Friday, March 31, 2006

The trawlers become the trawled

Source: The Guardian

With Grimsby Town after their best players, FC United fans finally appreciate how smaller clubs felt when Manchester United came a-knocking, writes Tony Howard

Friday March 31, 2006

In 1986, Manchester United supporters had to come to terms with the departure of Mark Hughes to Barcelona. More than 20 years on, FC United fans are dealing with the possibility of losing two of our best players to Grimsby Town.

You can't blame Rory Patterson and William Ahern for going for trials with the Mariners - after all, Grimsby are a professional club who can offer footballers a proper living. Both players took up the offer of a game for the Mariners' reserves against York City this week and FC manager Karl Marginson even went along to offer his support as they acquitted themselves well in Town's 2-1 defeat.

Patterson has a certain star quality. He quickly became a cult hero with his appearance as a substitute in FC's friendly against Stalybridge Celtic back in July. Due to the infancy of the club, and the haste with which a kit had to be ordered, there weren't enough numbered shirts to go round, so the Irishman ran on the pitch with a blank back to his red jersey. The crowd immediately dubbed him "Mr Mystery" and have sung about "The man with no name" ever since.

The 21-year-old has become the second-top scorer at the club and shown the ability that saw him once play for Rochdale. The reason for the brevity of his spell at Spotland may owe much to the petulance that's reared its head on occasion for FC United - he was banned following an altercation against Colne in the Cup, and was sent off in United's 2-0 win over New Mills at the weekend. His talent, however, is not in doubt.

The second triallist, local lad Will Ahern, is the best of 'Karl's Kids' - and, despite being a mere slip of a lad, the 19-year-old has taken the midfield hustle of the North West Counties League in his stride.

With FC United running away with the league title, it was inevitable that professional clubs would tempt away some of the stars Margy has assembled, and should players leave for pastures new they will do so with the support of everyone involved at the club.

It's a strange situation United fans find themselves in. More used to being the trawlers than the trawled, we are having to come to terms with the fact that we are no longer the biggest fish in the pond. Now we know how those smaller clubs must feel when Manchester United come calling with the bait.