I’ve seen loads of things in my footballing career, but while it’s been the hardest thing, it’s also been the greatest achievement of my life to take a football club from nothing – to winning a league in the space of nine months.”
Smethurst and Savage made the astute decision to appoint Macclesfield legend Danny Whitaker as their manager.
Whitaker, known affectionately by supporters as the club’s “Magic Man”, made his debut for the club in 2002 – and played over 400 times for the Silkmen.
“With exception of Stockport County or Wrexham, I don’t think there’s been as much pressure on a manager as Danny Whitaker,” stressed Savage.
“If he hadn’t have won the league, his legacy might have been tarnished.
“But everybody has been on this journey together. We’ve all lived and breathed it.
“We’ve laughed together, cried together and celebrating together. Without those people this wouldn’t be a football club.”
Smethurst splashed the cash on a new member’s gym to help fund the club, as well as redeveloping the stadium and paying for a new bar for the supporters to celebrate in style when the team is victorious.
He revealed he has spent over £4million so far in turning around the club’s fortunes as they take their early steps to regaining their Football League status.
And he – and Savage – have kept faith in hometown hero Whitaker, who has repaid them – and more – to help them achieve a stunning promotion this season.
“Without a doubt, this is the biggest achievement of my career,” admitted Whitaker, now in his 19th season with the club.
“The pressure from day one was immense. There was a lot on the line for me, from being a legend of Macc Town and a big fans’ favourite.
“But Robbie’s played at such a high, high level, that things have to be done professionally.
“This is what we’re all about, which keeps me on my toes. It’s made me a better person and a better manager.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s been hard work. But long may it continue!”