STEVE Macauley admits it is with a heavy heart that he leaves Fleetwood Town.
The first team coach, who has taken over physio duties at Highbury since the departure of Ian Liversedge, was involved in his last first team game at Wycombe on Saturday - bringing to an end a 21 year association with the club.
And the former Crewe and Macclesfield defender, who attended training for the final time yesterday, was sad to walk away.
He said: “It’s with a heavy heart I leave Fleetwood Town.
“It’s not something I’ve taken lightly.
“I go a long way back with Fleetwood Town and it is sad for that to come to an end.”
Macauley, who left his work as a physiotherapist to re-join under Micky Mellon, has found himself slip down the ranks since the arrival of new manager Graham Alexander.
Having been told there was no place for him in Fleetwood’s new coaching setup, the 44-year-old made the decision to return to his work outside of football.
He said: “I’m bitterly disappointed with the way it has ended.
“It could have ended a lot better.
“I hoped there would be a coaching role for me under the new manager but that wasn’t the case.
“I was moved over to physio but that was not what I wanted to be doing - that’s not what I gave up my work to do.
“It’s not ideal, what has happened, but, you know that is football.
“Now I’m going back to my old practice.”
Macauley’s long association with the Highbury club in 1992, when he joined the club having served as a trainee at Manchester City.
From there he moved, for a fee of £25,000 to Crewe Alexandra - where he played nearly 250 games.
He returned to Highbury in 2005 in a joint coaching and physio role, leaving the club for a short period in the 2007-08 season only to return as caretaker boss following the dismissal of Tony Greenwood.
On the arrival of Micky Mellon as manager he was handed a full time coaching role.
It’s a history Macauley is all too aware of.
He said: “I was at City for four years but came to Fleetwood for a while while I was doing my A-levels.
“From there I went to Crewe to play as a professional and my career went on from there.
“I came back to the club as a coach and it’s been a huge part of my life.
“It will be very strange at 3pm on Saturday, not being involved.
“But I’ve got some really fond memories.”
Macauley can still remember his playing days at Highbury.
He said: “Back then it was just a dirt track really.
“But the faithful were still there, albeit not in the numbers we see today.
“The club has grown and grown.
“If you’d have said to me when I first came they would be a league club, I’d have initially have been sceptical.
“But the momentum has been phenomenal.
“We could see, with the chairman, the potential was there.
“The number of promotions has been staggering, and to be part of that has been fantastic.”
And Macauley will always treasure one moment in particular - even if it did prove an anti-climax.
“The biggest moment,” he said.
“That’s got to be getting into the League.
“In the end, it was a bit of an anti-climax.
“We did it on the back of someone else’s result - on Wrexham losing.
“I was so proud to see the club to achieve Football League status.”
And, in his coaching role, Macauley - who has a degree in physiotherapy - has seen first hand how Town’s star has risen.
He said: “The club is not lowly Fleetwood Town and hasn’t been for a while.
“I did my A-license a few years ago down in London and even then the club was being talked about.
“People in the game knew what we were doing up here.
“The club was hotly spoken about.”
It’s clear to Macauley there have been huge changes behind the scenes at Highbury since Graham Alexander arrived at the club.
He said: “There have been a lot of people come and go.
“A lot of faces from our successful years have left.
“There are lot of changes happening right now.”
Now Macauley is preparing to step back from football, at least for the time being.
He said: “I’m just going to take a step back.
“I think I need some time away.
“I’ve still got great links to the club, my dad is a season ticket holder.
“I’m sure I’ll go back at some point, but now I just need a while.
“I wish all the players and everyone at Fleetwood the best.
“I’m not saying I won’t ever go back to football - if something comes up in the future then who knows.”