Monday, October 24, 2005

Irish Daily Star: Sweet FC For Angry Reds



Date: 24/10/05
Source: Irelands Daily Star (No Online version)

Disgruntled Manchester United fan Richie Evans swapped Old Trafford for FC United - the breakaway team formed in protest to the Glazer takeover.

I WAS THERE; front row seat, soaked to the skin; on the night, twelve months ago, when the 'Unbeatables' were stopped in their tracks.
Arsenal were beaten 2-0 by a resolute Manchester United side, urged on by an impassioned rain-battered Old Trafford crowd.
I was at Old Trafford many more times last season, but that night now just reminds me of what has been lost. It'll be a long time before I take a place in the Streford End again.
Having invested time,money and, more significantly, my emotions in Shareholder Uniteds determined, but unsuccessful, campaign to prevent the Glazer takeover, I , like many other United supporters, cannot support my club under Glazer.
I'm still a United Supporter. A lifetime's support, born watching 'Pancho' Pearson's glorious opener in the 1977 FA Cup Final against Liverpool, doesn't disappear overnight.But I won't watch them at Old Trafford and put money into Glazer's pockets.
It felt odd then to be back in Manchester two weeks ago,with a destination of Bury's Gigg Lane instead of Old Trafford, for my first FC United of Manchester game. The Breakaway club ,formed back in June using E147,000 raised from 3,000 disgruntled Manchester United supporters, plays in the North West Counties league Division 2.
Some of the FC United regulars still go to Old Trafford, but many more handed back their season tickets. For those completely leaving Manchester Utd. behind, it was a huge wrench, though none were sorry to bid farewell to rising ticket prices and the sterile match-day experience.
Scott Taylor, who had been going to see United for almost 40 years, admitted to a few sleepless nights when he returned his season ticket "For a while I wasn't sure i was doing the right thing. Had i been too hasty?" said Taylor, now an FC United season ticket holder "FC United provides a focal point for those of us who won't be going back to Old Trafford as long as it's in the hands of Glazer.Without it, that sense of community we enjoyed on match days, all that might well have been lost."
In a division where crowds usually number 50-150, FC United, playing in red, white and black,has become a non-league phenomenon.The average home attendance of 2,500 was smashed when a record crowd of 3,808 turned up for the game against Daisy Hill.
With England playing at Old Trafford, this game had been billed as a 'United United' day, to demonstrate to any doubting 'Big United' supporters that FC Utd is anything but the anti- Man Utd. entity some have claimed it to be.
Acting General Manager Andy Walsh, whom I found working the merchandise stall after the game, believes FC Utd can become a great example of a community-based club, run by the fans, for the fans."The feed-back we have been getting tells us that supporters have been so enthused by what they have seen on the pitch, and experienced on the terraces, that they intend to bring more friends and family."

Another ex-Man United season ticket holder, believes the heart and soul of Manchester Utd is in safe hands at Gigg Lane.
"This kind of emotion and enjoyment has been stifled at Old Trafford for years" he said. "You can come here, stand with your friends, and sing to your hearts content. Look around, everyone is smiling, and the kids love it. It's brilliant."
As this is Manchester, there has to be an Irish connection. Dubliner Phil Sheeran is on the elected FC United Board, and doubles as stadium director of operations on match days, while Derry man Rory Patterson is the clubs joint top scorer with seven goals so far this season.
"When I played for Rochdale," said Patterson, "one game against Hull was in front of 10,000, but this crowd makes the nosie of 10,000, it's unreal."
With one defeat from ten games to date, Patterson believes FC United has the players to continue the successful start to the season. "We've got a few players with league and conference experience, so there's no reason we shouldn't challenge for promotion."
Whatever happens at Old Trafford, you get the feeling FC United is here to stay. As I left Gigg Lane, I though back to my first visit to Old Trafford, the Matt Busby testimonial against an Ireland XI in August '91. Matt Busby was always one for breaking new ground, he did what he believed in. The people at FC Utd. have no doubts but that the great man would have approved.
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