Following our promotion denial back in 1995, hopes were high that we could stick two fingers up to the Football League with back to back titles the following season.
As it was, we had to make do with a fourth placed finish as well as a victorious FA Trophy win against Northwich Victoria at Wembley Stadium.
Despite the Trophy success, the season was seen as a disappointment by the players and management who had been desperate to seal promotion in 1996.
Yet after a good start to the 1996/7 campaign, hope was rekindled that the promised land would be attained – until tragedy struck the club in the worst possible way.
In September 1996, I can clearly recall sat in my Dad’s car being taken to school and being almost paralysed as I heard radio reports that Macclesfield Town Chairman Arthur Jones had committed suicide.
Jones was a well liked, personable figure who was respected by players and fans alike. The news that he had shot himself came like a bolt out of the blue and devasted our club from top to bottom.
Jones had been the club’s main benefactor, and as his metal business deteriorated to the point that it was liquidated, he felt like he could not go on.
Arthur was a very proud man, and I suspect that he felt that he felt like he had let people down – at work and at the club – yet nothing could have been further from the truth. Everyone loved Arthur, and held him in the highest of esteem as former Assistant Manager Gil Prescott told me –
“If you ask me what was the most important thing which happened during my time at Macc, then it was losing Arthur.
I just wish that he could have shared it with us. If he had just told us, for christ sake we were on the lowest budget going anyway, we could have trimmed it even more if we knew there was a problem and sorted it as a group.
That is the sad thing. We just wanted to give him what he worked so hard to achieve.
To be honest that doesn’t leave you either. I still think now how things could have been different because he was a gentleman, a really lovely man.
Former MTFC Assistant Manager, Gil Prescott
In addition to the heartbreaking loss, creditors now looked at Macc for repayment of a £300k loan which Arthur had previously provided them with.
It put question marks over the future of the club in general, and for a while nobody was sure whether the club would survive.
But survive they did, and everyone came together in a way which cannot be put in to words. It was like we were on a crusade to prove everyone wrong, those who had written us off, the creditors who threatened our future and the Football League for denying us promotion in 1995.
But above all else, we had do finish the job for Arthur Jones.
This was duly completed on 3rd May 1997 at Rockingham Road Kettering where former Manager Peter Wragg presented Sammy with the trophy, to the backdrop of jubilant fans singing Arthur’s name.
After all the setbacks, all the heartache and all the tragedy, we had finally made Arthur’s dream a reality by taking our rightful place in the Football League.