Wednesday, December 22, 2010

£1m barrier smashed towards FC United's stadium dream

 Source: MEN, by Pamela Welsh

 Supporters of FC United have raised more than £1m towards the club’s new 5,000 capacity stadium.

Fans have been rushing to take part in a pioneering ‘community shares’ scheme – giving them a stake in the club as well as raising money towards the planned ground at Ten Acres Lane in Newton Heath.

They have crossed the £1m threshold in less than three months on their way to a target of £1.5m.

The new stadium, which was given the green light by Manchester council in November, will cost a total of £3.5m.

The rest of the cash will come from grant funding and donations.

The semi-professional club – formed out of the anti-Glazer movement at Manchester United five years ago – now has until February to reach the £1.5m target.

FC United general manager Andy Walsh said: “We still have some way to go but to have raised more than £1m in shares is a phenomenal achievement.

“A further £200,000 has been pledged to date and although we still have to turn these pledges into cash, we can say we are now on the home straight with the shares offer.

“Our progress shows support is growing for our campaign to see football clubs owned and run by supporters and is a tremendous tribute to the efforts of everybody at FC United.

“We are now working hard, pulling together our grant applications. It is an extremely competitive process but we have some great support from partners and hope that the funding bodies will recognise our submissions as strong bids that will bring real economic benefit to Newton Heath.”

Investors can purchase £1 shares to a value ranging from £200 up to £20,000.

The offer is open to businesses and anyone aged 16 and over. All shareholders must be members of FC United but non-members can join at the time of application.

The news of the fundraising milestone caps an extraordinary few weeks for the Evo-Stik Premier club, which currently shares a ground with Bury FC.

FC United reached the second round of the FA Cup, attracting a record home attendance against League One Brighton in a game seen by a global television audience. The offer closes on February 28, 2011.

Full details of the scheme are can be found at

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rebels will rise again – Marginson

 Source: MEN

 FC United boss Karl Marginson insisted his fallen FA Cup heroes will soon be riding high again in the league despite suffering a ninth defeat in their last 12 Evo-Stik Premier outings in losing 1-0 to leaders FC Halifax Town at Gigg Lane.

The Rebels’ hopes of bouncing back from their Cup exit to Brighton with a much-needed victory were dashed as FC old boy Simon Garner struck to give the table-topping visitors three more points towards their title crusade.

The single-goal loss sees FC slip to next-to-bottom and, despite them having plenty of games in hand on almost all the teams above them, they now face an enormous challenge if they're to achieve their target of a place in the promotion play-offs.

But, buoyed by his team’s battling performance against the table-topping Tykes, Marginson is adamant United will soon be heading in the right direction, saying: "If we keep playing with that level of endeavour, we'll be fine.

"Halifax are comfortably top of the league but we more than matched them throughout and can consider ourselves highly unfortunate not to have come out of the game with at least a draw.

"Obviously, we left ourselves open at the end when we were chasing an equaliser and they had a few good breaks, but, apart from that, we were rarely troubled.

"At the other end, we created several openings and were denied a good penalty shout. Overall, I thought we were excellent."

The only goal arrived on 53 minutes as Garner escaped FC’s defence to head home half-time substitute Scott Metcalf's inswinging cross from close range.

The Rebels had earlier had a let off when Scott Phelan fired against a post but were then left appealing in vain for a penalty after Carlos Roca appeared to have been upended in the box.

Matthew Wolfenden, making his first league start for United, was a constant threat to Halifax but wasted a chance to put the hosts in front when he dragged his shot agonisingly wide after being freed by Roca.

Wolfenden also had FC’s best opportunity to equalise, only to be denied by Liam Hogan’s goalline clearance as the visitors held on.

Share scheme more vital than TV cash, says FC's Walsh

 Source: MEN

 FC United general manager Andy Walsh says the ground and the club’s Community Share Scheme are more important than their lucrative FA Cup run.

The Evo-Stik Premier League team, who bowed out of the cup in the second-round replay against Brighton, pocketed two fees from live television appearances, plus a percentage from decent crowds at Rochdale and Brighton and a new attendance record of around 7,000 at Gigg Lane for the replay.

It is thought the TV coverage of the Rochdale first-round tie earned them £67,000.

The money will come in handy after planning permission for FC United’s own £3.5m home at Ten Acres Lane, in Newton Heath, was granted last month.

Walsh said: "The FA Cup has been fantastic for us, but the ground, and the Community Share Scheme we intend to use in order to pay for it, are far more significant.

"I would say it is the biggest thing that has happened to this club since it was formed, and has the potential to be adopted by a much broader base.

"Already we have had other clubs expressing an interest in how it works and as time goes on, I am sure the interest will grow."

Walsh said: "Supporter-owned clubs are the way forward. It has happened at Chester, Exeter and countless others besides.

"We arrived at our situation in a slightly different way but the concept is still the same.

"Brighton nearly went out of business during the Bill Archer era and no-one would look at Portsmouth over the past few years and think their ownership structure was stable.

"Supporter interests have been ignored for far too long and it is time the football authorities did something about it."

The Rebels launched a community shares scheme earlier this year aimed at raising £1.5m of the sum needed to build the new stadium.

The scheme allows fans and businesses to invest between £200 and £20,000 into the club.

Monday, December 13, 2010

United they stand

 Source: Sunday Star Times (NZ)

 OPINION: FC United's collective fury at Man United's takeover by rich Yanks goes so much deeper than scarf waving.

FOR FC UNITED of Manchester, the FA Cup dream is over, but the rebellion is just starting to gather pace. Membership for the non-league club is up, local authorities are singing its praises and consent has recently been granted to build a new stadium. In the uncaring world of uber-professional sport, where community values have been overrun by avarice and greed, the Rebels' trailblazing success is starting to attract a cult following.

The five-year-old protest vessel of legions of disgruntled Manchester United supporters, FC have stunned fans and opponents alike this season, initially knocking over first-division Rochdale in the opening round of the FA Cup, and then forcing Brighton into a second-round replay a few weeks later. That they were eventually swept aside 4-0 on Thursday by a team four divisions above them was no great shock. The much bigger surprise has been the traction so far gained.

Wholly community-owned, FC United were formed in 2005 by Manchester United supporters dismayed over the debt-laden takeover of their team by the USA's Glazer family. At present, playing out of the Bury club ground at Gigg Lane, they have more than 2000 members on their books, all of whom have one voting share in the organisation. Volunteers look after everything from ticket sales to pitch preparation. Last year, FC won the UK's Cooperative Excellence Award.

Whereas the mega-wealthy English Premier League clubs have abdicated any thoughts of community responsibility in their rush for profit, FC have deliberately resurrected the values of yesteryear. Ticket prices at Old Trafford start at 13.50 (for paid-up senior citizens); entry prices at Gigg Lane start at 2. Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney rakes in about 200,000 a week, FC's leading goal-scorer, Michael Norton, is a tiler paid 80 a game. The manager of the team, Karl Marginson, is a fruit and vege man. The side's first goalkeeper, Barry George, worked on the checkout at a local supermarket. It's old school stuff, with the players and coaching staff happily spreading their message each week at surrounding schools and hospitals, to the delight of the local borough councils. Indeed, FC's push to buy land for a new stadium at Newton Heath has been fast-tracked, such has been the depth of the goodwill fostered.

Yes, that's right, Newton Heath, not only the original birthplace of Manchester United, but one of the most deprived areas of the greater Manchester region. Before the move across town and the change of name in 1902, the club played in green and gold, the colours now flown in an anti-Glazer protest at every Manchester United game, home or away. Newton Heath, where eight streets are named after the players who perished in the 1958 Munich air disaster.

FC United are going a long way towards replicating the old club's philosophy and approach. They not only have a code of conduct for players and coaching staff, but also for their own supporters. Fans are encouraged to support their own team and also (shock, horror) the opposition; to show their appreciation for good play and to respect the decisions of the match officials. Booing is a no-no. Rather than simply reflecting community values, FC are trying to drive them.
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If Prime Minister John Key and his cohorts really want an idea about where their funding priorities in sport should lie, they could get a hint from these guys. Rather than chasing the bucket of gold at all costs, FC have begun to strip their activity back to what really matters. Socially unacceptable on-field behaviours such as cheating, lying and opportunistic violence have been rejected out of hand. A commitment to the community is included in the constitution.

Not that they've lacked purpose in the competitive arena; in fact, far from it. In their first three years, the Rebels won a number of trophies and consecutive promotions into higher competitions. The 3-2 FA Cup win over Rochdale last month, watched by 4000 travelling FC fans, was a breathtaking result, the winning goal coming in the last minute of injury time. And to even draw with Brighton, currently leading the English FA's first division, was considered an outrageous achievement.

So well known have FC become, that they are now being courted by other cause celebre clubs throughout Britain and Europe. They travelled to Hamburg last season to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the St Pauli side, reportedly the most passionately anti-fascist club in Germany. They were also flown to Belfast for a match against Cliftonville, Ireland's oldest football team. For a club that started out as a protest movement, FC seems to be doing a lot more than merely oppose.

They sing as well, or at least their fans do. One of the recent favourites is apparently the Carpenters song "Top of the World", which was sung solidly by FC supporters for 30 minutes after the end of the Rochdale tie. There's also an adaption of that old Sex Pistols' number "Anarchy in the UK" ("I am an FC fan"). They even churn out some former favourites from Old Trafford, particularly about former star Eric Cantona, who previously went public with his support for their initiative.

It was about a year ago that respected journalist David Walsh warned that professionalism and big business activity was ruining sport, but doubted anything could be done about it. The Rebels of Manchester have offered hope that all is not lost. They might be small, even insignificant, but they've managed to remind us what sport is all about. Not to mention how we can go about reclaiming it. The message is that communities can fight back, after all. Vive le revolution.

Friday, December 10, 2010

El equipo de todos

 Source: El País

 Fieles a sus principios, los fundadores del United Auténtico idearon un equipo que funciona como una cooperativa. "El club es una organización democrática sin fines de lucro. Los estatutos del FC United recogen que nunca podrá ser vendido o poseído por un solo individuo y su activo siempre deberá ser usado en beneficio del club y la comunidad", explica Watt. El proyecto atrajo de inmediato a cientos de candidatos a defender su camiseta: la primera plantilla se formó tras una prueba a la que asistieron 900 jugadores que soñaban vestir la camiseta del Manchester.

El pasado en común, los orígenes son tan imposibles de borrar, que el grupo también es conocido como los rebeldes rojos en contraposición a los diablos rojos, quienes afrontan una deuda, tras cuatro años y medio de gestión de Glazer y familia, de 807 millones de euros, más de 78 solo por intereses. "Glazer, para apoderarse del Manchester, invirtió más de 900 millones , que cargó al club y no a su bolsillo, hasta que se quedó con la mayoría de las acciones. Ahora los únicos activos del Manchester son el campo y los jugadores. Si tienen que ser vendidos por las deudas, la existencia entera del club está en peligro", insisten desde el FC United, que vio la luz el 5 de julio de 2005. El día que Glazer irrumpió en Old Trafford.

Desde entonces, el número de copropietarios de la escuadra ha subido hasta los 3.200 miembros. "Partimos de la paridad. Cada miembro tiene un voto. Ejercen su derecho sin distinción ni prohibición. Desde aprobar la cuota de socio anual, que es de 12 libras [14 euros] y nos sirve para costear los gastos, entre ellos los sueldos de los futbolistas, de los que el mejor pagado cobra 150 libras [178 euros] a la semana, hasta el diseño de la camiseta", ahonda Watt, elegido por votación como uno de los 11 consejeros. Ninguno cobra en sus dos años de mandato, pero pueden ser reelegidos.

El inconformismo alimenta el ímpetu romántico de los aventureros del FC United. "Vamos a construir un campo con 5.000 localidades en Newton Heath, la zona donde el Manchester surgió en 1878. Ya nos han dado el permiso para construirlo en vez de un recinto deportivo obsoleto", concluyen desde Gigg Lane, donde entienden que "no hay que vender el alma" para disfrutar de su equipo. Un lema que se extiende poco a poco como las bufandas verdes y amarillas, los colores primigenios del Manchester, que la semana pasada lucían seguidores del Aris y el Atlético. "Son como un código, la seña de identidad con la que nos reconocemos y que nos hace sentir de la misma familia", decía Ioannis Granouzis, el presidente de los seguidores del equipo griego, del que controlan casi el 70% de las acciones tras el fiasco que supuso otro especulador estadounidense.

FC United 0 Brighton 4

 Source: MEN

 It had to end sometime. It had started with a 3-0 win over Radcliffe Borough in early September but, six games and 88 days later, FC United’s incredible FA Cup run finally came to an end against League One leaders Brighton.

Goals from Fran Sandaza, Inigo Calderon, Elliott Bennett and Matt Sparrow eased Brighton’s passage into round three but their names will be forgotten long before memories of Carlos Roca’s winner against Barrow or Mike Norton’s last-gasp goal in the first-round win at Rochdale.

FC United fans were determined to enjoy the next stop on their remarkable journey regardless of the freezing temperatures, with Eric Cantona-themed renditions of the 12 days of Christmas and ‘Bring on United’ ringing out from underneath the scoreboard all night.

They were just as determined to get their point across in front of the ESPN cameras with banners reading ‘Pies not prawns’ – a nod to Roy Keane’s famous outburst – and ‘Making friends not millionaires’ draped over the stands.

The game might not have gone ahead had it not been for ESPN, who paid to cover the pitch with a hot air balloon to thaw the pitch, and referee Eddie Ilderton was still casting his eye over the conditions right up until kick-off.


The big freeze meant neither team had played since Sam Ashton’s stoppage-time penalty save in the first game ensured the two sides – separated by 112 places in the football pyramid – would have do it all over again at Gigg Lane. Brighton manager Gus Poyet had hinted before the game that he would again rest a number of his regulars for the replay but, after a free weekend, he opted to bring back Gordon Greer, Adam El-Abd, Sparrow, Calderon and Sandaza.

FC United boss Karl Marginson, meanwhile, was forced into his two changes with suspensions ruling out Scott McManus, sent off in the first game at the Withdean Stadium, and Jerome Wright.

Marginson had struggled to find his players anywhere to train in the run-up to the game, but the Rebels looked anything but rusty in the opening stages to more than merit Poyet’s decision to bring back his big guns. And it looked an even shrewder move midway through the first-half when Sandaza, used only as a substitute in the first game, poked Brighton ahead after

Bennett’s miscued shot squirmed its way to the big Spaniard.

But there was more than just the Rebels’ fans flares to illuminate the occasion with their part-time heroes more than playing their part. Roca saw his effort from the edge of the box skid just wide before Chris Ovington cut in from the left to flash a drive over the bar.

But any momentum was quickly brought to an abrupt halt in first-half stoppage time. Sandaza fed Bennett on the left and his cross was headed past Ashton by a diving Calderon to make Marginson’s half-time team talk all the more difficult.

But whatever he did say worked. Ben Deegan squared the ball for Nicky Platt to side-foot wide before Deegan was brought down in the area by Calderon’s clumsy challenge.


Mr Ilderton obliged the baying crowd behind the goal and pointed to the spot but Jake Cottrell fluffed his lines and sent his spot kick crashing against the outside of the post.

A goal was the least FC United deserved for their battling performance but they didn’t need to prove they had been more than a match for Brighton.

Bennett slid the third past Ashton after Sandaza had delivered a perfectly-weighted ball through the tiring United defence and Sparrow added a fourth late on but they only served to give the scoreline a more flattering look for the Seasiders.

As the clock wound down, United’s fans broke into a chorus of ‘Always look on the bright side of life’.

After this fantastic run, they have a lot to smile about.

FC United: Ashton 7, Jacobs 6 (Battersby 80), Quistin 6 (Carden 88), Munroe 7, Parker 7, Platt 7, Cottrell 7, Roca 8, Ovington 6 (Wolfenden 59), Norton 7, Deegan 8. Not used: Hibbert, Holden, Tierney, Ayres.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

John Barnes: "Unglaublich, diese Begeisterung!"

 Edited from:

...kicker: Wie macht sich diese besondere Leidenschaft bemerkbar?

Barnes: Gerade erst war ich als TV-Kommentator bei einem Spiel der ersten FA-Cup-Runde, der FC United of Manchester siegte bei Drittligist Rochdale. Unglaublich, diese Begeisterung! Zum FC United in die siebte Liga kommen 6000 Zuschauer. Mir geht es nicht um Arsenal oder Chelsea und die Premier League, die muss man der Welt nicht mehr vorstellen, aber Dorfvereine wie Woking mit 4000 Fans bei einem Heimspiel.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Grünes Licht für Stadionbau


 Der FC United of Manchester hat die Baugenehmigung für ein Stadion in der Ten Acres Lane in Newton Heath erhalten. Der Bauantrag für das 3,5 Millionen Pfund (circa 4,5 Millionen Euro) teure Projekt wurde vom Rat des Planungssauschusses der Stadt Manchester stattgegeben.

Demnach darf United, sobald sie über die finanziellen Mittel verfügen, ein eigenes Stadion für 5.000 Zuschauer bauen. Clubmanager Andy Walsh sieht die Freigabe als großen Schritt nach vorne und hofft, dass die Einzahlungen in den Gemeinschaftsanteil weiter ansteigen. „Wir sind unserem Ziel, in zwei Jahren auf unserem eigenen Boden zu spielen, einen gewaltigen Schritt näher gekommen und die Genehmigung ist ein großes Vertrauensvotum in unseren Verein“, dankte Walsh der Unterstützung des Rats. „Es liegt jetzt an uns, ein ordentliches Finanzierungspaket zu schnüren.“

Seit Ende September seien bereits über 600.000 Pfund (circa 714.000 Euro) in die Gemeinschaftsbeteiligung geflossen. United hat sich 1,5 Millionen Pfund (circa 1,7 Millionen Euro) an Einkäufen in den Gemeinschaftsanteil für den Bau an der Ten Acres Lane vorgenommen und ruft jeden Interessierten dazu auf in den Verein zu investieren.

Der Stadtrat beschreibt in einem Statement, dass das Bauprojekt in Newton Heat – der Geburtsstätte von Manchester United – sehr begrüßt wird. Der FC United of Manchester habe gut mit dem Rat zusammengearbeitet, um die bestmöglichste Planung zu erreichen.

Nach der Übernahme von Manchester United durch den US-Geschäftsmann Malcom Glazer hatten Fans als Reaktion und Zeichen gegen Kommerzialisierung den neuen Verein gegründet. Seitdem stieg der Verein drei Mal auf, erhielt mittlerweile Kultstatus und dementsprechend auch stets einen hohen Zuschauerzuspruch. (Stadionwelt, 1.12.2010)

Friday, December 03, 2010

FC United's Heywood star Jake Cottrell picks up FA Cup gong

 Source: MEN

 Dec 02, 2010

 Jake Cottrell has been voted E.ON Player of the Round after his stunning left-foot strike helped FC United of Manchester beat Rochdale 3-2 at Spotland in the FA Cup first round.

Nick Platt had already given Karl Marginson’s side the lead when former Heywood St James star pupil Cottrell stepped up to smash a wonderful effort past the helpless Josh Lillis.

Mike Norton’s last-minute winner set up a second round tie against Gus Poyet’s Brighton and Hove Albion, which ended in a 1-1 draw on Saturday.

Cottrell and FC United will get another chance to make it through to the third round – where they would face Championship side Portsmouth – when Brighton travel to Gigg Lane for the replay on Wednesday, December 8.

"It’s a real honour and I’d like to say thank you to everyone who voted for me. Hopefully, we’ll be able to produce more of the same in the replay against Brighton," said Cottrell.

The midfielder signed for FC United after being spotted playing at North West Counties level with Oldham Town.

"There’s a big difference in the standard from Oldham, both player and fitness-wise.

"It helped to get to know the team by watching for a few games and then I had to show what I could do once I got my chance."

The Manchester United supporter says of his time so far with FC: "I’ve really enjoyed it all so far. Margy talks to us like one of the lads and so you can get to know him. We have a good laugh in training.

"I like playing here with the fans and the great atmosphere. I’d certainly like to progress up the divisions in non-league, ideally with FC."

Cottrell doesn’t have a particular career in mind off the pitch as yet. He currently works for a company called Coleman’s doing admin in an office near Old Trafford but can be forgiven for having his mind on things other than work and football just now.

"I haven’t got a clue about work at the minute, Im just trying to get a wage in. I’ve just had a baby on New Year’s Day, a little boy.

"He’s good, he’s doing well. He doesn’t wake me up too much so I don’t mind. He’s keeping me busy and I’ll have him kicking a ball soon."

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

FC United of Manchester Show All Is Not Lost After All

 Source: The Epoch Times

 MANCHESTER, England—As football’s talented exponents become distracted by the wealth their gift accumulates, then the love for football is no longer a pure thing.

Play ugly who cares? What is fuelling the headlong charge away from the pure thing that sidesteps open admiration and respect for an opponent’s skill, playing within the rules of the game, and a healthy appreciation of good natured sportsmanship?

Carlos Tevez, the Manchester City striker, threatens to escape from the money obsessed Premier League claiming football is only about money, he does not like it, and young players are not interested in winning.

Only money is the driving force. Tevez also referred to football being full of uneducated “bad people” in an interview with TyC Sports.

As in other areas of society, the good, the bad, and the ugly take their place. Tevez is simply highlighting a situation that has long been recognized, but carries more weight being registered as direct experience from the confines of the dressing room.

Under the cover of the accepted distorted norm, the impact of the lowering of standards is blatantly ignored, and the impression is given that, after all, it is the big boys at the top who call the tune. Is it a rich man’s game and not much can be done about it?

Breath of Fresh Air

Now and then, there appears a group of people who have a true sense of perspective and genuine care for the relationship that once formed a strong bond between club and community. They decided something could be done about it.

Here we have a non-league club; FC United of Manchester owned and run by its fans that formed five years ago, because they could not stomach their beloved Manchester United’s loss of heritage by the Glazer millionaire brothers’ debt-laden takeover.

In early November, these non-leaguers achieved an astonishing feat by defeating Rochdale, a Division 1 side, 3–2 in the FA Cup first round at Rochdale, which was shown live on television in the U.K.

These mighty minnows play in the Evo-Stick Premier Division, four divisions below Rochdale who were promoted to Division 1 last season.

Last Saturday, Sam Ashton saved a last-minute penalty to earn dedicated (reduced to 10 men) FC United an FA Cup second-round replay with League One leaders Brighton with a 1–1 draw.

Their 854 traveling fans went crazy with joy shouting mischievous chants referring to the possibility of meeting giants Manchester United in the later rounds of the Cup. These advocates of fair play receive $200 per week in wages, and would it not be a great irony to see these cheeky monkeys trot out at Old Trafford to play their salaried counterparts, having in mind Sir Alex Ferguson’s reference to their fans as "self-publicists" at its inception.

These brave hearts show a light that all is not lost after all.

Now FC United of Manchester have set their sights on buying their own ground with the help of the proceeds gained from the television company who paid for the rights to screen the Rochdale match.

And Manchester City Council is aware of the club’s good work in many deprived areas of the city with the distinct possibility of granting a lease to allow FC United to build their own facility in Newton Heath, which was formally the birthplace of Manchester United in 1878.

FC Manchester has a commitment to community service written into its constitution enabling a return to the purest thing possible in football. And if they can pull it off against Brighton in the replay, who knows—it might herald fans deserting in greater numbers from their first love Manchester United.

FCUM delighted with Brighton draw

Source: SkySports

Our Road to Wembley feature continues as we bring you the best of the reaction from FC United's clash at Brighton.

The Football Club United of Manchester dream continues as they claimed a draw at League One leaders Brighton.

But things could have been so different. FCUM took the lead when midfield ace Nicky Platt scored for the second successive round.

Scott McManus was then sent-off with 20 minutes left, but despite being down to 10 men, United looked as if they would hold out for yet another famous win.

But with seven minutes left, Brighton levelled as player-assistant manager Mauricio Taricco scored.

Then six minutes into stoppage-time Brighton were awarded a penalty, but step forward FCUM keeper Sam Ashton - who saved at full stretch to write another chapter in the unfolding FC United story.

Penalty praise

Speaking after his save, Ashton was understandably delighted and he heaped the praise on assistant boss Roy Soule.

"Roy had watched a tape of Brighton's penalty shoot-out at Woking and told me that Sandaza will go left and the rest will all put it to the right," revealed Ashton.

"I did go to my right and I touched it round the post. I could tell that he didn't want to take it. He didn't look as though he was confident to take it."

Platt was equally ecstatic and he is adamant that they can dispatch of Brighton in the replay.

"We can't wait to get Brighton up to our place, which I'm sure will be packed," he said.

"Brighton will not have seen anything like it, I can guarantee it. You can see why they are top of the league - they were quality opposition. But I'm sure a lot of our lads could step up to play in League Two or in the Conference."

Last season's FA Cup runners-up Portsmouth will now travel to Brighton or FCUM in the next round, and that provides some real incentive - not that the non-leaguers need much more.

"It's mind-blowing to think we're just one game away from playing last season's beaten cup finalists," said FCUM boss Karl Marginson.

"To think Portsmouth went all the way to Wembley last May and now we could be meeting them, it's unbelievable.

"But, before we start getting too carried away, we've got to remember we've still got a big job to do if we're to get past Brighton.

"If we're fortunate enough to do that, we can look forward to another terrific occasion because Portsmouth would no doubt bring a big following up to Gigg Lane. That would mean lots of noise from both sets of fans and a cracking atmosphere.

"Pompey may be mid-table in the Championship but they have some great players and still have aspirations to get back into the Premier League.

"They're going to be decent, but we'd have nothing to lose against them, so, from our point of view, it's a great draw."

No cup of cheer here

Of course the lure of a South Coast derby is a big one for Brighton, but Gus Poyet is taking a pragmatic approach and the magic of the cup does not appear to have got a grip on the former Chelsea star.

Poyet revealed: "I will probably play the reserves.

"We lost one game and we drew two in the league because of Woking (FA Cup first round).

"I'm not going to lose and draw another game in the league because of FC United.

"We should have been two or three nil-up before they had their first shot, then it probably would have finished 4-1 or 5-1 or 6-1 or 25-1.

"If we put the ball in the net we will beat Colchester, if we don't score from three yards then we will have a problem."

Monday, November 29, 2010

Droylsden ignored by local media despite Cup run

Source: When Saturday Comes

29 November ~ Supporters of Droylsden FC are nothing if not realistic. Standing geographically in the shadow of Manchester’s Premier League giants (almost literally since City’s move to Eastlands), those involved with the Blue Square North club understand that moments in the limelight may be fleeting and any recognition of achievement limited. However even with such reduced expectations fans still feel a little miffed by lack of reaction to tonight's FA Cup second round home tie with Leyton Orient. Despite this being the club’s second involvement at this stage in the last three years, it seems that local media now only have eyes for the new kids in town when it comes to non-League coverage.

Friday’s Manchester Evening News might serve as Exhibit A if Droylsden pursue an unfair treatment claim. The paper’s FA Cup weekend preview consisted of a double page spread featuring FC United of Manchester’s tie at Brighton, complete with large colour photograph of the team’s post-match celebrations after their previous round win. A single sentence footnote informed readers that Droylsden were also still involved in the competition. As cursory as that seemed it was still more than the Cup round-up on ITV’s Granada Reports provided later that evening, which consisted of a glowing five-minute piece on FCUM and no mention at all of the region’s other remaining representative.

Fortunately any website snippiness from some supporters (“apparently non-League football is only five years old”) has been more than offset by the fact that ESPN have chosen the Droylsden tie for second round live transmission. With BBC Radio 5 Live completing a multimedia experience, the match is due to generate over £100,000 when FA prize money and gate money are taken into account; for a club whose average gates remain obstinately below 400 not a penny of Droylsden’s share will go unappreciated. It will represent more than a full season of gate receipts.

The match also gives the club a chance to bring to a wider audience a team of whom the fans are justifiably proud. Owner/chairman/manager Dave Pace has – apart from challenging the myth about males and multitasking – spent well over a decade preaching the gospel of pass-and-move, which his sides have put it into practice. Their ascent up the non-League pyramid received a chastening blow when promotion to the National Conference in 2007 lasted just the single season during which they found themselves overpowered by full-time outfits but, undeterred, the Bloods continue to fly the flag for football’s purists.

If Droylsden give a good account of themselves tonight they believe they have an opportunity to dispel the notion that football at this level is more about physicality than technique, perhaps attract some new admirers through the turnstiles for forthcoming league fixtures, and maybe even snare a few extra column inches in the MEN. Modest ambitions, perhaps, but perfectly in keeping with this particularly grounded club. Tony Curran

Portsmouth await FC United in FA Cup

Source: MEN

Noel Gallagher set the Rebels rocking when he paired FC United with last year’s FA Cup finalists Portsmouth in the third round draw.

But first the Evo-Stik Premier League club, formed in protest over the Glazer family takeover at Old Trafford, need to overcome League One leaders Brighton.

They pulled off an incredible 1-1 away draw on Saturday that set up a second round replay at Bury’s Gigg Lane a week on Wednesday, thanks to a goal by Nicky Platt and Sam Ashton’s penalty save deep in injury time. FC United manager Karl Marginson, who had wanted to avoid Fergie’s superstars, said: “It’s mind-blowing to think we’re just one game away from playing last season’s beaten Cup finalists.

“To think Portsmouth went all the way to Wembley last May and now we could be meeting them, it’s unbelievable.

“But, before we start getting too carried away, we’ve got to remember we’ve still got a big job to do if we’re to get past Brighton.

“If we’re fortunate enough to do that, we can look forward to another terrific occasion because Portsmouth would no doubt would bring a big following up to Gigg Lane. That would mean lots of noise from both sets of fans and a cracking atmosphere.

“Pompey may be mid-table in the Championship but they have some great players and still have aspirations to get back into the Premier League.

“They’re going to be decent, but we’d have nothing to lose against them, so, from our point-of-view, it’s a great draw.”

Meanwhile Droylsden, Greater Manchester’s other non-league club going for money-spinning glory in the world’s oldest and most famous cup competition, are in second-round action against Leyton Orient at the Butchers Arms tonight. They have a real feast in store if Dave Pace’s ambitious Blue Square Bet North club win – a trip to Delia Smith’s high-riding Championship side Norwich.

All games are to be played on January 8 and 9.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Brighton 1-1 FC United

Source: Daily Mirror

Nicky Platt believes his side can still join Manchester’s other United in the FA Cup Third Round.

The FC United’s goal scorer says the rank outsiders fancy their chances in the replay at Bury’s Gigg Lane ground on December 8 – and a home date with Portsmouth.

Platt gave United the lead five minutes before the interval and they held on until seven minutes from time when Spanish striker Francisco Sandaza equalised for an increasingly desperate Brighton.

Gus Poyet’s League One leaders then wasted a glorious opportunity to seal a place in the third round in the fifth minute of stoppage time when Elliott Bennett had a well-struck penalty brilliantly saved by keeper Sam Ashton.

But midfielder Platt insisted his side had drawn enormous confidence from their gallant display, saying: “We can’t wait to get Brighton u p to our place, which I’m sure will be packed. Brighton will not have seen anything like it, I can guarantee it. You can see why they are top of the league – they were quality opposition. But I’m sure a lot of our lads could step up to play in League Two or in the Conference.”

Keeper Ashton, who made four crucial saves before Platt drove FC United ahead, admitted a tip from his assistant manager Roy Soule had helped him to foil Brighton.

Ashton said: “Roy Soule had watched a tape of Brighton’s penalty shoot-out at Woking and told me that Sandaza will go left and the rest will all put it to the right.

“I did go to my right and I touched it round the post. I could tell that he (Bennett) didn’t want to take it. He didn’t look as though he was confident to take it.”

FC United boss Karl Marginson felt the tie illustrated the magic of the FA Cup, and was overjoyed that his side – 112 places in the football pyramid below Brighton – had come so close to pulling off one of the biggest shocks in the history of the competition.

He said: “It was really a victory for us. To come to Brighton and get any kind of result was always going to be very difficult.

“We hung on by our fingernails at times, but that shows the belief the players have got.”

Brighton, without a win in six games in all competitions, have now missed four penalties this season and their assistant manager Mauricio Taricco believed this was a game they should have won easily.

He said: “We’re not very happy at the moment because we know we need to be more clinical.

“We must be doing something well because of the amount of opportunities that we’re creating, but the final touch has been missing.”

Sunday, November 21, 2010

FC United: A punk football fairytale

 Source: The Observer

 Dismayed by the way the professional game is heading, a group of Manchester United fans set up their own club five years ago. They don't have a ground and their striker is a tiler on £80 a week, but already FC United is the focus of passionate local support. Here, an astonished fan charts their remarkable rise from small-fry idealists to FA Cup giant-killers

FC United: A punk football fairytale

Dismayed by the way the professional game is heading, a group of Manchester United fans set up their own club five years ago. They don't have a ground and their striker is a tiler on £80 a week, but already FC United is the focus of passionate local support. Here, an astonished fan charts their remarkable rise from small-fry idealists to FA Cup giant-killers

* Julian Coman
* The Observer, Sunday 21 November 2010

It was a sight Manchester has seen many times before. Hordes of fans wearing red, white and black scarves, piling off a late-night train at Victoria, after a November night fixture away from home. Triumphant chants reverberating around the station forecourt. Dancing football players in red pictured on the front page of the newspaper the next day. Not unfamiliar stuff in a city that sees itself as the "new Milan" of world football. But there was one crucial difference.

This time the headlines made no reference to the reds of Manchester United. Instead, they celebrated a fireworks- night insurgency by another United, FC United of Manchester – the team formed by a group of football activists in opposition to the debt-financed takeover of the Old Trafford club by the American Glazer family in 2005.

To the acclaim of the wider football world, the delight of ESPN – the satellite sports channel which chose to show the match live – and the outright astonishment of their own travelling army of supporters, on 5 November non-league FC beat Rochdale AFC – a team 95 places above them in the football league pyramid – 3-2 in the first round proper of the FA Cup.

It was their first competitive match against league opposition and their first match at this stage of the world's oldest football competition. The game was shown in China, Germany, Scandinavia and beyond. And on a rainy Lancashire night, victory was achieved in a manner that suggested that on Guy Fawkes night 2010, the fates had finally decided to take the side of the rebel: the winner was scored in injury-time by centre-forward Michael Norton, who may, possibly, have kicked the ball out of the goalkeeper's hands.

A tiler by trade, Norton earns £80 a week playing his football in a city where Sheikh Mansour of the United Arab Emirates has spent £355m buying Manchester City a new team. Where Wayne Rooney has just signed a contract worth £200,000 a week after threatening to leave Manchester United to join them. By contrast, the £100,000 earned by FC on 5 November is enough to pay the wages of FC's playing and coaching staff for an entire season.

"Glory Glory FC United" announced the Manchester Evening News. The fan-owned, members-run club, once described as a bunch of "attention-seekers" by Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager of Manchester United, had succeeded in grabbing the attention of the entire football community. When Zoo magazine publishes a double-page spread comparing Rooney with Carlos Roca, the diminutive FC winger who works by day as a debt adviser, a threshold has clearly been crossed.

I should, at this point, declare an interest. Five years ago I became a founder member of FC United of Manchester, after a lifetime supporting Manchester United. Like 4,000 others that summer, I joined out of a sense of outrage at the takeover of United by a Florida-based businessman who bought a footballing institution with debt he then piled on to the club. Since 2005, Manchester United, previously debt-free, has paid out hundreds of millions of pounds to service the debt of the Glazer family. Levels of investment in players have dropped markedly and ticket prices have gone up by around 50%. Last season, the green and gold protest campaign, sponsored by the Manchester United Shareholder's Trust (Must), prompted tens of thousands of United fans to wear the original colours of the Newton Heath club that was the forerunner to the modern Manchester United. "Green and gold until United are sold" went the slogan.

But this season, the Glazers are still here. Or rather over there, in the United States. The family cannot freely walk the streets of Manchester for fear of attack. Meanwhile, among those who chose to give up their Old Trafford season tickets, in some cases after decades of attendance at matches home and away, something remarkable has happened: a club formed out of a sense of revulsion at the Glazer takeover, and run on the basis of one member one vote, has become the focal point of a strangely wonderful, slightly bonkers, always passionate football community.

The rise of FC United of Manchester is another sign of times in which, to paraphrase the Annie Lennox/Aretha Franklin hit, sisters and brothers are beginning to do it for themselves. In music, the pioneering American rock band Nine Inch Nails, after becoming exasperated with the corporate side of the business, cut out the executives altogether. Across Europe, workers' co-operatives of all kinds are booming. In Britain, new technologies have allowed a boom in self-publishing. Last month, the Portobello film festival in London celebrated good-quality DIY filmmaking done on the cheap.

At members-owned FC United, which won the UK's Cooperative Excellence Award in 2009, they call it "punk football" – "Our Club, our Rules". The famous Sex Pistols appearance at Manchester's Lesser Free Trade Hall in 1976, was voted one of the most influential gigs of all time. Rochdale might just have been a punk breakthrough on the football pitch.

On the fifth floor of a former mill in Ancoats, deep in what was once the industrial heart of Manchester, FC's 31-year-old club secretary Lindsey Robertson is dealing with the Monday morning aftermath of the Friday night before. Specifically, she is attempting to locate the owners of four lost pairs of keys. "Rochdale contacted us today," she explains. "They found four sets on the stand where the FC fans were." Given the bouncing atmosphere at Rochdale – former Celtic player Craig Burley told ESPN it was the best he'd experienced in years – it comes as no surprise that some people lost the contents of their pockets. After the match, when the FC forward, Jerome Wright, was asked by Norwegian television reporters what he thought of the club's fans, he turned the cameras on to a mass of jubilant teenagers and gave them the microphone, saying: "Give them a song." The implication was: "This lot can speak for themselves."

Or sing for themselves. Liberated from the stifling constraints of all-seater stadiums where groups of friends can rarely watch the match together – assuming they can afford to get in – FC fans have collectively found an anarchic joie de vivre that has inspired a succession of YouTube hits.

Their songs mix the defiant, the surreal and the simply comic. Some are Manchester United classics, sung to reaffirm a connection that for 99% of FC fans will never go away. Others are new, conceived by a hardcore of fans reared on the biggest matches in the biggest stadiums in Europe, and belted out at non-league grounds around northern England.

The Sex Pistols are reworked in "I Am an FC fan" to the tune of "Anarchy in the UK", in which a political manifesto is laid out at deafening volume: "I am an FC fan/I am Mancunian/I know what I want/And I know how to get it/I want to destroy Glazer and Sky/Cos I wanna be at FC".

In honour of new rivalries and one old one, the first season saw a lively reworking of a traditional supporter's favourite to the tune of "Land and Hope and Glory": "We hate Blackpool Mechanics/We hate Cheadle Town, too/We hate Manchester City/But United we love you." The club's first goalkeeper, the supermarket checkout worker Barrie George, was offered his own hymn of solidarity after his name attracted the crowd's attention: "Free Barrie George!/He wants the world to know/He didn't kill Dando!"

The Beach Boys ("Sloop John B") and the Carpenters have been adopted for cover versions, the latter taking off during a prestige friendly last season against the German fan-owned club St Pauli. For half an hour after that game – in the by-now deserted ground – the 300 or so fans perched in the highest section of a stand sang out the chorus: "I'm on top of the world, lookin' down on creation/And the only explanation I can find/Is the love that I've found, ever since you've been around/Your love's put me at the top of the world".

The mood created is quite intoxicatingly upbeat. A few days after the famous victory, Karl Marginson, the team coach, was still struggling to come down from the high. Marginson is a former player in the lower leagues who then became a fruit and veg delivery man ("We've got Margy with his fruit and veg van," sing the fans). "There is unbelievable positivity coming off those stands," he tells me. "At other clubs, people cheer when teams win and boo when they lose. FC fans don't boo. The atmosphere reminds me of how Old Trafford was when I used to go in the 1970s. It's got that sense of togetherness that there used to be when lads used to go and stand together on the terraces."

The sense of solidarity in the stands feeds into a commitment to the wider community. All of FC's players have visited schools around Manchester, training youngsters in the poorest areas of the city. Marginson in particular, say all associated with the club, "gets" the FC message. "Kids respond if you take the time to understand them a bit," he says. "I tell them to treat each other like they're in a dressing room. They need to look after each other and stick together."

The club's wiry grey-haired general manager, Andy Walsh, laughs at the mention of the songs: "It makes me laugh when people ask me, mystified, 'What's that Carpenters song all about?' I tell them: 'Think about it. It's a love song!' It's the spirit that comes from empowerment. The bedrock of this club is the constitution that gives each member one vote. And the most important thing about Friday night [against Rochdale in the FA Cup] is not the money, although that's certainly useful. It's the message that was given out on live television: that in football it's the ordinary fans and how they want things to be that matters more than anything else."

Walsh went to his first Manchester United match at the age of five in 1967. A former IT worker, he was pivotal in the successful campaign to stop Rupert Murdoch taking over Old Trafford in 1998. But in the late summer of 2005, after the Glazer takeover, he sat in his car outside Old Trafford for what seemed like an age, turning a letter over in his hands. "It was a request to withdraw my season ticket," he said. "Even after I posted it, I didn't know whether it felt right or not."

Discontent with the way United was being run had been growing for some time. In 1995 the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association (IMUSA) had been formed to represent fan's views in the wake of a Tannoy announcement during a crucial game ordering fans to sit down. It was an instruction that led to the immediate birth of the chant: "Stand up for the champions!" as the majority of spectators stood in protest. Stewarding became increasingly heavy-handed. The Stretford End, the famous former terrace and locus of United's most passionate supporters, was renamed the West Stand and its first tier filled with executive seats. A generation of fans felt that the whole experience of attending football matches was being transformed, and not for the better. For a younger generation, the escalating price of tickets meant that going to the match increasingly signified going to the nearest pub that carried games on Sky television. For the rebels, FC were to be the antidote to "modern" football (ticket prices today are £8 for adults, £5 for over-60s and £2 for under-18s).

According to Walsh, the late 1990s battle against Murdoch, which led to the BSkyB bid for United being blocked by then Labour minister Stephen Byers on competition grounds, provided the future founders of FC with an invaluable political education before the big leap into the unknown. By the time the Glazers took over, a significant cadre of United supporters, the majority involved in the club's influential fanzines, Red Issue and United We Stand, were ready for what was described as "the nuclear option" – the formation of a breakaway club. FC United was the provisional name. Rejected as too generic by the Northwest Counties league, which the new club was applying to join, the membership eventually settled on FC United of Manchester. A revolution conceived in FC's "Granita" moment – a Red Issue curry night in the Barbar restaurant in Rusholme – became a reality. In three years, backed by record-breaking crowds in excess of 2,000, FC achieved three successive promotions. From their vantage points in the raucous stands in Bury, FC fans "looked down on creation".

Five years on from year ZERO, not everyone wants to sing the Carpenters with FC. At the White Lion pub on Liverpool Road, the day after the FA Cup triumph, a packed pub was watching "Big United" struggle to overcome lowly Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier league. This was the pub chosen by Ken Loach for a scene in his film Looking for Eric, the story of a down-on-his-luck postman who forms an imaginary relationship with Eric Cantona, the undisputed hero of United's recent past. In the film, as a group of United fans gather to watch an important European midweek game on the pub screens, an argument breaks out between an FC fan and his mates, who accuse him of betraying the United cause. When he storms out of the pub, they cheer a nonexistent goal, leading their victim to dash back in, shouting: "Who scored?" to general laughter.

In real life, United – like FC the night before– grab an injury-time winner against Wolves. A group of men start directing jibes at FC. The general theme is: "There's only one United, right or wrong. You have nothing to do with United." Leaving after the match, a stocky man who says he has fought for United "all over Europe" and gone to jail abroad on their account, stops for a word. Earlier he told me that his son, a marine, follows the breakaway club. Now he says matter-of-factly: "I have to tell you that I will always consider you a bunch of traitors. You split us. And I will never be able to forgive you for that. That's the truth."

Such arguments have gone on since the inception of FC, across pubs and workplaces in Manchester, when friendships were broken and brief attempts were made by a small group of United diehards to stop fans going to Gigg Lane. But according to almost everyone I speak to, the tension now is much less than it used to be. On the Manchester United supporters' websites, the tales are legion of non-FC United fans who found themselves celebrating wildly when Norton's clinching goal put FC in the second round of the Cup. "There's a groundshift in opinion," says general manager Andy Walsh. "The recent 'Rooney saga' was a tipping point for many. And after the numerous ownership sagas, at Liverpool for instance, the club's ideas are gaining traction. After Rochdale, I got a message from a Red Issue stalwart who had not previously been supportive: 'You're idealists,' it said. 'But the people who established Newton Heath in 1878 had ideals. They didn't know where it was going to go. Hats off to you.'"

It is in Newton Heath, within view of the vast Eastlands stadium where Sheikh Mansour's multimillion-pound signings play in a different world, that FC fans hope the next phase in this football insurgency will take place. On 25 November, a few days before their second-round FA Cup tie, the club hope to be given the final go-ahead by Manchester City Council to build a 5,000-capacity stadium in an area that was a hub of the Industrial Revolution, but which now ranks among the most deprived inner-city areas in the country. At present the club pay a rent of £5,000 per match to play at Gigg Lane in Bury, a 30-minute tram ride from Manchester.

The proposed move is pregnant with footballing symbolism. The Newton Heath Lancashire and Yorkshire Railwaymen Football Club was formed here in 1878, moving across the city to Clayton in 1893 and renaming itself Manchester United in 1902. Untroubled by tourists, the streets of a modest council estate are named after the lost Busby Babes, the eight United greats who died in February 1958, when the team plane crashed on take-off at Munich airport. But after the songs, sentiment, colour, pride and energy of the past five years, this is where the revolution gets technical.

In negotiation with the council, the FC board of directors have agreed that through a "community share issue" (CSI) the club will raise £1.5m towards the cost of developing the crumbling Ten Acres Lane sports site, which currently boasts a dilapidated all-weather pitch and a modest sports centre. The CSI will allow fans and investors – who must become members – to buy a minimum of £200 of shares in the club and a maximum of £20,000. The money cannot be withdrawn for three years, after which it is hoped that an interest rate of 2% above the bank base rate will be paid on the investment.

An "asset lock" will ensure that the stadium and its facilities – including an artificial pitch, function rooms, a clubhouse bar and a regenerated sports centre – cannot be used for anything other than the benefit of the local community. In addition, the club have guaranteed to find £500,000 from their development fund, raised through donations collected by the 300 volunteers who keep it going. The fund total already stands at £300,000. If FC can raise the £1.5m, the council will play its part by offering a peppercorn rent and a lump sum to eventually be repaid with interest.

Nothing like this has ever been attempted by an English club. "The idea of FC United – its ideals and vision of community – needs a home," says Adam Brown, one of the club's founding board members. "We can be a catalyst here for other things to happen. We already do loads of work in communities, but it's important to have a base. What we hope is that ethical investors who like what we're doing will put the money in."

Call it punk football, DIY football or just old-fashioned community values, reasserted after a close encounter with a carpet bagger from Florida. Whatever it is, it's happening in Manchester. Inevitably there is already a song for the new ground, sung to the tune of Ewan McColl's "Dirty Old Town": "We'll build our ground at Ten Acres Lane/We'll lay the pitch by the old canal/We'll live the dream down in Newton Heath/We're gonna build our own ground/We're gonna build our own ground".

To find out more about the FCUM Community Share Scheme and to see plans for Ten Acres Lane, visit

Thursday, November 18, 2010

This badge is your badge, this badge is my badge

 Andy Hudson describes the joys of following a community, co-operative football club - and travels with FC United of Manchester fans to experience one of the greatest nights in their short history:

A curry house in Rusholme sounds an unlikely setting for a revolution, but over chapattis came final consensus that modern football was out of touch with its fans. The story of what happened in 2005 when Malcolm Glazer knocked on the door of Old Trafford and demanded the richest club in the world be saddled with huge debts has been well documented, especially during the week that FC United of Manchester introduced themselves to the nation by defeating Rochdale, who currently play a whole four divisions above them, live on TV in the FA Cup. Suddenly the media and football fans were either queuing up to love them or lining up to run them down.

We live in a time where football fans have less say than ever in how their football club is managed but over in Manchester it is the fans of FC United that make their own decisions. All members have an equal say in what happens and if they don't agree then they will display that first through debate and then through a 'one member one vote' system.

The decision to move the Rochdale game for television caused debate across the members' base - many were in favour of the move while there were those who refused to attend due to the change from a 3pm kick-off on Saturday. For a club that sinks every spare penny they have into the development fund for their new stadium, the £67,500 TV money makes a significant contribution towards running costs after yearly losses. Make no mistake, FC United are far from flush with money, and still refuse to consider a shirt sponsor. Being without their own ground brings many problems, such as paying rent to Bury FC for the use of Gigg Lane and fixture clashes with their landlords resulting in home games already having to be moved to other dates. Agreeing to move a game so that it can be televised on a Friday night, 5 miles from where they usually play, is different to a forced change when the game is in London for example; something that fans of 'big' clubs have experienced on a regular basis in the past.

Where FCUM really lead the way in how football clubs conduct themselves is through their community schemes. The club is a co-operative and their groundbreaking initiative to raise funds for the stadium development at Ten Acres Lane, Newton Heath offers fans a chance to buy community shares and own a part of their community's regeneration. As General Manager Andy Walsh stated, "This is a landmark opportunity to invest in a club bringing football back to the heart of its communities and leave a lasting legacy for future generations". Newton Heath suffers from a number of problems, such as education, skills and employment issues, activity provision and crime. Football can play a role within communities as part of a broader regeneration strategy and FCUM have prioritised developing projects with socially excluded young people, providing positive and healthy activities and providing education and skills development. FC Community Coach Steve Bennett explains that "working within the community of Manchester is an integral part of the work that FC provides. We work in inner city schools with every age group and support multi-sports, nutrition and out of school activities. FC encourage parents to bring their children to the games and we often put transport on to get them to Bury, in the hope that when the move is made to Newton Heath there is a strong fan-base of young kids."

FCUM were one of the first clubs in the country to offer a pay-what-you-can-afford season ticket, which raised more money than charging a set price the previous season, and as part of the TV agreement with Rochdale they managed to agree on a reduced ticket price for the match so that attendance was more affordable to both sets of fans.

The fans actively participate in anti-racism projects and are one of the few teams to be invited to play in the annual Antira football tournament, organised by the fans of the German club FC St Pauli, where anti-fascist and anti-racism ideas are discussed and networks and friendships forged with fans from teams such as Sampdoria, FC Winterthur and Fortuna Düsseldorf. To many FCUM fans the politics are of utmost importance, this being a club that for some time have actively encouraged gay and unwaged supporters to attend their matches.

Under the direction of Robin Pye, FCUM have recently launched a 16 week apprentice scheme aimed at 16-19 year olds, of either gender, who are out of employment and not in further education. The focus is not on personal football ability but on developing skills that one can use on a personal level and within the community. There are a number of FCUM volunteers working on their coaching badges, which the apprentices will also work towards, and sessions are regularly arranged for kids across all areas of Manchester. Manager Karl Maginson, who sold asparagus as a fruit and veg man when he first became manager of FCUM, now spends his week travelling around Manchester with Roy Soule, another member of the FC management team, coaching in schools, youth offenders institutes and prisons as two of ten community coaches who also run FC's Community Sports Leaders Award.

This volunteer sense strongly prevails at FCUM. Not only do members help out on match days but you'll often find the office staffed by folk doing a few hours of work here and there. It was estimated that 200 volunteer hours managed to get FCUM Radio ( on-air during October 2010 and along with live radio commentary of every match there is also streamed 'television' coverage available online.

The atmosphere so loved by the watching television audience for the Rochdale match wasn't a show for the cameras. Karl Marginson once described FCUM as a 90/90 club, where "90% of the fans sing for 90 minutes". I've been to the glamour grounds of Rochdale, FC St Pauli and Ramsbottom United and Margy is wrong: it's more like 99% of the fans singing for over 90 minutes. Before the teams make their way out for kick-off there's the chant of "bring on United" which reaches a crescendo just as the teams emerge from the tunnel. The noise then continues unabated for the rest of the match. The difference between attending a Premier League match and going to watch FCUM is simple: the atmosphere is vastly improved watching FC; whereas most Premier League grounds struggle to produce 6 different songs during a match, you are likely to witness over 15 at FC; and you get flags at FC. Lots of them. For those with any experience of German football, the fan culture is more aligned to our Teutonic cousins than to our fellow countrymen.

And what specifically of that Rochdale match? I joined the Stockport branch for the day, meeting up at a pub for a 5.30pm coach departure time. I arrived at 2pm expecting the pub to be quiet. Giddiness had gotten the better of some of the members (I mean when was the last time you were able to watch the team you co-own make their FA Cup First Round debut?) who were already flowing with beer. A packed pub then embarked on a slow coach journey, Manchester's traffic allowing us to progress at a speed similar to that of the Cup winners on their open-top bus trip in May, before ditching us outside of Spotland and the Krypton Factor like challenge of getting served inside the Church Pub, just along from the Willbutts Lane stand which had been given over in it's entirety to FC for the evening.

Standing just to the right of the ESPN commentary team, Jon Champion (who had made a special appearance on the live FCUM Radio commentary the week before against Ossett Town) and Craig Burley (who had been making a brew for the FCUM Radio team prior to kick-off), at the back of the stand I witnessed a tornado of red, black and white cascade down below me. The night was freezing and the steam rising from 3,200 voices singing in unison could have powered Stephenson's Rocket to far flung destinations such as Vancouver and Sydney where official supporters' clubs were watching live. Nicky Platt scored just before half-time and the guy in-front had me in a massive bear hug. Jake Cottrell scored a tremendous goal just after half-time, a goal that would be analysed over-and-over again if it were scored in the Premier League, and the noise volume of the crowd seemed to double. Whereas most fans would be subdued if their team were then pegged back to 2-2, the Punk Football that The Red Rebels sing about was displayed; defiance, a "you've equalised, so what?" attitude prevalent and the singing continued. And then there was Mike Norton bundling the ball from the 'keeper to score with seconds left. Voices eventually started to crack; throats would be sore.

FCUM will play Brighton & Hove Albion in the FA Cup Second Round. Many FC fans immediately cast their mind back to the 1983 FA Cup Final. That year they supported the overwhelming favourites; this year they support the overwhelming underdogs. Steve Bennett, who is also the radio commentator for FC told me, "I fond memories of that game as it is my first FA Cup memory, but now we are FC United of Manchester. The spirit and camaraderie between the two groups of fans is already apparent as a number of Brighton fans have been up to FC. This is an opportunity to express ourselves and show that community, co-operative football is the way forward. We're still on a high after beating Rochdale and the management of FC will be going into the game feeling they can win. From the fans perspective it's all about the weekend, meeting new fans and flying the flag for co-operative football clubs. The more we can achieve the better it will be for the co-operative movement within football."

The FA Cup party continues but the real one began over 5 years ago when these fans started something that every football fan wants: a club that appreciates their love.

Stowaways, Viz and 100 signed Andy Cole posters

 Source: FourFourTwo (Andy Mitten)

 FC United of Manchester did well to reach the FA Cup first round by knocking out a Barrow side two divisions above them.

Financially and geographically, the draw was kind: Rochdale away. FC quickly sold out their 3,200 £12 tickets for Spotland and the ESPN television money of £67,500 came at the right time for a club planning to move to their own ground in Newton Heath.

I expected FC to enjoy the occasion, but get battered by Rochdale’s best side for years.

Among United fans, I’ve got friends who loathe FC and friends who go to every FC game. Plenty are somewhere in between. Some argue about FC day after day and have done for five years. It’s all wrapped up in the bigger argument about the Glazers’ ownership of United. They’ll probably never stop, the same arguments involving the same people going round in circles: passionate, angry and entrenched views.

Nobody can deny how well FC have done in this season’s FA Cup. Spotland was bouncing, FC’s last minute 3-2 victory the shock of the first round. The away end smelt of beer, cannabis and the sulphur from flares.

Under Spotland’s bright lights, it was perfect for a big cup match. FC’s victory was a reward for a lot of people who’ve put time and energy into the club, but their biggest challenge remains raising funds for their new home. They’ve drawn Brighton away in the next round, a tough prospect given the Seagulls current sit top of League One.

A more sterile atmosphere was to be found for Wolves at Old Trafford the following day. We had the 200th issue of United We Stand on sale, 21 years after we started. Manchester even stayed dry and sunny, which always helps when you’re selling.

Inclement weather affected plans the next day. I intended to climb some Lakeland fells, but snow and gales kept us below 1,500 feet and drove us into Ambleside and Stuart Clarke’s magnificent Homes of Football exhibition. Stuart’s a fine photographer – as is shown in the latest FourFourTwo.

Wednesday saw a much-hyped Manchester derby. I sat in the City end to write a newspaper piece about being a Red surrounded by Blues. The fans around me were good humoured but tense. They feared – and I hoped – for another injury time United winner. I’m not sure I could manage to be so genial if I had to watch the turgid negativity they are regularly served up at home.

Thursday brought an interview with midfielder Tom Cleverley in Altrincham. He’d played well for Wigan against Liverpool the night before and Alex Ferguson has said that he’ll bring him back from his loan spell in January. I saw his United debut goal in South Africa in 2008 before he was sent on loan to Leicester and Watford, where he was player of the season last year.

An England Under-21 regular, he’s a down-to-earth lad from a good family. He’s versatile, but prefers to play as an attacking midfielder. His nickname is ‘Chunks.’ That’s nothing to do with him being chunky, but because he when he was a young player at United he could not say ‘Tr’ properly. So swimming trunks became ‘chunks’ and so did Cleverley.

From there, it was time to do a book signing for the Rough Guide to Cult Football with Andrew Cole at the Trafford Centre. Sky Sports came along to film, together with all kinds of readers. Like the bloke who turns up with a hundred posters whenever I do a signing with a player. Cole was polite but firm.

“I’m signing three and that’s your lot,” he said. The man begged for more. Cole rightly glared at him and repeated “No.” Why does someone need 100 posters, unless they plan to sell them?

I went for dinner with Andrew after and talked about his future. He’d been a guest on MotD and has received some decent offers, for work with his boots on and off. I’m not surprised - he’s made the right impression with those he’s worked with since retiring from playing two years ago.

The week ended with a trip to Carrington to interview Michael Carrick for UWS. As a journalist, you spend a lot of time waiting around for footballers, so it was a surprise to get at call at two minutes to twelve from United. I was due to meet him at 12.

“Michael’s waiting, where are you?” asked the official.

Carrick was sitting in his club tracksuit ahead of a bus trip to Birmingham. He was pleasant and spoke for longer than we agreed. His favourite cartoon character is Viz’s Sid The Sexist.

I went down to Villa Park myself the following day on what’s affectionately known as ‘the monkey bus’, possibly because of the calibre of passengers it attracts.

A disparate group were on board. One was reading The Economist while another tried to climb fully into the overhead locker for a laugh. Like you do. He’d squeezed into the ten inch gap before, but couldn’t get his legs in this time, despite people pushing him (see below). He cursed his misfortune, much like my brother did later in the afternoon.

He’s 34 in a few weeks and carrying several injuries. Assistant manager at Irlam, a team based to the west of Manchester between the M62 and the Ship Canal, he came on as an 81st minute sub with his team 3-1 down in an FA Vase second round game against the gloriously named Norton & Stockton Ancients from near Middlesbrough.

As well as getting involved with a scuffle with their centre half which saw the player dismissed and my brother’s face badly bruised, he scored twice in four minutes to make it 3-3. As they pushed for the winner, the home team counter-attacked and scored to make it 4-3.

The poor lad was floored, his dreams of reaching Wembley as a player over forever. FC’s, meanwhile, remain very much alive.

Clinging on and on the way up: A tale of two fan clubs

 Source: Independent

 Both run by supporters but with wildly differing results on and off the field, Ebbsfleet and AFC Wimbledon meet in the FA Cup tonight. Glenn Moore looks at two new-model outfits.

To own your own club is the dream of many a football fan, but unless you are a petrodollar billionaire, or business tycoon, the options appear to be limited. It is not, however, impossible and tonight two very different fan-ownership models take centre stage in the FA Cup.

The ESPN cameras are at Stonebridge Road, the unprepossessing north Kent home of Ebbsfleet United, for the visit of AFC Wimbledon. At stake is a place in the second round, and an unglamorous, if winnable, home tie against Stevenage, but there is a bigger picture.

AFC are the club created by Wimbledon fans after the Football Association allowed the original club to be transplanted to Milton Keynes eight years ago. Most supporters were hugely relieved when Stevenage defeated MK Dons on penalties in a first-round replay on Tuesday as they felt a meeting between the two "Dons" would "legitimise" the League One club.

Ebbsfleet United, who changed their name from Gravesend & Northfleet in honour of the Eurostar terminal three years ago, are the club bought by ground-breaking internet venture MyFootballClub in January 2008. The 30,000-plus subscribers were told they would be selecting the team in a real-life version of the computer game Football Manager.

AFC Wimbledon are football's fairy tale. They began in the Combined Counties League with a team picked from public trials on Wimbledon Common. Four promotions in seven seasons later they lead the Blue Square (Conference) Premier, own a 6,000-capacity stadium in Kingston, south-west London, and have designs on building a 20,000-arena back in their old borough of Merton. The club is wholly owned by a supporters' trust and attendances average around 3,500, higher than some of the gates the original club achieved when winning promotion to the old First Division under Dave Bassett in 1986.

The MyFootballClub experience has been more chastening. The non-profit-making Industrial & Provident society bought 75 per cent of Ebbsfleet amid a blaze of publicity, much of it based on the prospect of picking the team via web broadcasts of matches and training sessions.

An initial 27,500 fans paid £35 to join, rising to 30,000-plus the following May as Ebbsfleet lifted the FA Trophy at Wembley. However, while members were able to vote on ticket prices and kit design, team selection remained the province of the manager, Liam Daish. Members were asked to vote on whether to sell striker John Akinde to Bristol City for £150,000 in August 2008 but recruitment, and most transfers out, remained in Daish's hands.

Unsurprisingly, many members did not renew. Membership tumbled to below 10,000 after a year and is now around 3,500. With subscriptions a key source of income the squad suffered and in May Ebbsfleet were relegated from the Blue Square Premier. They now sit just outside the play-off places in the Blue Square South, with average gates below 1,000. Plans for a new ground are on indefinite hold; instead they remain at the council-owned Stonebridge Road, much of which looks as if it has not changed since Wimbledon first visited in the Southern League 45 years ago. Tonight's tie provides a welcome boost, both in terms of profile and finance.

How serious the club's problems had become are evident when the current chairman, Phil Sonsara, says: "At the start of the season the most important thing was that Ebbsfleet United still had a club at the end of the season."

Sonsara is The Fleet's fourth chairman since MyFC's takeover. Unusually in football, the manager has survived while his chairmen have changed. A Tottenham season-ticket holder, Sonsara was in the first wave of members. He had no previous links with the club but did have financial expertise, being an accountant, and time – he had quit his job and is separated without children. A year ago he offered his services, and now finds himself trying to emulate Spurs chairman Daniel Levy's ability to produce a balanced budget.

"Spurs make money, which is unusual in football, but it shows it can be done. My aim is to make the club self-financing so any income from MyFC can be ploughed into better facilities to support the club's long term."

There are those, including ex-secretary and former director Roly Edwards, who feel the MyFC concept is, as he told the BBC, "damaging the club", but Sonsara puts up a strong defence.

"The fans are not as directly involved [as some expected] but I have met supporters from all over the world who come to matches to be a part of it. At the first FA Cup tie [12 days ago] with AFC Wimbledon there were two from the New York area, I've met fans from Germany, Holland, Norway and so on. Many people thought membership would settle down to be 2,000-3,000. At £50 a head that is still £100,000-£150,000, which is significant at this level.

"As for picking the team, I was involved at the very beginning and I never thought I should pick the team. We appoint a manager, we should let him get on with the job. I have ideas on tactics and players but even in my position I don't watch enough training sessions or matches to pick the team."

The membership has had the chance to vote for the right to pick the team, and always rejected it. Last month, however, a vote was passed to have the final say on transfer acquisitions. MyFC thought this would increase membership but Daish expressed concern and Ebbsfleet's secretary threatened to resign. As only 132 members voted, with 80 in favour, there has since been some backtracking. It now appears members will only be able to vote on transfers made with extra cash from outside the season's budget.

They may soon be poring over the website as Fleet have made £65,000 in TV payments and prize money from their Cup run so far.-Winning the replay would be worth another £90,000. Not that Sonsara intends to splash it all on a centre-forward. "It's important we are responsible about that and don't put it all into the playing budget," he said.

It doesn't sound very romantic, but running football clubs is not very romantic. FC United of Manchester rather contradicted their founding principles to accept Friday night television coverage of their first-round tie because they needed the cash. Football clubs always do. As I speak to Sonsara the ground is being readied for the TV cameras, mainly by volunteers. "There's Chris Pilkinton," says Sonsara, who himself works gratis. "Chris has been a fan of the club for years. He's been cutting ivy, now he's doing some electrical work, next he'll be ironing our new shirt-back sponsor's logo on. We couldn't survive without volunteers."

Like Ebbsfleet, AFC Wimbledon rely on a lot of unpaid labour, but such is the passion this phoenix club invokes there are 250 regular volunteers ("I wish I had 50," said Sonsara enviously). Like Ebbsfleet the AFC chairman is a financially literate professional with time to spare. Erik Samuelson is a former partner of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, now retired, with his children grown up. He is paid a guinea a year, which he does not take.

"People want to be involved with the club. It is very social," he said. Samuelson added: "Our structure means we cannot be bought, moved or sold by anyone without a significant majority of the membership agreeing.

"There are immense challenges around funding but unlike a lot of trust-run clubs we were able to start with a clean slate. We were not rescuing a club with massive debts."

MyFC were – Ebbsfleet approached them – and have found it hard going. Tonight, however, both clubs can enjoy the sort of evening in the spotlight that sustains all those volunteers and long-distance internet fans through the hard grind of non-League budget balancing. And when it is over the fans can celebrate that it was their club which won or lost, not one owned by a porn baron, transatlantic property developer or shady financier.

How the clubs compare
Ebbsfleet United/AFC Wimbledon
Gravesend & Northfleet Original name Wimbledon Old Central FC
1946 Founded 1889
2007 Reformed 2002
7th in Conference South (6th tier of English football) League position 1st in Conference National (5th tier of English football)
Stonebridge Road (5,011, 500 seated) Ground capacity Kingsmeadow (4,722, 1,265 seated)
950 Average attendance 3,400
Stonebridge Road pitch Train at King's College Sports Grounds
Clubhouse bar for home fans Ground facilities Large rooms holding weddings/parties/comedy nights
Eurostar Sponsor Sports Interactive
3,500 (paying £50-£100 per year) Number of members/Trustees 1,800 (£25 per year)
£11 Adult ticket prices £14 to stand, £16-18 to sit
Michael Gash, £20,000 (from Cambridge City, 2008) Record signing Jon Main, undisc (Tonbridge Angels, 2007)
£189-£210 Adult season ticket price £240-£340
4th Round, 1963 (as Gravesend & Northfleet) Best FA Cup finish 1988 Winners (as Wimbledon) 1st round for past three seasons

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bay kick off crucial month with important win

 Source: North Wales Pioneer

 Published date: 17 November 2010 | Published by: Aaron Haley

COLWYN BAY’S early season promotion hopes were given a huge boost by beating title hopefuls Buxton 2-1 at the weekend.

John Newby was again the deciding factor, slotting home an 80th minute penalty to take all three points.

The win puts the Bay fourth in the table, having claimed 30 points from their opening 17 games, and are now just six points off top team Halifax Town.

Seagulls manager Dave Challinor was delighted with the vital victory, which kicks off a tough run of matches which look likely to shape this season’s fortunes.

"It was a massive win for us and I was delighted with the performance and particularly our work rate,” he said.

“It was the start of three huge games which we feel will go a long way to deciding whether or not we are going be up there or there about at Christmas."

Player-manager Challinor also hopes he has cracked the conundrum of his side’s patchy home form, with a 5-3-2 formation forcing opponents to play to the Bay’s strength, allowing a back three of Danny Grannon, Joe McMahon and himself to repel visiting attacks.

“Obviously our home form has not been as good as when we are away, but that has something to do with the way teams are line up against us at home, so we believed If we can put pressure on teams and force them to play long then myself, Danny and Joe can clean things up at the back all day.

Challinor’s new-look line-up again paid off, with his charges putting in an up-tempo display to enjoy the best of the play, creating a number of chances and restricting their second placed opponents for most of the game.

After a goaless first half, the Seagulls took the lead on 57 minutes when Danny Grannon capitalised on Buxton’s inability to clear from a corner, heading home Karl Noon’s cross.

But the lead lasted just four minutes, with Mark Read finding space to head home.

The introduction of Gareth Evans for Mick McGraa gave some impetus to the Bay attack, and the sub was brought down by Buxton captain Gregg Anderson ten minutes from time to give Newby his match winning chance from the spot.

Last night (Tuesday), the Bay welcomed FC United of Manchester to Llanelian Road, while on Saturday, they travel to Matlock Town (KO 3pm).

FC United face Brighton in FA Cup second round

 Source: MEN

 FC United will travel to Brighton in the second round of the FA Cup after the Seagulls defeated Woking on penalties on Tuesday night.

The Rebels earned their place in round two with a memorable victory over Rochdale and must now conquer League One opposition again for a potential glamour tie in round three.

Meanwhile, FC United are cashing in on interest generated by their FA Cup heroics as fans flock to support the club's ground-breaking community share scheme aimed at raising £1.5m of the £3.5m needed to pay for a proposed new 5,000-capacity stadium in Newton Heath.

The Evo-Stik Premier outfit, who banked £113,000 in prizemoney and TV revenue from their record-breaking run to the second-round, have announced that investment in the shares has already topped £500,000 – just six weeks since the scheme was launched.

FC’s general manager Andy Walsh said: “We’re delighted with the response to the share issue, which is attracting both ordinary fans and wealthy investors alike.”

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Colwyn Bay FC v FC United

 Source: Daily Post, North Wales

 COLWYN Bay will bid to enhance their top four status with a second home win in four days when they take on FC United at Llanelian Road tonight (7.45pm).

Victory could even lift Colwyn Bay into second place on their own if Northwich fail to win at Marine, but player-boss Dave Challinor is not underestimating the task his side face.

And he will again be looking for the same high level of performance and workrate that the players showed in last Saturday’s win against second-placed Buxton.

FC United, who are just one tie away from going into the hat with the Premier League big guns for the third round draw of the FA Cup, have just had an impressive seven-match winning run, including an FA Cup success at Rochdale, ended by last Saturday’s 1-0 league defeat at Northwich Victoria.

They will be keen to bounce back from that tonight, but they were somewhat fortunate to beat Colwyn Bay at Gigg Lane in the FA Trophy recently and Seagulls fans will be hoping their side can avenge that result tonight.

Colwyn Bay will need a late check on midfielder Mick McGraa who aggravated an ankle injury last Saturday, but the player-boss expects to have everyone available and says players on the bench will play a key role later in the game.

FC United are still without first choice keeper Zach Hibbert (broken nose), but are expected to include most of the players who won at Rochdale.

These include Jake Cottrell, who is one of five players shortlisted for the FA Cup Player of the Round award which is due to be announced next Monday.

FC United share issue boost

 Source: MEN

 November 16, 2010

 FC United are cashing in on interest generated by their FA Cup heroics as fans flock to support the club's ground-breaking community share scheme aimed at raising £1.5m of the £3.5m needed to pay for a proposed new 5,000-capacity stadium in Newton Heath.

The Evo-Stik Premier outfit, who banked £113,000 in prizemoney and TV revenue from their record-breaking run to the second-round, today announced that investment in the shares has already topped £500,000 – just six weeks since the scheme was launched.

FC’s general manager Andy Walsh said: “We’re delighted with the response to the share issue, which is attracting both ordinary fans and wealthy investors alike.”

FC United visit Colwyn Bay tonight.

Meanwhile, tonight’s also a big night for Manchester's other semi-pro Cup glory-hunters, Dave Pace’s Droylsden.

The Bloods face a Blue Square Bet North derby date at Stalybridge Celtic.

Manchester approve plans for FC United stadium


 James Evison

 Manchester city council have approved plans to build a new stadium for FC United of Manchester - the controversial club created in the wake of Manchester United's takeover by the US-based Glazer family.

The non-league club, formed in 2005, have drawn up plans for a 3.5 million-pound, 5000-capacity stadium at the Ten Acre Lane sports centre in the city.

The club's business plan was approved by the council - who own the site - earlier this week, and will now go out for consultation with the local community.

General manager of the club, Andy Walsh, told the Press Association: 'The significance of this location is historical while it also showcases a new model of facility development, based on football supporter ownership and community involvement.'

FC United currently play home games at Bury's Gigg Lane ground. If the stadium is constructed, it could see action by as early as the start of the 2012-12 football season.