Thursday, October 26, 2006

Maine Event

Source: South Manchester Reporter

DERBY day has long been the highlight of the footballing calendar for many City and United fans across south Manchester.

But this year, Blues and Reds will have another chance to get one over on each other.

While United take on Portsmouth and City play Charlton in the Premiership on November 4, many fans of both Manchester teams will be as equally as interested in the outcome of a tie in the North West Counties Football League (NWCFL) First Division.

FC United, the breakaway team formed by the Manchester United fans dismayed by Malcolm Glazer's takeover of the Old Trafford club will play Maine Road, a team started by City supporters in the 1950s.

The match is being billed as 'Little United' verses 'Little City' and is expected to attract a crowd of up to 5,000 fans.

Fan web sites are already buzzing ahead of the game with some supporters expected to give up their tickets for the Premiership ties to travel to the Bower Field in Stalybridge, where the game has been switched from Maine Road's ground at Brantingham Road, Chorlton, to accommodate the large numbers expected.

Many fans are thrilled by the chance to experience a Manchester derby on an occasion which a hark back to the old days of football when fans could pay on the gate and stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the terraces.

Both clubs wear their allegiance on their sleave. FC United sport the same famous red, white and black colours as 'Big' United while Maine Road wear the sky blue of City.

Despite their opposition to the new United owner, most FC fans are loyal to the club's unofficial motto: Two United's but the soul is one.

The two Uniteds are also linked by blood; FC's left-winger is none other than Rhodri Giggs, brother of Old Trafford's Ryan.

Maine Road, on the other hand, began life as City Supporters Rusholme, but the club changed its name when it moved to the newly built Maine Road Social Club in the late 1960s.

Visitors to the club's website are left in no doubt as to where its loyalties lie; they are greeted with a blast of Blue Moon, the Manchester City anthem.

FC United have been allocated 3,500 tickets for the match while Maine Road hope that around 2,000 City fans will turn up to cheer them on.

Phil Power, assistant manager of FC United, said: "There has been unbelievable interest in this match and it already feels like a derby game.

"We are really looking forward to it and I'm sure there will be a terrific atmosphere."

Since being founded around 18 months ago, FC United, have won promotion to the NWCFL First Division and are now nine points clear at the top of the league following a run of 12 straight wins.

But Maine Road are expected to provide stern opposition and still harbour their own title ambitions from their current spot in fourth place.

The club has enjoyed its own success winning no less than five Manchester County FA cups and a string of other honours.

Current assistant manager Derek Barber has held a number of positions at the club, including manager and secretary. He said 550 tickets had already been sold for the match just to friends and family of Maine Road players and officials.

Derek said: "Our boys can't wait - it will be the biggest crowd they have played in front of.

"We do not have the financial clout of some of the teams in the league but our players are incredibly loyal to us and we know we can give United a game.

"It's going to be a great occasion and we are hoping that we will have a lot of support there on the day."

The fierce rivalry between the Reds and Blues of Manchester over the years has also led to fears that passions could spill over into violence.

But the police are warning that any trouble will be swiftly dealt with. A spokesman said: "A policing operation will be in place in the day. We will assess the intelligence in place before the match and make appropriate provisions."
Gareth Tidman

First published by the South Manchester Reporter