Time for another guest article now as regular contributor Anthony Kendrick, who you can follow on Twitter has been fortunate enough to interview former Manchester United and Preston forward Jon Macken. Anthony it’s over to you..
I was joined by Jon Macken for Episode #3 of the Big Interview. Jon is best known for his time at Manchester City and Preston, and currently manages Radcliffe FC, who play in the eighth tier of English football. The interview took place prior to their 1-0 victory against Stalybridge Celtic in the FA Cup Qualifying. This leaves them three games away from the FA Cup Final round proper.
Thank you to Jon for providing his time. You can check out the interview in full here, or by searching V2 Sport on iTunes, Soundcloud and most other podcast hosts.
Jon joined the Manchester United academy at nine years old. I asked how the opportunity came about and also to talk us through his teenage years were at the club.
‘It was a bit of a funny story, I got scouted not because of my performance on the pitch, but my comments after the game. I was encouraging others, and the scout thought I was really committed. I was invited for a trial, it was three thirty minute games and I got on for the last twenty minutes and the rest is history really.’
Seeing others around the club getting released, how much compeition was there within the squad? And did you feel nervous with the threat of potentially being released?
‘I looked at it as playing football and improving year in year out. There’s a lot of pressure on kids now, and the way the sytstem is now doesn’t really help young lads as much as it did. There were a lot of capable lads who got released because they didn’t make the grade. Unfortunately, that was the nature of football.’
Did the Class of 92 coming through before you make any difference to it? It could be argued one way that it makes it even more difficult with them setting the bar so high, but then on the other hand, it must have been inspiring to see?
‘It made it a lot harder for lads to break into the reserves and the first team. But you were inspired to achieve what these lads did. They were a few years older and it was a challenge. But that’s what football is about. I looked at every player better than me as challenge to improve.
I was brought up thinking the team was always first in my eyes and if you’re not part of the team then you’re not playing. You’ve got to become part of the team, and work hard to stay in front of the other person that could be in that team.’
Jon left Manchester United to join Preston, where he was part of a side which won the Second Division title. Jon scored 63 goals over five years, which included 25 in their title winning season.
‘When I first went there it was difficult. I didn’t realise the importance and the difference between youth football and ‘real’ mens football. I was walking into a dressing room that was full of characters and those who’d been around the football scene for a long time. My challenge was how do I step up, am I willing to push myself and once again, I looked at it as a challenge. I was with a fantastic group of lads, David Moyes was a fantastic manager and it was a great group of players.’
Jon then joined Manchester City for £5 million, a then record signing. The highs included scoring the winner in an FA Cup tie against Tottenham, with City winning 4-3 after being 3-0 down. However, injuries meant that Jon missed spells.
‘Looking back on it, I was injured quite a lot and was disappointed with things, but the key thing to be a footballer is to make a difference. It doesn’t matter how many games you play or how many goals you score but if you make a difference then you will be remembered as a footballer.
I did that for Manchester City and I am proud of that. We’d all love to go and play 400 or 500 games and score 100 goals but it’s not always a fairytale. My hope is that Manchester City fans remember me for giving everything that I had, and for making a difference.’
Jon played for numerous clubs including Crystal Palace, Walsall and Stockport County. In 2017 he was named the manager of Radcliffe Borough. I asked him how he ended up at Radcliffe.
‘I did my coaching badges, which I never thought I would do. I think there’s a difference betwen coaches and managers, and some clubs get mistaken between the two. It’s not easy to do your badges and find a job, then decide where to go.
Radcliffe approached me and I had that opportunity, so I snatched their hand off. It was a great opportunity for me with the club not doing very well, which was why they made the change. it’s a good opportunity to learn the trade but also see behind the scenes of a football club – I’m really enjoying myself.’
You mentioned previously about ‘making a difference’ as a player. Is this something that has stuck with you as you move into management?
‘Definitely. I want to make the players feel that they can make a difference as well. I’m a big believer of mind over matter and you can achieve anything set out to do. I try to push that on my players and enforce that the team comes first, and not so much of a focus on individuality. If we can work as a team we’re going to be successful – and for individuals in that team it’s going to make them better.’
Looking at the coaching team around you, it includes former Chelsea defender Frank Sinclair. What was your thinking with bringing him in?
‘I brought him in because of his non-league background. He’s got a lot of understanding of these leagues and his attitude towards coaching and his belief, in terms of what we want, is similar. We have similar ideas on how we want to play and how we want to go forward in our careers. He’s been fantastic with great advice and guidance at times. It’s not just a team on the pitch but it’s off the pitch as well, working day in, day out.’
Your side have made a great start to the season, winning all your games so far. Was the target going into the season to get Radcliffe promoted?
‘If that’s not the target for any manager, then they shouldn’t be in the job, in my opinion. Your target should always be to be successful. Somebody asked me about Pep Guardiola and whether his target should be to win the Champions League. But why should their target just be that? Surely it should be to win every game, and to be as successful as they can?
Targets are there to be broken, so I believe you should go and believe in yourself. That’s what i’m all about as a manager and I want to prove people wrong.’
Your game against Prestwich in the FA Cup First Qualifying Round was live on the BBC. How big a deal was that to the players, and to the club?
‘It was massive to be on the BBC, the FA Cup is a fantastic, fairytale competition and you newver know what you can achieve. Looking at ourselves, I had the Tottenham game and Frank has won the competition. It’s the greatest competiton in the world so let’s go out and achieve something. There will come a time when you’re not good enough but as long as you gave 100 percent and you can look at yourself in the mirror, and say we gave our best, that’s all that matters.’
Cheers Anthony, another fantastic interview and I look forward to another one soon.