With one win in the past twenty-two league games leaving Macc sitting outside the drop zone only by virtue of goal difference, the board’s decision came as no great surprise. Yet it is still sad that it had to come to this.
Gary Simpson deserves a huge amount of respect for the work he has done during his reign at the Moss Rose, not least for leading the club through some of its hardest times. He began life at the helm in the most trying of circumstances, taking charge of the team following the traumatic loss of Keith Alexander. Having to comfort and lead a grieving squad while simultaneously contending the loss of one of his closest friends – it was a tremendously challenging time. Yet Simmo was strong enough to keep the club together and pull us through to safety.
The Silkmen would need to call on Simmo’s strength again less than a year later when the tragic death of Richard Butcher rocked the club. Gary again had lost a friend as well as a member of his squad, but once more he was up to the arduous task and took the Silkmen through adversity once more and secure one of our best league finishes.
He has also played a large part in securing Macclesfield’s immediate future. His eye for talent helped bring in players for little or no money and resulted in what must be the club’s biggest haul of transfer fees within the last twelve months. He has been able to give the Moss Rose a reputation as a place where players, looking for a first break from non-league, or searching for a second chance, can develop their careers before moving on to bigger things. It is always frustrating to lose our most gifted players, but the financial realities a club of our size faces this is a vital asset and would ideally help fund further growth and progress up the league.
Ultimately however despite the huge credit Simmo had earned, there is no hiding from the run of results and the plight it leaves us in. The abysmal sequence has been largely a result of the astonishing injury crisis which has ravaged the Silkmen over the past months. It seemed every week another player was heading for the treatment room and virtually the entire first team squad has been unavailable at some point since October. The long term absences of Tomlinson, Draper and Chalmers were especially damaging and with resources tested to the limit it would have been difficult for any manager.
Some argue that Gary was guilty of a few too many tactical mistakes – chiefly starting with negative formations against the weaker sides in the division or showing a lack of ability to adapt. Could anyone have done better in his shoes? Of course we will never know, but the injury crisis left very little room for error and we have simply not been picking up enough points to stay up. And whilst the health of the squad has improved it increasingly seemed that the downward momentum was becoming unstoppable.
I am sad to see Gary depart, he is a very honest, hardworking and likeable man, and his comments after leaving show that he has great class. I really wanted him to build the club and bring success and stability to the Moss, and yet with our situation becoming increasingly desperate it seems hard to argue that the board have made a rash decision.
Ultimately only time will tell. Brian Horton has been appointed until the end of the season, looking to repeat his saviour act of 2004. His task starts with a midweek game against Rotherham, before Barnet visit on Friday – hopefully he will produce the same impact as his previous arrival did. League survival is of paramount importance and would no doubt give Horton hero status once more – but we should never forget what his predecessor has done for this club.
By Macclesfield Town blogger Alastair Pattrick