Source: Accrington Observer
GREAT Harwood Town are shaping up for arguably the biggest game in their history – both on and off the field.
The Robins usually play before about 50 spectators, but as they run out onto the Interlink Express Stadium pitch this Sunday, they will be greeted by a 2,000-strong crowd following visitors FC United of Manchester.
It means Robins chairman Bill Holden will see a 3,000 per cent increase in matchday takings – a lifeline for a club without a ground living a hand-to-mouth existence.
And for manager John Hughes it is a chance to pit his promotion-chasing outfit against a team who have lost just one in 22 league games.
Last summer, a group of Manchester United supporters were so disillusioned with Malcolm Glazer’s debt-loading takeover at Old Trafford they set up their own club, FC United.
The ‘rebel reds’ play North West Counties League Division Two home games before an average of about 3,000 fans at Gigg Lane, Bury.
And all but one of their opponents have had to host them at bigger venues because so many supports turn up.
FC United have twice played at Accrington Stanley’s ground this season and Mr Holden said he hopes to emulate neighbours Colne, who beat them 2-1 in a cup fixture.
He said: "I have seen FC United play twice at Stanley this season so we know what to expect and there is no reason we cannot beat them.
"We have had some terrible luck in the last 12 months. Monroes, the club next door to our ground, was ruined by a fire and so we had to move to Stanley.
"I was absolutely gutted when I found out what had happened. Even now when I go to the old ground it really gets to me.
"But football has a funny way of surprising you. When FC United came into the league, we didn’t know what to expect with their attendances.
"How much we make from Sunday will depend on how many fans travel up from Manchester. We are hoping it is more than 2,000, but the money is a Godsend to us."
But sadly, the cash boost will not mean the Robins can return to their rightful home.
"This money will only tide us over to the rest of the season," said Mr Holden.
"We would like to rebuild our own ground, but the lease will run out in three or four years and we would need to extend it before we could do that and it is just not possible at the moment.
"I would like to thank Accrington Stanley. From the chairman downwards, everyone there has been immensely helpful this season and in preparation for this game."
Manager John Hughes, whose sixth-placed team are unbeaten in all competitions since November, said he is confident of a victory.
"We can win it. We are the in-form team in the division and they may be top of the league, but I do believe we are fitter than they are," he said.
"We have a few players injured or on holiday, but the key will be in the midfield, where we have been strong of late."
Kick-off on Sunday is 2pm. Admission is £7 for adults and concessions get in for £3.
First published by the Accrington Observer