ROBBIE SAVAGE: Why should a few irresponsible people unravel all the good work which went into the rebirth of Macclesfield FC and renovating our Leasing.com stadium?
Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)
Wading into a sell-out 3,500 crowd to separate hooligans throwing punches is not what I expected as director of football at a phoenix club.
But owner Rob Smethurst and I have worked so hard for nine months to relaunch Macclesfield FC, and restore a football club as a focal point for the town, that we can’t let a handful of idiots ruin all our best intentions.
For those of you who don’t know: Bank Holiday Monday should have been cause for celebration at Macclesfield as we went top of the North West Counties League Premier Division with a 1-0 win against neighbours Congleton Town.
Our crowd was the second-biggest non-League attendance of the day behind Wrexham, and manager Danny Whitaker has delivered 16 points from his first six league games in charge.
But a few minutes from the end, play was held up by trouble in the crowd and, acting purely on instinct, I ran across the pitch to pull some of the feuding idiots apart, as did Rob.
With the benefit of hindsight, I should not have got involved.
On the other hand, why should a few irresponsible people, who should know better, unravel all the good work which went into the rebirth of Macclesfield FC and renovating our Leasing.com stadium?
All our safety protocols were in place and police say there was no advance intelligence that troublemakers were threatening to disrupt the game.
Whether it was fans from other clubs who intended to cause trouble, I don’t know.
But the likely outcome is that perpetrators – whoever they support – will be banned for life, and we may have to introduce segregation, which would be a crying shame for a non-League club in the ninth tier.
I was naive to intervene the way I did, and put myself in a risky situation, but thankfully the game was finished and everyone got home safely.
And don’t be in any doubt: Macclesfield FC will not be thrown off course by a stupid minority. Why should the actions of 50 or so spectators spoil the enjoyment of 3,450 sensible fans?
In a few years, we would like to become a League Two club, which is effectively where Macclesfield Town belonged when they went out of existence. If segregation, on police advice, means we will have to behave like a League Two club, so be it.
But we shall not be moved.
Before the game, I had been sweeping the pitch, vacuuming rubber particles from the white lines, digging out the holes for the corner flags, and cleaning glasses in the bar.
That may not sound like a director of football’s normal beat, but that is what we do at a non-League club.
There is no room for egos, airs and graces – you get on with the day-to-day tasks that probably get taken for granted higher up the pyramid.
But I never expected to finish the day by wading into a sell-out crowd to separate grown men behaving like idiots.
As we saw at Wembley two months ago, you can do all the right things to prepare for a big occasion, but if a minority is determined to cause disruption or behave badly, there are no guarantees you can stop them.
If it can happen at the Euro 2020 final, it can happen anywhere.
As a club, I know we are under the microscope, partly because of my involvement, and social media is laced with jealousy towards us – some of it from managers of other clubs – questioning our right to play in our league.
But I have been heartened by the response of neutrals who recognised that, rightly or wrongly, I intervened only through the best of intentions.
I thought I might get a ticking-off from my mum but, when I told her what had happened, she replied: “Good for you, Robert – if I had been there, I would have been right behind you.”
And someone said I looked like Wonder Woman on a mission.
In the past, I’ve been called an Afghan hound, the missing Bee Gee and even Gail Platt from Coronation Street – but Wonder Woman? That’s a new one.