Thursday, October 20, 2005

We thought Monday night football was in the past

Source: Guardian

Thursday October 20, 2005

FC United's Tony Howard enjoys Monday Night Football, without a Sky camera in sight

Manchester United fans who walked away from the Premiership to form their own club could have been forgiven for thinking that Monday Night Football was a thing of the past. Not so. For this Monday, FC United played Cheadle Town ... in Tameside.

Let me explain. Apart from the first league game away at Leek, every other opponent has had to find alternative locations to host FC's followers, with the majority of grounds in the North West Counties league unable to cope with the increased capacity required. The game against Ashton Town was one such example, having to be switched from their home near Wigan, to Northwich in Cheshire.

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Cheadle Town were confident they could host this week's League Challenge Cup encounter though, and 2,000 tickets were quickly snapped up. Nearby League Two side Stockport County were approached to hold the game originally, but according to Cheadle, the owners of their ground reportedly didn't want the footballers to "ruin the pitch". The owners of their ground? Sale Sharks rugby union club.

A temporary stand was considered but was too expensive and Cheadle assured FC United's board that the police and safety officers deemed their Park Road home acceptable.

Then, just eight days before the game, North West Counties officials visited, and in the words of Cheadle themselves, "Stockport Council's health and safety officer got involved". The game was cancelled.

A frantic rearrangement was sought and Curzon Ashton from Tameside saved the day, offering their 4,500-capacity stadium for the night - although that number was reduced on police advice. The whole episode was an example of the difficulties involved with running a brand new club with a large support at non-league level.

However, these problems were soon forgotten as the 2,500 in attendance witnessed a terrific cup tie, played in a fantastic atmosphere. Adie Orr, a former Manchester City youngster, fired the club's first hat-trick to help United win 5-1.

The supporters did what they had done for years before the introduction of Sky and Monday Night Football. They stood on the terraces and sang their hearts out.

FC United play home games at Gigg Lane, Bury and reduced season tickets for the rest of the season are now available at £84 for adults, £52 for OAPs and £21 for under 18s. Visit website for more information