Sir John : We Pay Tribute To A True Silkmen Legend

This time last week the Silkmen faithful descended on Prenton Park, as our heroes wrote another pulsating chapter in this already memorable season.

The hoards of fans who had made the trip over to Birkenhead sung their hearts out from the first minute to the last, as they raucously willed their team on.

There was of course a sub plot behind the evening’s entertainment, which gave every chant exemplified meaning as it was blasted out with a heightened degree of emotion.

In the days which proceeded the game, Sir John had been heavily linked with the vacant managerial post at League Two side Grimsby Town.

As such the Silkmen fans united in their numbers – behind our promotion push, our wonderful team and of course, our much loved leader.

At the home of one of the most well respected clubs in English football, we defiantly stood tall in a manner which only we can do.

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We sung for our team, for our club and also for our leader 

A few days after another scintillating performance on the pitch, Mariner’s Chairman John Fenty openly conceded that he could not break John’s commitment to the Silkmen cause.

This undeniably injected another vibrant dose of siege mentality into everybody associated with the Football Club as everybody rallied behind him like never before.

As we approach this epic season’s finale, we take a look back at John’s career at the Moss Rose – in order to exemplify how much of a fairytale ending it would be if promotion back to the Football League is ultimately secured.

John started his career as a Youth Team player at Port Vale – the club his father Colin had notched up 200 appearances for.

His time at Vale Park showed mixed degrees of success as despite winning the club’s Young Player of the Year award in 1982, he never made a first team appearance for The Valiants.

After a short spell at Milton United, John signed for The Silkmen in 1984 after his brother Bob had recommended him to Brian Booth. Macc were said to be thin on players at the time and initially John was drafted in to fill the void and bolster the ranks!

John made an instant impression and quickly became a fans favourite as a lightening fast winger who weighed in with his fair share of goals.

He quickly established a frightening partnership with Steve Burr who also joined the club in 1984, creating one of the most feared pairings in non league football.

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John celebrates the Northern Premier League Treble with Steve Burr, Nigel Shaw and Elfyn Edwards (Pic courtesy of Peter Hilton).

John played an integral part in the treble winning side of 1986/87 where helped the club secure promotion to the GM Vauxhall Conference for the first time.

The step up did not faze John or his Silkmen teammates in the least and during that first season John started all bar one of the 42 leagues matches – scoring ten times.

The following season, John added 11 goals to his tally, but this time only started 35 league matches.

Yet the highlight of the season was undoubtedly reaching the FA Trophy Final at Wembley Stadium where Macc were beaten in extra time by Telford United

John was fast establishing himself as one of the country’s leading non league footballers at this time and this was recognised by his inclusion in the illustrious Middlesex Wanderers’ tour of Japan shortly after our Wembley disappointment.

Despite Football League interest, John remained loyal to The Silkmen and in 1994 he was deservedly rewarded with a testimonial match against a Manchester United XI.

After securing the Drinkwise Cup title in 1994, John was to help guide The Silkmen to the Vauxhall Conference Championship in 1995.

Under the leadership of former Busby Babe Sammy McIlroy, Macc romped home to their first Conference title and set a league record of ten consecutive wins in the process. John weighed in with nine goals from thirty league appearances that season as another feared partnership was formed, this time with Phil Power.

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John is reunited with fellow title winners Neil Howarth, Sammy McIlroy, Phil Power and Gil Prescott (Pic courtesy of Peter Hilton).

Promotion to the Football League that season was denied however due to archaic ground regulations – something which 23 years later still seems exceptionally harsh.

The following season was a low point in Askey’s playing career after fracturing his leg during a pre-season friendly at Winsford United. John had to sit out of the whole campaign and that also meant that he was not part of the FA Trophy winning side which beat Northwich Victoria 3-1 at Wembley Stadium.

Yet he was to come back with a vengeance the following season as Macc finally secured their place in the Football League by winning the Conference title for the second time in three years. John missed just three league matches that season, scoring six times in the process. 

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John takes on the Kettering defence as Macc sealed promotion to the Football League in 1997 (Pic courtesy of Peter Hilton).

That was not the end of the fairytale however, as Macc secured back to back promotions by finishing second in Division Three behind Notts County – going a whole season unbeaten at the Moss Rose.

John was an almost ever present that season, weighing in with six priceless goals.

1998/9 season saw The Silkmen take their place in Nationwide League Division Two alongside the likes of Fulham, Wigan and Manchester City and it was not long before Sir John found his magic touch in front of goal.

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John in action at Maine Road back in 1999 (Pic courtesy of Peter Hilton).

We were drawn to play the mighty Stoke City in the First Round of the League Cup and in those days these were two legged affairs.

Two late Askey strikes helped to ensured that Macc went to the Brittania Stadium with a 3 – 1 first leg lead that evening, after Steve Wood had opened the scoring after just two minutes.

Despite Macc suffering a 1-0 defeat in the Potteries, Macc progressed 3-2 on aggregate and claimed a major scalp in the process. With John’s father Colin still recognised as a Vale Legend, there was no doubt some celebrations in the Askey household that evening!

Although Sammy’s heroes were relegated that season, John remained as dedicated to the cause as ever – so much so that the following season he notched up a career best fifteen goals.

All good things must come to an end however and despite John’s legs still seemingly as youthful as they have ever been, he hung up his boots at the end of the 2002/3 season.

The double Player of the Year award winner didn’t go quietly however – coming off the bench to equalise against Rochdale and set up yet another great Silkmen comeback in the process.

As soon as the ball hit the back of the net Askey ran to his devoted fans in the Star Lane End, jumped over the barrier and celebrated in a way which befitted the great man – the fact that he got booked did not matter one bit and even the Referee had a smile on his face when he almost begrudgingly showed him the yellow card.

This was never going to be the end however, John was never going to say goodbye to the club who he had spent nearly two decades fighting tooth and nail for.

He was subsequently appointed Assistant Manager to David Moss and remained with him until Moss’ dismissal in October 2003

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John looks on as David Moss’ Assistant back in 2002 (Pic courtesy of Peter Hilton).

John was then handed the full managerial reigns, in a move which no Macclesfield Town fan could begrudge him of.

With hindsight John’s accession in to the coveted hot seat arguably came too soon. Despite an encouraging start, results starting to dip and the club reluctantly brought in former Manchester City supremo Brian Horton.

John then held a number of roles such as Reserve Team Manager and Youth Team Manager, as he made a real name for himself by bringing talented young players through the ranks into the First Team –  including a certain Rickie Lambert.

After the sacking of the very likeable and prudent Manager Steve King, John took on the role of First Team Manager for a second time in April 2013.

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John reclaimed the hot seat in April 2013 (Pic courtesy of Peter Hilton).

Despite off the field problems which severely limited the budget he was able to work with, John continued to bring in underrated players in to the club and turn them in to very shrewd acquisitions.

Last season John took us to Wembley Stadium once more. Yet the FA Trophy winners medal which he yearns for to complete his collection sadly eluded him, as a late York City winner sent the famous trophy back to Bootham Crescent.

The exodus which followed the Trophy Final meant that at the start of June John only had one player to his name – Mitch Hancox.

The fact that we now sit five points clear at the top of the National League is nothing short of mind blowing and with only a matter of weeks left until the final act of this thrilling season is written, we are all behind Sir John as he looks to mastermind the ultimate in fairytale endings.

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