Thursday, June 22, 2006

MEN: Sammy’s the latest Rebel fan

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usSource: Manchester Evening News.

By Stuart Brennan

SAMMY McIlroy believes FC United can “go all the way’’ to the Football League on the back of their phenomenal crowd-pulling power.

The Manchester United legend, who guided Macclesfield Town out of the non-league pyramid and is now bidding to do the same with Morecambe, says that the rebel club have the support base to become a roaring success.

FC United were recently named as non-league football’s Club of the Year after averaging home gates of over 3,000 in their inaugural season, and McIlroy was on hand to present the award to manager Karl Marginson, who played under him during the glory years at Moss Rose.

Marginson shared the accolades for FC United’s remarkable season with assistants Phil Power and Darren Lyons, also former Silkmen who played under McIlroy.

McIlroy, who cut his managerial teeth by guiding Ashton United out of the North West Counties League – which is FC United’s challenge next season after promotion from the second division – says the new club have a great chance.

“For me working at that level was a great learning curve, because you are still handling players and still have the hassle of sorting things out when someone rings you on a Thursday to tell you they can’t play on Saturday because they have to work a late shift,” said the 51-year-old, who went on to manage Northern Ireland and Stockport County before returning to Conference management with Morecambe last season.

“Managing in non-league presents different challenges. I had a chat with the lads when I presented them with the awards and they told me that they got over 6,000 for the last game of the season, which is unbelievable.


“That has to be a great advantage, and a fantastic atmosphere for the players, but there is the other side, in that it also gets the opposition players going as well.

“And Karl and the lads will know they have to have players who can handle that kind of atmosphere.

“But when you have support like that, players will want to play for you, and if they can keep bringing in players who are that little bit better as they move up the leagues, they can go all the way.”

Power, who still dons his boots for FC, was a star for McIlroy’s Macclesfield, helping them into the League and then scoring the goal that secured promotion to the old second division in their historic first season in 1998.

And both Lyons, who also still plays, and Marginson, turned out for the Silkmen.

“That is one of the reasons I agreed to present the awards,” says McIlroy. “They are all good lads and played their part in the great success we had at Macc.

“I bumped into them when Macc had a fund-raising game against a World XI in February, and since then I have looked out for their results, and it’s good to see lads like that still in the game.

“To be honest I never really saw them as management types when they were playing for me. Darren was very, very quiet, just did his own thing, while Phil was a character in the dressing room and Karl had a great, dry sense of humour, a bit of a comedian.”

McIlroy himself almost made history last season by taking Morecambe to the Conference play-offs where they narrowly lost out to Hereford. He would have been the first manager to take two different clubs into the League.

FC UNITED have been given a bye in the first round of the League Challenge Cup, but face the toughest test possible in the second round - a trip to FA Vase holders Nantwich Town. The game will take place on November 11.