Tony Howards piece for last weeks Guardian mysteriously never appeared, after rooting around in the bins behind the offices we found it and so we have managed a PunkFootball exclusive:
As the eyes of the football world focussed on Merseyside for the FA Cup showdown between Manchester United and Liverpool, thousands of fans that once-upon-a-time wouldn’t have missed the match for the world, instead descended on Blackpool.
While 6,000 United fans travelled to Anfield, around 5,000 reds filled the boozers, bars, and beds of the much-maligned resort to see FC United play Blackpool Mechanics.
It was the most eagerly awaited trip of the season – it was the game reds had been planning for months in advance. It was the closest we’d get to a ‘Euro away’.
The Mechanics opted to host the game at Blackpool FC’s Bloomfield Road and the half-completed ground offered a unique setting for a day both ourselves and the locals will never forget.
Used to stag parties and Booze Britain types filling their town for most, the Seasiders had never witnessed a football following as big for 20 years.
Every pub was packed with United fans singing lusty tributes to their heroes and hearing those songs fill the sea air as we walked from pub to pub was a sound to behold.
Accustomed to trips to far more distinguished destinations like Barcelona or Milan, United fans quickly forgot where they were as they partied the weekend away with little or no trouble. In one pub the locals and tourists alike ignored the Irish band doing a turn on stage to observe the reds assembled in the corner singing their own rebel songs.
Blackpool police who made only five arrests all weekend complemented the fans for their behaviour.
It was another seminal ‘happening’ in our brief existence, and as we sat in the pub for a straightener the morning after a manic night before, we were once again proud of the club we, the supporters, own.
The older heads cast their minds back to their last United visit in 1974. The scene this time was a more peaceful affair.
Some discussed the Stone Roses’ triumphant gig in the same town back in 1989. Then too, thousands of like-minded people from Manchester and beyond gathered to celebrate a cultural event that would go down in the city’s history.
Only time will tell whether last weekend will ever be talked about in the same breath, but just like that August evening 17 years ago, there was a huge feeling of triumph and excitement about the future.
As Roses’ singer Ian Brown sang in the Empress Ballroom that night: “The past was yours, but the future’s mine”, and out of the discarded cans, vomit and chip papers that littered the streets on Sunday morning– the future of FC United of Manchester burned brighter than the seaside sun.
- Tony Howard