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When Lowndes Lambert offered to sponsor the club before the 1984/1985 season, part of the deal was that they would appoint a big name player-manager. When Macari applied for the job, Town chairman Maurice Earle commented that "we didn't interview him, he interviewed us". Macari was handed the job and he accepted, bringing his chosen assistant, Harry Gregg, with him.
Macari had his work cut out - the Town had a tiny playing squad, and had finished 17th in Division Four the previous season - their lowest position ever. He began by trying to make the most out of what he had at the club, but a cup defeat at home to non-league Dagenham changed his mind, realising he needed new players to assemble a successful squad.
Whilst things were slowly improving on the pitch, off the pitch they were not. Harry Gregg did not agree with Macari's style of play, which was based around getting the ball forward quickly, strength and fitness being the required assets. As the divide between the two became more apparent, the board made a rather rash decision - sacking them both on Good Friday, 5th April 1985.
Over Easter, Town fans protested against the decision outside the County Ground. Just four days later, Macari was reinstated. The change in fortune was immediate - the Town were undefeated in their next six games, winning four of them - and Macari picked up the Manager of the Month award. Swindon finished in a respectable eighth place - a vast improvement on the previous season.
The following seasons brought greater success - 1985/1986 saw Macari pick up four Manager of the Month awards, as Swindon walked away with the Fourth Division championship - breaking fourteen club records, and the league record for the number of points gained in a season. The awards were of little use to Macari - Bells were the sponsor, and as a tee-totaller, he shared his four gallons of whisky between the supporters!
1986/1987 was a second season of success - the Town being promoted to Division Two after a play-off final victory over Gillingham at Selhurst Park. These past two seasons also highlighted Macari's ability to pick out a bargain - signing Town legends such as Colin Calderwood, Fraser Digby, Steve White and Alan McLoughlin for little or no fee.
By now, Macari's obvious ability began to attract the attention of the bigger clubs. Over the next two seasons, it also appeared that he was perhaps losing interest in the job - often scouting for players on matchdays, leaving the managerial duties to his new assistant, former Town player Chic Bates. When Chelsea approached him to become their new assistant manager, it seemed certain he would leave - the "Chelsea Independent" newspaper even ran a front page story with the headline "Macari: Why I Said Yes" - but Macari was persuaded to stay.
Finally, after leading the Town to the Division Two play-offs in 1988/1989, one of the rumours proved to be true. Macari left shortly before the new season, for a bigger challenge at West Ham.
Not long afterwards, the Sunday People printed revelations that chairman Brian Hillier had bet on Swindon to lose in an FA Cup match against Newcastle. The Town were beaten 5-0. On 5th January 1989, both Macari and Hillier were charged with unauthorised betting. Hillier was suspended from football for six months (later increased to three years), the club were fined £7,500, and Macari £1,000, for what the FA described as a minor role in a "foolhardy misdemeanour".
The revelations didn't stop there - and on 1st May 1990, Macari, Hillier, Calderwood and former club accountant Vince Farrar were arrested, and questioned regarding a tax fraud conspiracy. Calderwood was released without charge, the others were bailed. More and more people became implicated - former secretary Dave King and Farrar received suspended sentences, Hillier was jailed. To the relief of Town fans, Macari was found not guilty on all charges.
Since West Ham, Macari has gone on to manage Birmingham, Stoke, Celtic and Huddersfield, but has never quite recreated his success at the County Ground. Whenever a new manager is required at Swindon, Macari is always one of the men mentioned - especially by fans who remember the glory days under him.
MANAGERIAL RECORD AT SWINDON:
date of birth