Thursday, January 04, 2007

How those fans came to be United

Source: M.E.N.

Emma Unsworth

OVER the course of history, Manchester has developed a reputation for not taking any nonsense, especially from the big boys.

It's a fighting spirit that writer, football fan and Mancunian Robert Brady was keen to express when he decided to produce a book on the formation and first season of Football Club United of Manchester, or FC United as it's better known.

Entitled An Undividable Glow, it tells the story of the club formed in July 2005 ("on Oldham Street," Robert says, proudly) after Malcolm Glazer's controversial takeover of Manchester United.

It's a very funny, very personal journey, full of the daft things that football fans get up to - as well as the heartbreak so many suffered when they felt forced, as a matter of principle, to break away from the Premiership club they'd supported for so long.

"It's a story about love and loss - no more than that," says Robert. "It's my take on what happened.

"I wasn't frightened. There was only one chance to make sure it wasn't lost to history."

Robert, who was a member of the steering committee of 15 ("the dirty half-30") who set up FC United in July 2005, was also the longest-standing writer for Manchester United fanzines United We Stand and Red Issue. After the loss of his father last February, he found he had the reflective time to write the book, which took nine months.

From the sadness of loss, to the highs of creating and owning a club, the book reveals Robert's emotions - as well as the club's successes and defeats.

"What we've got is a democratic model," Robert explains. "FC United is a not-for-profit organisation set up with a `one member-one vote' system in order for all members to have control. Manchester United had 34,000 shareholders, but they had no control.

Priced out

"Eighteen-year-olds can get into our matches for £2 instead of being priced out. We saw this starting to happen: no standing at matches, rubbish beer.

"We saw where the premiership club was going and that we had a chance to change. We voted on the name, the badge, the new, accountable club board. It's such a lovely thing to not have sponsorship on our shirts.

"I'm a trade unionist, and the most important things to me are things like family, love and home. Your football club is not a brand - it's something you have stamped on your birth certificate almost."

Robert is proud of the fact that the book was written, printed and published in Manchester.

"It would have been cheaper to produce the book abroad or in London, but I chose to have it printed in Ancoats," he says, adding: "Manchester United were formed in Newton Heath in 1878. Perhaps one ideal is that we'll end up as a feeder club for United, but it's up to the members to decide. For now, we're playing a part in keeping community football alive."

History and the common heritage of the two clubs, along with the "United" of their names, is something Robert is constantly keen to flag up.

"My book would only be considered successful to me if the 40,000-plus United fans who stood up and sang United Not For Sale read it. It's a unity offensive, aiming to bring people together."

Then, immediately after the seriousness, comes the irreverent humour.

"The level we're watching isn't Rooney or Ronaldo, but it is inspiring, raucous and accessible, and Reds who are going are loving it. One of our players is a plumber - which means he might have 6,000 people shouting his name one day, and his hand down a toilet the next."