sport

Harris shrugs off Latics clash

Macclesfield are loving their 15 minutes of FA Cup fame - but chief executive Jon Harris would willingly swap it for their League 2 place back.

No matter what thrills await at a sell-out Moss Rose on Saturday when Premier League side Wigan make the short trip south, it will not make up for the devastation of relegation from League Two last term - and the financial nightmare that followed.

"The Football League is where the club wants to be," Harris said.

"It cost us 750,000 when we got relegated, which was a third of our income.

"In percentage terms it is equal to dropping out of the Premier League. And because of the parachute system, proportionally, our losses are probably greater.

"It meant massive cost-cutting across the whole club."

In Macclesfield's case, the damage was worse because of a calculated gamble taken over the final third of last season as the threat of demotion back to the Conference after 15 years as a Football League club loomed large.

"We threw the kitchen sink at staying in the Football League," Harris said.

"The reality is that if you get relegated anyway, you go into a black hole."

So bleak was the picture last summer that Harris spoke of needing to ease Macclesfield through to January in order to survive.

"We came into the new season balanced on the edge," he said.

"I made a statement in the summer saying if we made January we would be fine.

"Well, we have had to sell a couple of players and had a good cup run that has brought in money we had not budgeted for. Up until Christmas we were still paying off last year's bills, which was an absolute nightmare, but we have made it."

Had Macclesfield been pitted against higher-profile Premier League opposition, they would have pocketed a 135,850 broadcast fee this weekend.

Not that Harris is complaining.

A north-west derby had fuelled local imagination, particularly as it pits them up against a fellow founder member of the Northern Premier League.

"We said anybody at home or one of the big boys away and we are at home to Premier League opposition, so we are not complaining," Harris said.

"Wigan will be apprehensive at best about coming to Moss Rose."

Apprehensive for a few reasons.

With a top-flight trip to Stoke on Tuesday, Latics boss Roberto Martinez can be guaranteed to pick most of his fringe men.

In addition, there is the pitch, which will not be swept of remaining snow until tomorrow in order to protect it from the severely cold Cheshire temperatures.

And that is without the nerves that come from facing the prospect of being the first top division team to lose against non-league opposition since Coventry were beaten by Sutton United in 1989.

Victory would also mean Macclesfield would become the seventh non-league side to reach the fifth round since World War II.

"Whatever side Wigan put out, if they are on their A game and we are not, it will be too much for us," Harris said.

"But there is a potential for another upset and if he wants to bring his under-12s we would be more than happy with that.

"The pitch will be about the same level as their worst training ground, I would imagine, so that is a leveller and the game is sold out, so it is set for an exciting day."