‘People are going to form their opinion’ – Michael Clegg sends defiant Macclesfield message after Warrington Rylands switch

Warrington Rylands manager Michael Clegg reacts

Michael Clegg says the time was right to make the shock move to Macclesfield from Warrington Rylands – but admits he feels like he has let people down.

Thursday marked the latest chapter in Clegg’s managerial career as he was installed as the new Silkmen manager. The switch came after former boss Alex Bruce departed his role in order to join Karl Robinson’s backroom staff at Salford City.

Macclesfield quickly identified the 40-year-old as their prime target and made an approach to their Northern Premier League playoff rivals. Initially, their move was rejected by the Blues before a resolution was reached which saw Clegg, assistant manager Nicky Hunt and first-team coach Lewis Hardcastle move across Cheshire to the Leasing.com Stadium.

Clegg departs Gorsey Lane with Rylands in third and an attractive prospect with a handful of matches remaining, Sam Egerton and Dean Furman will take temporary charge in the interim returning to the dugout for the visit of Gainsborough Trinity.

The move shocked those within the Northern Premier League and those looking on but the acquisition from Macclesfield is seen as a statement of intent, after prising the head coach of one of their playoff rivals. 

For Clegg, it was a no-brainer and an opportunity that came at the perfect time not only for him, but the Silkmen too.

“I’m ready, I feel that they’re getting the best version of me,” he exclusively told Off The Park. “I had highs at Colls (Atherton Collieries), lows at Ashton and highs – working with a complete group of players –  at Rylands with a moderate budget, we’ve done really well. 

“I’m the best version of me physically, mentally, tactically, the timing might not be perfect but they’re getting a very hungry Michael Clegg, who wants to have a go of a bigger club, with a bigger budget with bigger pressure.”

Clegg becomes the latest manager in the dugout at Moss Rose and a third of the season, after Mark Duffy and Bruce. The feedback, broadly, has been positive in reaction to the move for the former Atherton Collieries and Ashton United manager, but he says the time was right to make the “leap” and he joins a squad who aren’t far away from achieving their goals.

He added: “People are going to form their opinion, we are in an age now where everyone has an opinion of everything and we’re going to be under the spotlight, no doubt about that. What I have learned, when I listen to the people around me and make my own decisions, that’s when I’ve been my best football manager, when I’ve been influenced or forced into positions, I’ve made decisions that wasn’t great. 

“I know what Macclesfield want, what I’ve got to give them and everything like that is pretty straight-forward – we’ve got to win every football match. I’ve seen Macclesfield five times, I think they’re a fantastic team, there is a couple of things we can brush up on but they’re not a million miles away from where they need to be. 

“For me, I feel it’s the perfect fit and that’s why I had to take the leap because I knew it was my time.”

The former Rylands boss has been in the opposing dugout against Macclesfield three times this season, but now he finds himself looking to chase down his old club – with the opportunity of silverware as they host Coalville Trophy in the FA Trophy quarter-final.

“It happened really quickly, I got a phone call and before you knew it something had happened that night” he continued. “It has been 100 miles an hour, once you dip your toe in, I couldn’t look back. 

“It would’ve been hard to turn that down with the plans at Macc – not just the league, there’s a FA Trophy quarter-final – you working at unbelievable facilities, daytime training so everything fit into place. I needed everything to be right and once it was, it was a swift decision.”

At the beginning of the season, Macclesfield were eyeing a third successive promotion following success in the North West Counties and Northern Premier League West. The road to this point hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing as they sit a point inside the playoff places.

Bruce’s departure came as a shock following the news on Tuesday morning but in recent years, there has been a suggestion that the Moss Rose hotseat is a poison chalice due to the pressure it entails.

The new manager insists that he isn’t naive to the threat of being sacked but adds that in any job a run of defeats could lead to being on the managerial chopping block. However, Clegg dismissed the negative connotations with the role at a former Football League club and says not many managers in the region would turn the opportunity down.

“They’ve had success stories, Alex (Bruce) went to a Football League club, Dannzy (Neil Danns) went to Tranmere, I know Duffs (Mark Duffy) and Dave (McNabb) so I know what went on there, I’m going in to manage a lot of expectation,” he said.

“At the end of the day, it’s a ruthless sport and for everyone who wants us to win – there will be 10 that want us to lose. Everyone is up for the sack if you lose four or five games, I’ll be no different but I’m hungry, if you can’t get excited by 4,000 people, big expectations and owners wanting success then what are you in it for? 

“We all go on about security but at the end of the day, this is an opportunity that everyone might’ve said to turn around, it’s not the right time, but there’s not many managers in non-league that’ll turn it down.”

Leaving Gorsey Lane a year into his position there wasn’t an easy decision, Clegg admits. The two parties departed amicably and the former boss received best wishes from his former employers. There will be a long list, likely to be stacked with glittering applicants, thanks to the work done under the guise of Clegg and Hunt – who came in after Jody Banim’s untimely departure after 24 matches. 

“It’s been a sad day, I leave a lot of good people believe and I don’t have a bad word to say about them,” he reflected. 

“From going in on Saturday and buying my raffle tickets of John and Lizzie then in the changing room – seeing the lads, playing the game – to sitting down with the fans and going home, it’s been such a positive experience for not only me, but my family. 

“We’ve put a strong group together, whoever inherits them is getting a group without many faults, they’ll go to war with you. It’s sad, you feel like you’re letting them down, I trust there will be disappointment and people thinking I’ve let them down with 10 games to go, we’ve been so together all year but it’s a different animal. 

“The league table will tell you it’s a sideways movement but if you know your non-league football, everybody knows it’s a step up and a step up I had to take because it mightn’t happen again.”

Weather-depending, Clegg’s Macclesfield tenure could begin against former club Atherton Collieries at his former stomping ground – some 10 minutes away from his house. Irrespective of a postponement, the new Silkmen boss is likely to meet his “frightening” new squad for the first time but there are already ambitions to mark his opening months with a trip to Wembley and promotion.

He said: “You look through the playing squad and it’s frightening, you’ve got people who will kick on and some who should be playing higher. I’m excited by it, there’s a lot of good players, there’s a few things where we could be better, not personnel but tweaks and changes, then from there I feel we’ll be good to carry on. 

“I’m a glass half-full guy, it’ll be nice winning a playoff and going to Wembley as well, that’s how you’ve got to look at it but a game at time, we’ll roll our sleeves up and graft. We’re going to try and play some football.”

[Featured image: Warrington Rylands – Mark Percy]

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