Torquay United 1997: our first ever Football League fixture!

Saturday 9th August 1997 is a date that will bring back happy memories for the Silkmen faithful. This was the date of our first ever Football League fixture, which saw Torquay United visit the Moss Rose. Unforgettably it was a day which also gave us our first ever victory in the Football League, with a 2-1 scoreline.

On the eve of our second ‘debut’ in league football, SLE takes a look back at the XI Silkmen who started that historic fixture 21 years ago. Before you scroll down, how many can you name?

Ryan Price KW

Silkmen legend Ryan Price (Image courtesy of Macclesfield Town Football Club).

Ryan Price was between the sticks. Price was an important part of the Conference winning side and had an excellent season in the League, with 20 clean sheets in 1997/98. A larger than life character who was a hero of the Star Lane End, he will also be fondly remembered by readers of the Macc Express.

Darren Tinson was another who made the step up with Macc. ‘Tinno’ played over 250 league games for Macc from 1997-2003 as a right-back and centre-half, many of these as captain. One of the few players we signed for a fee, £10,000 always looked like a bargain!

Steve Payne was an impressive defender who joined the Silkmen in 1994, and often captained the side in the early days of our spell in the league. He left the Moss in 1999, but delighted fans with a brief return in 2003-04.

Howarth CW

Silkmen defender and captain of the 1990’s and current assistant manager Neil Howarth (Image courtesy of Macclesfield Town Football Club).

Current assistant manager Neil Howarth was a major part of our successes in this period. Howarth made his debut in 1993 and played over 250 games in all competitions prior to his departure in 1999.   

The defence that day was completed by Efe Sodje. Efe will be remembered as the man to score our first ever goal in the Football League, rising highest at a corner to power home, before a typically energetic celebration.

Andy Mason was a new arrival in 1997-98. The former Hull City and Chesterfield man found himself in the team in the early part of the season but only managed 7 starts in his one and only campaign in Cheshire.

One starter that slipped my mind was Colin Rose. Like Mason, he joined Macc in the summer of 1997 and went straight into the side. He fared slightly better than his fellow new arrival, but also departed the club after 1 season, having made 23 appearances.

Adding some finesse in the middle of the park was Steve Wood. Steve made his Macc debut in Sammy McIlroy’s first game as Silkmen boss, a 5-1 humbling at Bath City, and he stayed with us until 2001. The Torquay United game was his first in league football, but at 34 he had one of his best campaigns, finishing top scorer and winning Player of the Year.

Neil Sorvel was another classy operator in this side. Neil was a major part in our rise to the league, having joined in 1992 from Crewe Alexandra. After 7 years at the Moss, Sorvel re-joined Crewe and made over 300 appearances in League 1 and the Championship.

The other goalscorer that day was Richard Landon. This day was arguably his best in a Macc shirt as he found a regular starting spot hard to come by.

John Askey 2003

Silkmen legend ‘Sir’ John Askey who will forever be known as a Macc Town hero, as a player, manager and his other roles during his 34 year stay at the Moss Rose club (Image courtesy of Macclesfield Town Football Club).

John Askey also made his long awaited Football League debut in this game, at this point already 13 years into his career with Macc. Used as a striker and also on the right side of midfield, John made over 180 Football League appearances, his final game for the club coming in May 2003 when he netted against Rochdale, before launching himself into the Star Lane End to celebrate with the fans.

Our new heroes will take the field at the County Ground on Saturday, and whatever happens this season, they will be part of Macclesfield Town’s history forever!

(All images in this feature are courtesy of Macclesfield Town Football Club).

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