Andy Scott – Macc & Talent-Spotter Simmo A Gordon Banks Spot
Gary Simpson has paved the way for Peterborough United and Macclesfield Town’s transfer success. Spotted by Stoke City scout and England legend Gordon Banks, the left-footed Boston midfield maestro took rejection at Stoke on the chin and followed Dad Ken’s advice (a veteran of Sheffield United and Rotherham who played the day Nobby Noble missed a penalty that cost the Millers promotion to the first Division) to become a centre midfielder. He may have lacked the pace for the flank, but his heart, passing and tackling served him well at England C, Boston, Stafford Rangers and Gainsborough Trinity, where he became player manager. Gary then became an assistant and scout at former Pilgrims guru Ray O’Brien at Arnold St Mary. Keith Alexander then asked him to help out at Ilkeston and the partnership flourished as they moved up in the world at Lincoln, Peterborough and of course Macc. Keith certainly missed him in his director of football capacity at Bury, just as Gary missed him and later Butch, having stepped nervously and emotionally into his shoes.
STMI caught up with former Macclesfield Town Vice-Chairman and busy retail entrepreneur Andy Scott over the weekend and it turns out that Gary deserves better credit. for his time at the Silkmen, than many realise.
Q: You worked with Gary through some good times and some bad Andy, it must have taken something to lift the club after both Keith and Richard Butcher’s premature passing as you successfully battled against relegation.
‘I doubt if many football clubs have ever had to endure two tragedies in just under twelve months quite like MacclesfieldTown. The fact that both Keith and Butch were so close to Gary, made it an incredibly difficult and emotional time for him personally, let alone the football club. The announcement of Keith’s death was such a massive shock to us all. I was having a drink with him in the NottsCounty boardroom after the game the night before he died and it was the same old Keith, such a wonderful, warm football man. The chairman called me at 8am the next morning to deliver the bad news. I was shell shocked. I called Gary immediately and did my best to console him, and if I was to be honest, had serious doubts that Gary would be able to carry on in the game, such was his close friendship to Keith. Later that morning he called me and said ”Andy, I have spoken to Helen, Keith’s wife, and there is no way the Gaffer wouldn’t have want the game to go ahead on Saturday (Hereford away)”. How he pulled it together and kept his devastated young squad focussed enough to pull off an amazing 2-0 victory will live with me for many a day. It told me so much about Gary Simpson the individual.’
This was then followed 10 months later with the sad passing of Butch, and yet again Gary kept it together with incredible strength and dignity. To this day I don’t know how he coped with the death of Richard so soon after losing his best friend Keith. But he did, and almost single handed, with the support of the Chairman and myself, steered the club to safety that season winning five, drawing four and losing only three of the remaining Twelve games.
Q That young side Gary built looked great and for a while the Silkmen looked genuine play-off contenders. What do you think went wrong after a glorious 2-1 win against local rivals Port Vale? Any memories and regrets following the heroic tussle with Bolton?
‘Football I suppose has this great habit of hitting you where it hurts, when you least expect it! Everything was going so well last season and after the Bolton FA Cup draw the boys put in another great performance in the Reebok replay. After losing 2-0 to a full strength Premiership side in that replay, the Chairman and I were in the process of preparing a three and a half year contract for Gary, and why not? In the first tie at the Moss Rose we were beating Bolton 2-1 with 12 minutes to go and, with six key players out injured, Gary conjured up a fantastic display of attacking football that came within a whisker of creating the shock of the round. We had beaten Port Vale, our local rivals, 2-1 on New Years Eve, sitting comfortably mid-table and ready for a push towards the play offs. The month of January was a disaster for Gary and the squad and nobody saw it coming. With six players already out injured we then lost another six players to long term injuries that decimated the squad. Many of the injuries were not short term and most were to key players, Morgan, Draper, Chalmers, Hewitt, Fairhurst and Tomlinson to name but a few. I have no doubt that had these guys stayed fit we would still be in the Football League and building for an exciting future with Gary Simpson at the helm. Due to the limited finances at the club, whilst delving into the loan market was a necessity, we simply couldn’t afford the calibre of player required to get our season back on track. In adversity, Gary was fully aware of the financial restraint on the club and never once did he come to the board and ask for money for players that he knew the club simply couldn’t afford. He is a thrifty Yorkshireman and spent the clubs money like his own!! It was that terrible injury crisis and a lot of bad luck put paid to our league status.
Q Gary has a great eye for talent but just how big an impact does transfer income play in the sustainability of clubs like Macc?
“It’s a fact of life, on gates of around 2000 and to compete against the bigger league clubs we have to be a selling club. Gary and Keith knew full well when they took the position at the Moss Rose that if the right offer came along for our better players, the club would have to sell to balance the books. Not once did Gary complain about having to sell some of the fantastic footballers that he brought to our club. He knew the situation, he was a realist, and took the view that if it helped to progress the players career and the club benefited financially, then so be it. I think it is already well known about Gary’s ”eye” for a player and God knows where he would end up scouting on a freezing Tuesday night in November!! Goole, Matlock, Buxton and Halifax to name but a few!! He used to call me sometimes at 10pm on a Tuesday evening from the middle of nowhere with his famous catchphrase, ” Andy, I think I’ve spotted one”. Never before has MTFC done so well in the transfer market as the last two seasons, all talent that was recognised and brought to the football club by Gary. Sinclair, Barnett, Hewitt, Bencheriff, Daniel and Brisley netted the club in excess of 750k, a fantastic return that has helped to make the club financially solid, certainly for this season.”
Q; It has been alleged that Horton’s wage was half the weekly playing budget that had been allocated before his arrival. Clearly you can’t comment on that but given he only took two points from a possible 27, do you feel retaining Simmo would have kept Macc up if he had been given until the end of the season?
“Who knows, and I certainly can’t comment on the Brian Horton deal. But I never wanted Gary to leave, it was a decision made by the owners of the football club. I knew having worked with him for four years; we had a football man who was the perfect ”fit” for our club, and a guy who knows what it takes to punch above our weight. Remember Gary drew 5 and lost only one game in his last six, which included draws against Crawley at home and Bristol Rovers and Oxford away, all with an injury ravaged squad. With 27 points to play for I still felt Gary had the ability, skill set and desire to pull us out of the mire, but I suppose we will never know.”
Q: The injury list at Macc was awful, with a dozen out during that 13 game spell and how frustrating was it when on-loan Dwayne Mattis was injured after an hour of his scoring debut at Wimbledon?
“The injury to Mattis was a reflection of the bad luck to hit the club as we lost 8 games by a goal and drew 5. He was a great signing for us and having controlled the game for the first hour against Wimbledon away he suffered a bad ankle injury and was out for the season. He had captained Chesterfield to promotion the previous season so we knew what a great player he could have been for us. It was a big blow losing him.
Q What do you see as Gary’s best qualities as a coach, manager and bloke?
“His Man Management of players is excellent and he always manages get the best out them. Whilst he will always put his arm around them and support them, the players know not to step over the line. He is an honest no nonsense sort of guy and doesn’t suffer fools. As a person you couldn’t wish to meet a more passionate and devoted lover of his sport. It was a pleasure working with Gary, I had a vision of him being the bedrock of Macclesfield town for years to come, it’s a real shame it didn’t work out for both parties.”
Q With Gary now assistant at Parkgate and doing things for the love do you think it will be long before he gets back into the game?
“I certainly hope so. No disrespect to Parkgate but I hope Gary can manage again at Football League or Conference level, that’s where he belongs. If and when he is appointed at another football club I wish him well and I’m sure he will be great success.
Q Have you any plans to get back into football ownership and would you employ Gary again?
“No I haven’t got any plans to get back into football just yet, I am looking forward to spending a little more time with my family on a Saturday afternoon!! I would have no hesitation in employing Gary again, I enjoyed working with him, he is a true footballing gent and I’m sure success awaits him.”
Q With the BSP 3 up 3 down vote an agenda item for The League Club’s at the end of the season what are your views on this and the gulf between the standard and style of football in League 2 and the BSP?
“One hundred percent yes for 3 up 3 down because it is sustaining an unfair gulf. My early observations lead me to believe there is a 25-40% gap between the respective positions in the two Leagues.”
Posted on September 10, 2012, in Blue Square zone, Ex Imps and tagged Boston, Gainsborough Trinity, Lincoln City FC, Peterborough United, Stafford Rangers, Stoke City. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.