Source: Derry Journal
EVER heard the one about the Strabane striker currently topping the goal-scoring charts at the club some football fans call the 'real Manchester United'?
Michael Wilson reports
Didn't think so but, then again, Rory Patterson's career has not exactly followed the traditional football trail since he left his Ballycolman home in search of soccer stardom.
A graduate of the now disbanded Derry youth side, Moorfield, Rory was one of many promising youngsters that club sent for trials with clubs throughout England and Scotland before he eventually found himself at the fledgling 'F.C. United', the club formed by thousands of disgruntled Manchester United supporters after American billionaire Malcolm Glazer's unceremonious Old Trafford takeover back in 2005.
"I started out playing with Moorfield because - although I was from Strabane - most of my mates were from Derry," explained the 22 year-old last week.
"I think I was about ten years old when I started, it was with my mates from school and friends from the city. I grew up with boys like Neil McCafferty and Kevin Deery (now contracted to Derry City) so most of my early football was played in Derry.
"Everyone at Moorfield knew we were lucky to be playing for them because they were a great club and seemed to win everything we played in, including competitions in England and Spain," claimed the player.
Rory left the Derry club after finishing school at St. Colman's in Strabane to turn professional with English side Rochdale, where he was joined by friend and current Derry City star, Paddy McCourt.
"Most Moorfield players were sent for trials at Peterborough and I was no different although I eventually signed a professional contract with Rochdale. I arrived the year before Paddy and I learned a lot there.
"I think (former Carlisle United boss) Paul Simpson, up to now at least, is the best manager I've played under. We had a great FA Cup run in 2003 when we knocked out Preston and Coventry before losing to Wolves in the fifth round."
The FA Cup run was the highlight of a frustrating finale to his Rochdale career which saw Patterson's appearances restricted through injury before he was eventually released at the end of the 2004 season.
Moving on from the setback of losing his professional status, Patterson picked himself up and moved to amateur side, Radcliffe Borough, where he found life less than fulfilling
"It was a big shock. I was lucky to be able to find a job as a paint sprayer, which I was grateful for, but it was so tough playing a game during the day and then doing night work. It wasn't the best of times at Radcliffe," he maintained.
While playing at Radcliffe, Rory got a call from current FC United boss Karl Marginson - who he had played with a season earlier - and things seemed to get better from that point the Strabane man who is now a firm favourite with the Manchester fans having topped the scoring charts for two consecutive seasons in the North West Counties Football League.
He went on: "We are playing in front of crowds of 3,000 and 4,000 and the club has really taken off. The standard is excellent as we have a lot of ex-professionals from Manchester City and United. We were promoted last year and are in with a shout of the title again this season."
Patterson is now well settled in Manchester where he and long-tem girlfriend, Stacey, are expecting their first baby in July, but Rory admits he still harbours dreams or returning to full-time football and keeps a close eye on events at the Brandywell.
"There was a bit of a rumour circulating last year that Stephen Kenny was interested in bringing me to the Brandywell but, to be perfectly honest, I didn't hear much more than that. I still follow Derry closely, especially with so many friends at the club.
"That said, I am really enjoying things at United and the club is growing all the time but if someone like Derry came in then, of course, I would be interested. I don't get to watch them as often as I would like. When I get back home, it's usually on a Saturday so I miss their games, but was great to see them doing so well last season.
"I kept a close eye on their European run and it was fantastic. Many of my mates travelled to Paris with the club and stopped off in Manchester on the way home to see one of my games which, thankfully, we won."
While Patterson, who is known as 'Mr. Mystery' to the club's legion of fans - because of how little was known about him when he signed - maintains his strong links to the North West and he is the first to admit his owes a debt of gratitude to the club which has given him a second chance at football in England.
"The club itself is massive and that surprised me when I joined. I took the opportunity to join FC United because it was the chance to start afresh and to give football another go. I believe the club can go as far as the fans want it to."
Such is the profile of Manchester's 'other' United, that the club and Patterson have regularly featured on Sky's 'Channel M' (Sky Channel 203) where many of Rory's friends in Ireland can keep up-to-date with his goal-scoring exploits at Gigg Lane, including one audacious effort against Silsden last year - from the half-way line - which can be viewed on internet site 'YouTube,' (www.youtube.com).
"That one was a bit special,' admitted the Strabane man, "I really enjoyed it, but you don't score too many like that!"