Macclesfield FC is a small football club in England. In 2011, they were promoted to the Football League Championship, making them one of three teams from English leagues lower than the Premier League. They went on to win their first two games and then lost four straight matches—a streak that included losses against Arsenal and Manchester United. The team was relegated at the end of season 2012-2013 after finishing 17th out of 24 clubs with just seven wins all year long
Robbie Savage is a former professional footballer and manager. He has managed Macclesfield FC and has written a book on how to manage football clubs.
Watch the teaser for the upcoming iPlayer documentary Robbie Savage: Making Macclesfield FC.
|Robbie Savage: Making Macclesfield FC is available on iPlayer now, and on One at 11 p.m. on Saturday, November 13th.|
Robbie Savage has captained four Premier League teams, played international football for Wales, and hosts the 606 program on Radio 5 Live, where he has to deal with enraged fans every week.
None of it, though, prepared the 47-year-old for “the toughest thing I’ve ever done.”
We go behind the scenes as Savage and business partner Rob Smethurst construct a new football club from the ashes of another in only nine months in a new video on iPlayer.
The documentary takes us inside the boardroom, the locker room, and the dugout as things go wrong and money pours out, but a winning squad emerges in the end.
We recently chatted with Savage about the film and his time at Macclesfield.
He wonders aloud, “Did I ever picture myself as a part-owner of a football club?” “Most likely not. However, the chance was too wonderful to pass up.”
Saving Macclesfield FC was “the toughest thing I’ve ever done,” says Robbie Savage.
‘Idiots purchase football teams, but I am an idiot,’ says a club acquired from Rightmove.
Macclesfield Town, which was formed in 1874, was wound up in the High Court in September 2020, with debts totaling more than £500,000.
They had been demoted from the English Football League a month before after a turbulent 2019-20 season in which players went on strike over unpaid wages.
It saddened die-hard supporters, some of whom appear in the film.
They had some optimism in the shape of Smethurst within a month.
The self-described risk-taker explains how he decided to acquire the club while out on a night out after spotting it on the property website Rightmove.
He adds, “Idiots purchase football teams.” “However, I am a moron.”
The two guys in charge of Moss Rose are Robbie and Rob.
Smethurst built his wealth in the automotive business and acknowledges in the film that he knows very nothing about football.
That’s why he made one of his first phone calls to Savage, hoping to persuade him to give his football expertise in a genuine role.
Initially, the Welshman informed him that owning a football club was “the most foolish thing you’ve ever done,” but his arm was finally twisted.
“I think about whether that was a good decision every day,” Savage says, laughing. “Every day, there’s a new difficulty to solve.”
“However, when the first team wins, or when you see kids on the field laughing, or people enjoying the bar or gym that we’ve created, you look back with pride.”
Savage has utilized the club to develop grassroots football via his firm, the Savage Foundation, in addition to strengthening the senior squad.
‘What we’ve accomplished in nine months is very incredible,’ says the team.
When Smethurst purchased Macclesfield Town’s assets, the club had no players, no league to play in, and the Moss Rose stadium had fallen into ruin, as shown in the film.
He and his crew had nine months to get everything back in working order in preparation for the 2021-22 season.
The video chronicles the challenging voyage, which includes wet pitches and building issues. Smethurst claims the club is losing £100,000 a month at one time.
At another clip, Savage admits that gym memberships and even free meals in the club bar were part of his talks as he scrambles to recruit players.
They weren’t the only difficulties.
“When we first began, the club didn’t have a safety certificate to get everyone in the ground,” he explains. “I believe we acquired it on the Thursday before the season started.”
“Then there’s everything else that comes with running a club – stewarding, police, making sure the field is in good working order, and recruiting a team.”
Of course, they got there, and Danny Whitaker’s renamed Macclesfield FC was promoted to the North West Counties Premier Division, which is five tiers below the Football League.
They’re laughing now, but it hasn’t all been a lot of fun.
However, the troubles did not stop there.
“We got two images in our WhatsApp group on the first day of the season from guys with positive Covid tests,” Savage explains.
Despite this, Macclesfield are top of the league and pushing hard for promotion, and Savage feels the facilities they’ve developed provide a fantastic experience.
“We have a 335-member gymnasium, we laid down 3G on the surface, plus we have the academy and Macclesfield Ladies,” he explains.
Savage is especially proud of his ability to provide free grassroots football via his firm, The Savage Foundation, as well as creating what he refers to as a “route through the academy.”
He adds, “What we’ve accomplished is truly astounding.”
“We didn’t have a single player a year ago; today we have 600-700. The girls’ academy has approximately 50 young ladies, which is amazing to see.”
However, it has not been without controversy, with local grassroots groups criticizing it.
“Local teams assumed we were going to attempt to steal all of their finest players,” Savage recalls, adding, “Dialogue is absolutely crucial.”
Fans of other teams have naturally voiced their displeasure, believing Macclesfield is attempting to buy its way out of the league.
This is seen in the film when Savage arrives for a match against Winsford United and is accosted by the townspeople.
“I’m encouraged to assume that one or two teams in our league have larger resources, but it’s never mentioned,” Savage adds.
“We have a tendency to overachieve. We like locating young people. We’ve been really astute. The squad’s average age is 23. The reserves are on average 19 years old.
“If we were to be promoted right now, our team would most likely have one of the smallest budgets at that level.”
‘Would any other football director be putting away pint pots?’
During his playing days, Savage was known as a player who was willing to incur the wrath of opposing fans in order to win.
So why should we expect him to be any different as a football director?
“I’ll always defend those around me,” he remarked, “and I’ll take it on the chin for others.”
Robbie Savage describes himself as a “new sort of football director.”
We watch him sprinting down the touchline, barking orders to players, yelling at opponents, and giving some expletive-laced team talks in the movie.
Some supporters say it just demonstrates his enthusiasm, while others consider it is inappropriate for a director of football. Savage has no intention of apologizing.
“Should a football director be on the sidelines?” he wonders. “Would any other director of football be cleaning pint pots, arranging cabs for players, driving people up from the train at 11 p.m., and staying on the phone until 3 a.m. if anything goes wrong?”
“It’s not like working for Manchester United or Liverpool as a director of football. If that were the case, I believe it would be lot more straightforward.”
‘Owners and players come and go, but the fans are there to stay.’
Getting buy-in from supporters of the previous team is, of course, one of the most difficult aspects of establishing a new club.
“Owners and players come and go,” Savage says, “but the fans endure.”
We meet various fans in the video, including two members of the club staff: Bob Trafford, head of communications and Macclesfield Town oracle, and groundsman James ‘Jimbo’ Goodwin.
Savage’s weekly check-in and Q&A with followers on Facebook is one of his ideas.
He explains, “That’s something I want to do to keep fans connected.” “I provide injury updates and try to answer as many queries as possible.”
“Some supporters are concerned and skeptical because of what has occurred to their team in the past. I believe we can now be open and honest.”
Despite the fact that the club’s first league game in the North West Counties Premier Division was a sell-out, Savage believes this is not a short-term enterprise.
“If you know what you’re doing is for the betterment of the community, you can look in the mirror and be satisfied,” Savage says, adding, “I want to give this club to my kids and their kids.”
Robbie Savage on making Macclesfield FC: ‘The hardest thing I’ve ever done’. Robbie Savage talks about the difficulties of being a manager in football. Reference: macclesfield fc website.
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