WHEN Mardy AFC stalwart Malcom 'Macky' Skinner turned up in his best suit for what he thought was his club's annual awards evening, the lifelong Manchester United fan had the shock of his life, because lurking in the shadows waiting to present Macky with a signed shirt was Man U legend Norman Whiteside.
The Belfast born double FA Cup winner and the youngest footballer to have ever played in a world cup, was waiting in the wings to 'ambush' Macky in celebration of Skinner's 50 years of service to the club.
A shellshocked Macky was lost for words at meeting one his personal heroes, but when the Mardy chairman, who joined the club in the 1964/65 season finally found his tongue, he described it as an evening he'll never forget.
Reminiscing on the surprise arrival of the player whose aggressive playing style earned him the affectionate nickname as the 'Shankill Skinhead' amongst Man U fans, Macky explained, "It's still a bit hard to take in. I honestly thought I was attending an awards evening, but I must admit when my sister Diane and Mary turned up, I thought what's going one here."
Macky, who was recently honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Welsh Football Trust for his 50 years service, confessed that when his son Chris, his daughter-in-law Penny and his granddaughter Megan and Rachel also walked into the clubhouse he knew something was up, but it wasn't until the appearance of a mysterious lady that Mack's suspicions weren't just aroused but chomping at the bit.
Mardy said, "When this lady walked in I thought to myself 'she's a bit smart, who's that?' A little while later I found out she was Norman Whiteside's wife and the game was up."
Although the ruse had been rumbled, Macky admits that at first he didn't recognise the former Northern Ireland player because the club was so "full of people."
"Obviously he had changed a lot since his playing days but when we were introduced, I recognised him straight away."
The 'Shankill Skinhead' presented Macky with a signed replica shirt from the 1985 FA Cup Final. A gift that Macky now has plans to preserve for posterity in a frame.
On the night Macky was also presented with a special football signed by Mardy players past and present.
Mardy AFC committee member Paul William said during the presentation, "My first memory of Macky was when I was a young lad. I was playing on the Mardy pitch and I head an almighty shout screaming, 'Get out of the goal mouth!'
It frightened the life out of me and I soon shifted. I'm pleased to say 20 years later and Macky is still shouting the same thing.
"All joking aside. I know that every minute of every day Macky is thinking of ways he can make the club the best it can be.
"Macky is Mardy AFC. It's in his blood. He loves the club with the most passion I have ever seen anyone love anything else. Everyone knows what a great club Mardy is and how well it's run. That's down to one person - Macky."
A modest Macky told the Chronicle, "It was a great night and a real honour. I am truly humbled. After 50 years with Mardy AFC I am pleased to say it is still run like a family club where people are always at hand to help out with one another's problems.
"As nice as it is to receive these honours for serving 50 years with the same club I'm just immensely proud to be a part of its history and always strive to remember what the Mardy Chairman in the 1980s once said to me - 'Always remember one thing Macky. No one is bigger than the club.'"