Friday, May 04, 2007

Just champion!

Source: Bury Times

By Dale Haslam

ALMOST 4,000 revellers made it a day to remember at Gigg Lane last Saturday when fans' team FC United of Manchester threw open its doors to youngsters.

In an action-packed day of fun in the sun, football lovers - many watching the North West Counties League Division One side play for the first time - flocked to Bury to watch the Reds beat Formby 5-0.

Before the game, dozens of youngsters took part in dance, theatre and art sessions organised by FC United at Holy Cross College in Manchester Road.

They then joined the party inside Gigg Lane for a memorable day of entertainment, with under-18s getting free entry.

FC United was formed almost two years ago by Manchester United supporters unhappy with Malcolm Glazer's takeover of the club, ticket price increases and other perceived negative influences on the game.

Since then, on the pitch, the team has won the championship twice and will next year play in the Unibond League Division One North - seven promotions away from the Premiership.

Off the pitch, its small team of staff and a whole host of volunteers have raised cash for local, national and international charities and also worked alongside a number of community groups, including several from Bury.

Before Easter, supporters held a football memorabilia auction and sold limited-edition club pin badges in memory of Manchester United legend George Best, who died in 2006.

In all, they raised £3,007 for the George Best Foundation, which funds research into liver disease and alcoholism, George's sister, Barbara McNarry, travelled from Northern Ireland for the game to accept the cheque on behalf of the foundation.

Afterwards, she said: "I hadn't expected the fans to raise anywhere near as much as they did considering they had such a short space of time to do it in.

"The atmosphere was absolutely amazing. The noise that came from the stands was staggering when I went down on the pitch and I must say, I did get a bit emotional when I saw children all huddled at the front singing George's name. What a tremendous day it was."

Supporter Mike Sherrard, who handed over the cheque, said: "Those supporters in the stands were applauding Barbara and singing George Best songs and it was fantastic. It was them who donated the money to the foundation and I cannot thank them enough for their support."

After the game, team captain Dave Chadwick lifted the championship trophy before fans staged a celebration rock music concert outside the stadium.

Meanwhile, supporters snapped up 1,000 bottles of FC United beer that was specially brewed for the occasion. All proceeds went to the club's development fund.