Friday, April 21, 2006

The Guardian: 'FC United? Never heard of them'

Source: The Guardian

Sir Alex Ferguson's knowledge of the new North West Counties Second Division champions might be limited, but Tony Howard and his fellow FC United followers don't mind one bit

Friday April 21, 2006

At last FC United have been crowned champions, sealing their first ever piece of silverware without kicking a competitive ball in anger. The reds were at Clitheroe to play a friendly, while title rivals Nelson and Flixton attempted to catch up some of their many games in hand, but as the news filtered through that both had failed to win, an impromptu party erupted in the unlikely setting.

Clitheroe took everyone by surprise. We left on the train in the morning fully aware that we could end the day as champions but believing it was more likely to happen the following Wednesday. What we found was a fantastic town packed with pubs and even a continental bar with a street terrace that wouldn't have been out of place in Paris. Seriously. What's more, the football club themselves were fantastic hosts and gave us regular updates on the scores from elsewhere.

So, with 15 minutes left to play in our game due to a delayed kick-off, it was announced that FC United of Manchester were champions of the North West Counties Football League Second Division. Not many of those United fans present would have ever dreamt they'd be singing: "We won the football league again, this time at Clitheroe," to the tune of Down by the Riverside, to which we once sang the adapted original after winning the Premier League at Middlesbrough in 1996. It was a surreal day, but after what we've experienced this season nothing surprises us any more.

At Oldham Athletic's Boundary Park on Wednesday the 2,500 supporters got their first glimpse of the newly-crowned champions as United beat Chadderton 3-2. A banner was unfurled which made reference to Sir Alex Ferguson's ungracious comments last week that he'd never heard of FC United of Manchester or manager Karl Marginson. It read: 'FC United? Never heard of them. Champions 2006'.

The banner will be there at Gigg Lane on Saturday when thousands of supporters get to enjoy another sweet moment in our short history: the trophy presentation. All are welcome, but even though 'Big United' don't have a game, I doubt Mr Ferguson will be attending.

Saturday's game against Great Harwood Town kicks off at 3pm and admission for under 18s is free