Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Guardian: Maybe now we'll be taken seriously

Maybe now we'll be taken seriously
Wednesday October 12, 2005
Tony Howard
Guardian Unlimited
Source: Click Here

While most eyes were on Old Trafford last Saturday, there was something else afoot in another part of Greater Manchester. Tony Howard, one of the founder members of FC United, reports on another memorable week for the club

While most eyes were on Old Trafford last Saturday, there was something else afoot in another part of Greater Manchester. As the city's Metrolink tram system carried England supporters towards the city's most famous football landmark, thousands of fans were travelling the other way to watch FC United of Manchester play at Gigg Lane, Bury.

The club has enjoyed a week that will live long in the memory. On Wednesday night, all known North West Counties League attendance records were smashed when 3,110 fans piled in to witness a 1-0 victory over Oldham Town - more than Manchester City pulled in for a first-team game against Mansfield at Maine Road in 1998. The turnstiles in the popular Manchester Road End had to be shut at kick-off and fans still queuing were directed into the Main Stand.

Things got even better. As England laboured past Austria, 3,808 FC United fans saw the club drub Daisy Hill 6-0 and go six points clear atop North West Counties Two. That's more, ahem, than turned up to watch the World Cup qualifier between Lithuania and Serbia and Montenegro on the same day.

The supporters used the lack of Premiership fixtures to welcome any supporters of 'big' United who had not yet sampled the FC experience; joining in a 'United for United' day. A chance for Reds of all opinions to see what the fuss was about.

It was an important day for the Manchester United family. No one would deny there have been a few debates between the 'splitters' who made the ultimate sacrifice by walking away from the world's biggest football club, and those who chose to stay. Some say they can never support another team, but to those there on Saturday FCUM are as much a part of the vast United family as MUFC. 'United We Stand' goes the saying.

FC were formed with the aim of returning football to its long-forgotten roots and, as the masses queued up outside the Manchester Road End, they could have been forgiven for thinking they had made a welcome trip back in time.

Bar scarves, flags and once-obligatory rattles were the order of the day - there was even the odd Butchers coat, once a staple clothing item of the old Stretford End itself. Supporters young and old, FC veterans and virgins alike, stood side by side and savoured the party atmosphere.

It felt like FC United had truly arrived on the football scene and all divisions had been set aside. No longer was it just a few idealistic believers. With 7,000 fans paying through the turnstiles in one week, we may now be taken seriously even by those who will never leave the bright lights of the Premiership behind. And after less than five months in existence - this is just the start.