Source: Manchester Evening News
FC United: Russ a true football hero
RUSSELL Delaney was a true football hero. And it was fitting that, on a night when the names of Roy Keane and George Best were on the lips of FC United supporters at Gigg Lane, that of the modest Red was also sung, loud and proud.
Russell had been a founder of FC United and his fellow board members decided that, rather than the usual minute's silence to mark his death earlier this month, they would hold a minute's applause.
The FC supporters, in their own inimitable fashion, turned that into a lyrical tribute to the man.
FC United general manager Andy Walsh said: "The idea that we should mark Russell's passing with a minute's silence would have filled him with horror, so we paid our tribute with a minute's applause and singing in the spirit of FC United."
Russell died of pulmonary sarcoidosis, a condition that affects the heart and lungs, just months after the fight to prevent Malcolm Glazer's takeover of his beloved Manchester United, in which he was a main mover, had failed.
But he also died knowing that from the ashes of that effort had risen the success story of FC United.
The 47-year-old would travel from his home in the south-east of England for supporters' meetings when the fight against the Glazers was at its height, the oxygen tanks sometimes needed to help him breathe tucked into the foot-well on the passenger side of his car.
Russell knew in the last few months of his life that he needed a heart and lung transplant, which may have extended his life by four or five years, but he continued to try to effect a supporter takeover of United, and then to bring about the birth of FC United, undaunted.
Leading the tributes to Russell was Walsh, a close associate of his in the fight against Glazer and the formation of FCUM.
Russell's troubles began when he caught tuberculosis as a teenager, weakening his lungs. His health was further affected when he picked up an infection when he travelled to watch United play in Barcelona in 1984.
His condition worsened down the years, but he was determined to oppose the Glazer takeover. He had urged supporters to try to take over the club themselves as long ago as 1989.
Walsh said: "Russell was actually in hospital when Glazer made his move in May. Russell had been our contact with the camp of John Magnier and JP McManus, who had assured us the day before that there was nothing in the offing. He had discussed with them the possibility of the supporters buying their stake in the club and had set up a meeting with former Football League chairman Keith Harris and the Nomura bank to that end.
"When the Glazers took over, Russell himself felt personally responsible because he didn't see it coming, but that was nonsense.
"He threw himself into establishing FC after that - I remember that in the run-up to the deadline for admission to the North West Counties League he spent the best part of 36 hours in our office in Rusholme, filling in paperwork, researching details and establishing the club's constitution.
"It all had to be done in two weeks and that would not have happened without Russ."
Russell lived long enough to realise that his hard work had resulted in a great success - FC United's three home attendances in October all broke the 3,000 barrier.
The tribute took place at the first home game since his death, against New Mills. FC United manager Karl Marginson dedicated the Rebels' 6-1 win to Russell.
He said: "It is only right to dedicate this win to Russ. Any victory that we get we appreciate because if it wasn't for Russ and the steering committee he was such a big part of, then I wouldn't be here and neither would anyone else.
"I can't describe how brave a man he was. I am just sad I didn't get to know him for longer."
Russell's family have asked that anyone wishing to make a donation in his memory should do so to FC United. Payments should be made to the Russell Delaney Memorial Fund and sent to 104 Ducie House, Ducie Street, Manchester M1 2JW.
FC UNITED'S home game with Chadderton, due to be played tonight, has been postponed.
The pitch is frozen and, even though a thaw was expected today, the groundsmen say it will not leave them sufficient time to prepare the pitch.