James Pearson on the impact of Macclesfield Town’s collapse

James Pearson

When PFA Delegate and former Macclesfield full-back James Pearson was coming round from surgery in November last year, Pearson told The Guardian it was a case of getting straight back to work.

At a time when the club was in financial crisis, Pearson as the PFA Delegate, acted as a liaison between the players and the union to try and help the squad resolve the financial uncertainty they faced. 

Pearson told The Guardian: "I was in bed on the phone to the players, the PFA, corresponding with the owner, talking about why we hadn't been paid."

Pearson, who recently retired aged 27 due to injury, explained that players and staff were paid late eight times across the season. The PFA stepping in to help cover wages during the Christmas period as 'some of the players needed the money to buy presents for their families' and the Silkmen Supporters Trust loaning £10,000 to assist in April. Some players could not afford fuel to get to training.

"In League Two a lot of players live month to month. When you're in a dressing room and you see important players breaking down in tears two days before a game, it's hard.

“The longer it went on, it was starting to affect people at home and if things aren't going right at home, how the hell are you supposed to play football on a Saturday?"

As the PFA delegate, Pearson often acted as a willing agony aunt for his teammates. Although they tried to keep spirits high, at times, this just wasn't possible: “It really affected one player’s mental health, to the point of … the worst possible scenario. He’s got a girlfriend and a young child. Some people would come in and it would be, ‘We’re a laughing stock, let’s get on with it’, but then you see how it affects people in the opposite way.

"That was the worst feeling, receiving that text and reading some of the stuff that player was saying. My job then was to speak to the PFA, and I think he already had. The PFA try to guide you in the direction of help because that was what was needed…. What was needed was for him to be paid on time." 

The club - relegated after being deducted 17 points - delved into such financial chaos that Pearson can distinctly recall the months that they were paid on time: "It was as if we had been rewarded for something. Mad, isn't it?" 

He adds: “It got to the point of waking up on a matchday to see if the money was in your account. I’ve seen some things which, as a player, you should never see. The owner was saying: ‘I’ve paid this person. Can you check and ask him?’ He was sending me screenshots of a payment out of a bank account. I saw a piece of A4 paper with who’s been paid, ticks next to their name. X amount, tick.”

On 16 September 2020, the High Court made a winding-up order against the club, pushing the club into liquidation. The club was subsequently suspended by the National League and its first three scheduled games were postponed, pending a notice of expulsion taking effect from 12 October 2020.