Tuesday, April 18, 2006

BBC: Nugent living United dream

Source: bbc.co.uk

By Dominic Atherton

When Robert Nugent joined the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association, he could not have imagined how far it would take him.

Nugent, 23, now plays for FC United, the club formed by disillusioned Manchester United fans after Malcolm Glazer's takeover in July 2005.

And the central defender is realising a long-held ambition - playing for United.

"When I was young I used to go to Old Trafford with my dad and dream of playing for United," Nugent told BBC Sport.

"And this is United. It is not Manchester United Football Club but it is the soul of that club and to be able to be on the pitch representing that soul is indescribable."

The story of Nugent's football career is not an unusual one.

After joining by Sheffield United as a striker at the age of 16, he quickly found himself having to learn a new skill - versatility.

"I started out as a striker when I was younger but when I went to Sheffield United I was needed in central midfield and eventually ended up playing central defence," he said.

"I was not as fast as some of the other strikers and my ability had always been getting on the ball and playing rather than scoring goals, so it actually suited me."

Despite his adaptability however, Nugent struggled to establish himself and was eventually released by the Yorkshire club.

But in a romantic twist of fate, the Manchester-born Nugent's return to his home town brought unexpected luck.

"When Sheffield released me I moved back home and started going to all the Manchester United games again and got really involved," he said.

"When everything started happening with Malcolm Glazer I just wanted to go to the protests and let the club and its potential new owners know what they were getting involved with. I wanted to vent my anger at what was happening."

When the idea for a rebel football team emerged, Nugent put his name down for involvement and soon found himself pulling on the red shirt of FC United.

"I was really lucky in a way because joining the club gave me a chance to get back on the bigger stage," he said.

"Obviously the North West Counties leagues are much lower than even the Conference but I couldn't ask for any more than playing in front of the FC United fans."

Nugent's goalscoring instincts have proved useful for the team and the defender sealed a fantastic first season with a goal in the game that saw FC United clinch promotion.

They defeated Chadderton 4-0 at Gigg Lane on 12 April - their 25th win in 33 games - to secure promotion from the North West Counties Second Division.

"Obviously you want to try and score goals and get the limelight that all strikers do. I still try and get up for corners and I've managed to score four this season," he said.

"But I am just happy to be playing to be honest. I've got friends who play in front of bigger crowds than I do and make much more money but you've just got to accept it and find something else that you're good at."

The 23-year-old did just that and now spends his time off the field as a trainee accountant.

"I was lucky because my parents always drove me on to get the best grades I could when I was at school and I've been fortunate to have that to fall back on," Nugent said.

"Some of the lads I used to play with didn't have that and have had to work really hard once their football careers finished.

"We had our chance in football and nothing really happened so you just have to pick yourself up and get on with life."