Thursday, February 22, 2007

Silsden-FC United cup tie offers electric atmosphere


By Daryl Ames

More than 1,500 people packed into Cougar Park to provide an electric atmosphere for Silsden AFC's cup tie with FC United.

The Manchester-based supporters club, who are only in their second season, brought a massive contingent of fans that required loads of preparation for the fixture by Silsden's club members and volunteers.

Silsden chairman Sean McNulty said: "The preparation for the event was excellent. Everything went smoothly."

Committee member Eddie Sessford added: "I was so busy behind the scenes in the background that I didn't see any of the game. But this game was more about hospitality and looking after the sponsors, who we invited free of charge. It's gone well and we've enjoyed the day."

Silsden officials confirmed that the attendance for the game was 1,564, and McNulty said that approximately 1,200 to 1,300 were FC United fans.

And the FC United fans who sat behind the goalmouth were definitely in full voice. In fact, writer for a non-league football magazine referred to it as the "90/90 phenomena" - 90 per cent of the fans singing for 90 minutes.

The FC United "singers" sang popular Manchester United tunes such as "Cantona" but others were less savoury, according to one Silsden fan.

"Although it was good for Silsden to have so many supporters here, some of singing had some bad language that spoiled it for me," said Stewart Howarth of Keighley.

However, McNulty admitted: "Bad language is part of parcel with football supporters."

The FC United supporters in attendance came to support the club in a wide range of ways.

Many had willingly given up their Manchester United season tickets when American businessman Malcolm Glazer and his family took control of the Premiership club. But others were simply Manchester United fans that only went to a handful of live games each year.

One of those was Robin Pye of Sale.

Pye said: "I felt very proud when I went to my first FC United league game. Within a few minutes I felt a strong bond with the team that was definitely that what I felt for Man U.

"I'm an FC United season ticket holder. The atmosphere is better fan for fan because it's much cheaper to take your friends and family. And you can sit together with them in the stands."

Keith Mullineux of Manchester said that one of the main reasons he comes to FC United games is to support his grandson, David Chadwick, who is the team captain.

"We've gone to all the games and been there since the start. FC United have a Manchester United atmosphere because the fans are always singing throughout the game. But in many ways Man U games are not as good."

And while the game featured a pleasantly noisy atmosphere, the result didn't turn out as Silsden would have liked. The Cobbydalers lost 3-0, all on goals scored within a ten-minute period in the first half.

Silsden captain Michael Rosser said: "We competed well but we fell asleep for a ten-minute spell. If you fall asleep for any length of time, especially against a team like FC United, you're going to get beat."

He also said Silsden gave a good account of themselves but needed to finish off their chances.

"You have to put away your chances against opposition of that quality. You've got to be on top of your game when you play them."

He also said that the FC United's vociferous supporters provides the team with a boost.

"Their fans are brilliant. Having them behind has got to add 20 per cent to their game. The noise was unbelievable."

Silsden manager Paul Schofield agreed with Rosser about the noise level.

"It was difficult for our players because they couldn't hear each other out there. Players have got to talk to each other on the pitch."

Although he was disappointed with the result, Schofield said that FC United did against Silsden what they have done to other teams all year long.

"They seem to score their goals in clusters. We conceded one and before we knew it we were 2-0 down. Then they added another a few minutes later.

"They very quick on the break. When we went 3-0 down, we knew it was going to be a long way back."

In fact, Schofield and Rosser said that FC United "shut up shop" in the second half and were happy not to concede a goal.

At the start of the second period, the rested their two strikers in preparation for an important midweek game against promotion hopefuls Curzon Ashton.

Schofield said that although Silsden have no game this weekend, he is ready to get into league action. But he reminded everyone that Silsden will host FC United against in a league on March 29.

Rosser added: "FC United are fantastic for our league. It's a shame that they won't be back next year."