Back-in-the-day, the very olden days at least, the season commenced in September, there were no games in July / August and pre-season training comprised drinking in ‘beer gardens’. By 1968 pre-season training had commenced in July and for Macclesfield RUFC that was a challenge for the Club Captain John Robinson as the summer had seen a significant change in playing resources. Whilst a number of players had retired a number of other players had been lured by ‘the bright lights, and promise of fame and fortune’ at Wilmslow; who at that time were a more senior club than Macclesfield. Nevertheless Captain John Robinson put on a stoic face and when asked if there were any gaps to fill in his team replied, brusquely: “Yes 15, there are no automatic choices anywhere in the team”. A response worthy of today’s more ‘professional’ attitude, and so despite the shortages Macclesfield meant business!
Interestingly Macclesfield’s first game of the season, something of a pre-season friendly for both clubs, was against Wilmslow. Despite the fact that the last time the clubs had played at first team level Macclesfield (several years earlier) had won both games, in 1968 this fixture was more clearly a David versus Goliath game. Sadly the game confirmed the worst, as Wilmslow scored a number of tries, many by ex-Macclesfield players such as Norman Hodgkinson and Graham Baker.
The pre-season of 1980 saw a number of significant announcements; the new ground at Fallibroome (Priory Park) was used for pre-season training for the first time, despite the Clubhouse being in the final stages of completion. The teams below second team had been renamed over the summer so several ‘new’ teams would be making their debut at the new ground of Priory Park. In very few instances that debut was made at pre-season training as most of these players preferred the pre-season training of the very old days. These teams were to be called the Stags, Harts and Bucks. The purpose of the renaming was mainly about trying to obtain appropriate fixtures for these teams in the pre-League days when a 3rd team would not entertain playing a fifth team! Thankfully such elitist thinking is a thing of the past. Finally it was announced that the opening of the new clubhouse and grounds was to be marked by two significant games; Boroughmuir and Broughton Park (in those days a senior club). Boroughmuir were a senior Scottish club side with a number of Scottish internationals and a British Lion, Bruce Hay, in their midst. Whilst Broughton Park at that time still counted internationals in their line up including Kevin O’Brien (Ireland) and Tony Bond (England).
As with June, July is a notably barren landscape for northern hemisphere club rugby people. So it is a pleasure to announce that some ‘good’ has come of the enforced ‘isolation’. The Club have introduced a podcast which so far has provoked a whole stream of memories both recent and not so. And, like so many, I have been directed by higher authorities towards COVID-19 ‘tidy-up’ activities which extend into July 2020 (hence its inclusion in this article). Happily these two events brought a collision of memories via a review of my collection of programmes.
In a recent podcast Rob Davies mentioned two games: the Cheshire Cup final v Sale and the 3rd Round Pilkington Cup game v Walsall, programmes for which coincidentally sat on my desk as I listened to the podcast. The team that played Walsall is a ‘real’ Macclesfield team containing so many players who played their whole senior careers at Macc and no fewer than six whose sons would later play first team rugby for Macc. The line ups for the Cheshire Cup final contains some noteworthy inclusions, a young Mike Ransom (Money Guru) for Macc and one R. Oliver for Winnington Park! A rich seam indeed, of MRUFC history and proof positive of my promise to the Director of My Affairs that: “they will come in useful one day”. Both planned to be covered in David Wilkinson’s series of ‘Macclesfield’s Greatest Games’.