Thursday, July 28, 2005

What future for FCUM?

Source: The Big Tissue

So, a week on what did we make of the FCUM? Obviously on the pitch they look very impressive and their success seems assured but in the longer term what impact will they have on football?

You can take the FCUM out of United but you can't take the United out of the FCUM.

The first ting that struck me about FCUM on Saturday was how authentically United they seemed. The red and white strip looks classic Man U as did the noisy, spilling out over the sides way they filled out the Athletics End - looked just like the pictures you would see of them packing out away end on Sky games - the only difference was that this time there weren't any stewards trying to force them to sit down.

Even the players kind of mirror their big name counterparts. They have a keeper who looks very Wes Brown and their right-sided midfield Matt Hayley appears to have the same preening self-regard of David Beckham. All they need is some misshapen ginger midget in the middle and they'll have the full set.

Though it would appear to be a bigger drop for them than it was for us (or indeed AFC Barnsley) they may have less to adapt to then we did. The shift from plucky underdogs to big fish took a bit of adjusting to, but for them it's what they're used to.

I reckon that once established the people that are inclined to hate them will hate them in exactly the same way that people hate Man Utd - whereas people tend to hate AFC in a wholly different way to the way they hated Wimbledon FC.

Non-league ways.

Non-league takes some getting used to. Listening to the respective singing on Saturday it struck me how much we've been mellowed by our time in non-league. Remember when we had a reputation for giving opposition goalies a torrid time? There's no doubt that the way the AFC fans conduct themselves has gradually shifted over the three years and wonder if they'll find that happening to them.

It was striking to note on Saturday that while the far end seemed overwhelmingly male all around me on the West Bank there were women, families and even a baby.

All the feedback from the visitors is about how warm they found the welcome and what a novelty it was to have stewards who didn't instinctively treat them with suspicion. Glad they enjoyed it though wonder if after a few weeks of this some of them might wonder if things aren't all a bit too nice, just a little bit tame?

(What kind of reception will they get week in, week out? Based on our experience most clubs will welcome them with open arms though there is always that element that slightly resents you - an unwelcome intrusion on their private grief.)

Protest Songs

Despite reports of some beer leariness at their first game they behaved rather well and even contributed a few chorus of "You can stick your Milton Keynes …." Now it wouldn't have killed us to respond in kind, would it? Adapt a few of the old Charlie Koppel songs for the occasion.

Indeed a few idiots in the West Bank even tried to get some "Glazer" and "USA" taunts, which was deeply embarrassing. Luckily they wouldn't have been heard at the other end.

Interesting that while we still indulge in anti-MK stuff I couldn't make out anything that sounded a protest song from the red end. Which is a positive as FCUM was conceived just as a protest it'd be bound to fail.

(Though from most of what I read and heard on Saturday, if FCUM is a protest it is as much a protest against Rio Ferdinand as it is against Glazer. Indeed Snoop Divvy Div's relentless contract demands and unceasingly one-directional interpretation of respect could get them as many supporters as the Poison Dwarf and his imminent big cash squeeze.)

The Numbers.

Ultimately it's all about attendances. They had a decent showing at Kingsmeadow but just over 2,500 for the opening game against Leigh wasn't all that impressive.

Unlike us though they could prove to be a grower. We started big and the following years have been about trying to hold up the levels of initial interest. FCUM could be a well placed for a slow build.

The important thing is that they all seemed to enjoy it and on Saturday were able to generate an atmosphere that compensated for the drop in playing quality. If that can keep that up I think their fan base will swell rapidly.