A Football Journey – with Alex Grant (Part 3)


In the third instalment of a series of articles, Grant recounts his loan spell with Macclesfield Town in England’s unforgiving lower leagues.

After being told he was to spend the year on loan at Macclesfield Town in the Conference Premier Division, the defender was determined to make the most of the opportunity by playing some first team football in the north west.

“When I look back at that time, I learned a lot of important things at Stoke,” he said, “but Macclesfield changed it up completely. It was a crucial time for me.

It was a significant period in Grant’s career for a number of reasons, but primarily because of the adversity he experienced in the initial stages and the method he chose to overcome it.

“The manager didn’t play me in the first four or five games I was there; I wasn’t getting a look in,” he explained. “After thinking it over, I went into his office and had a proper chat with him. He was honest and said he didn’t think I was ready because he still viewed me as a boy rather than a man in terms of my physicality and presence on the pitch, so that was something I had to improve upon.”

Prior to that discussion, Grant had enjoyed a memorable FA Cup Qualifying replay match against Wrexham where he opened the scoring within five minutes, but in a twist of fate, was then sent off in the second half. And after that rollercoaster tie, he found himself, frustratingly, in and out of the squad.

Walking into the manager’s office to discuss playing time is a daunting prospect no matter what level you play at, but the then 20-year-old decided that it was the right move to make at his new club.

“I took the constructive feedback on the chin and worked on it at training,” he said “I got stuck in and it changes you, but once again it builds your character.

“It was one of the most important moments of my career so far. I had to approach him and step out of my comfort zone, but I’m glad I did.”

The brave move, combined with determined training performances, saw Grant earn a spot as one of the first names on the team sheet for the remainder of the season.

“We were a great side,” he said, “we went on a great run and ended up missing out on a play-off spot on goal difference after it went down to the last game of the season.”

Alex Grant

While with the Silkmen, Grant witnessed first-hand the reality of lower league football in the UK, from the importance of three points for the Macclesfield faithful, to the financial situation of the players. And he found it a very humbling experience.

“I’d train with Macclesfield during the week and there were lads there struggling to make a living off next to no pay because the club were in financial turmoil, as well as lads working second jobs. But they were a really close-knit bunch.

“Then I’d go to Stoke at the end of the week and train with them where you’ve got players rolling in with Range Rovers, Lamborghinis, Ferraris and not a care in the world. They’ve earned it, don’t get me wrong, but it was really valuable perspective-wise to see both sides of it on a weekly basis. I’d go from training on a cow paddock to a multi-million pound facility up at Stoke and both were equally as great.”

During his spell at Macclesfield, in which he made 35 appearances, Grant got a taste of pure joy and elation when netting against Kidderminster.

“They were just one of those teams that everyone had been slipping up against,” he recalled. “It was a horrible game on a horrible pitch on a horrible day and their fans were on your back the entire time.

“It was 0-0 at half-time, we were dominating the game, but just couldn’t seem to find a goal. I remember we had a corner, it was swung in to the back post and my centre-half partner George Pilkington, a player I really admire and learned a lot from, nodded it back to the six-yard-box and I managed to get my foot up to it and poke it into the top corner.

“My dad and brother were over in the away end and I sprinted over to them. It was fantastic and I was ecstatic. Those kind of moments make all the hard work worth it; that’s what you play for. But when you get a taste for it, you just want more.”

The club duly offered Grant a contract, but it was time for him to come back to WA, with a meeting over coffee with Kenny Lowe playing a massive role in bringing him to Glory.

And we’ll discuss that part of his story in Part 4.