London Saints

FC United of Manchester

Friday night football over, Saturday is another day and, of course, another game. Most intriguing in the area was a National League North match at F.C. United of Manchester, the club formed in 2005 by disaffected fans who used to sing that “there’s only one United.” I’ve not really seen the point of this venture as there are three Football League clubs in Greater Manchester who would have welcomed an influx of support, and Non-League has always been there too – indeed the region’s ‘senior’ N-L clubs (Altrincham, Stockport, Hyde, Droyslden, Stalybridge) have all seen a sort of decline, sometimes spectacular, since the formation of what they call FCUM, an acronym which just seems wrong for so many hard to define reasons. But there’s a lot to be said in favour of FCUM: they have a fan base and facilities the envy of most at National League level, all owned by the supporters’ co-operative, and it’s clear that the enterprise has its followers, not just the owners, at the heart of what they do. That’s mainly the match day experience which can start outside the nearest metro stop, and the Railway Hotel – they’ve persuaded the brewery (Holts) to sponsor a free half-hourly bus from the pub to the ground. I was surprised how soon people started taking the bus, but they were off to experience the best bit of the Broadhurst Park stadium – a pop-up bar that is a mixture of German beer hall and make-do-and-mend furniture, and running the full length of the space under the raised terracing. Bottled beer only, but at an attractive ?2.70 for a half litre, and of good quality as all were brewed by Holts, again; you rather expected Holts to be shirt sponsors as well, but FCUM don’t do sponsorship. The booze put the punters in good voice for a fine pre-match rendition of the club’s song, Ewan McColl’s Dirty Old Town, that didn’t need any encouragement from the tannoys – compare and contrast with the highly orchestrated You’ll Never Walk Alone at Anfield. The game itself was an unmemorable 1-1- draw against Worcester City with┬áthe home goal coming from their best player, a chunky centre forward who was definitely more Tommy Taylor than Zlatan Ibrahimovic. So where will it all end? In tears, probably, as there is unlikely to be another generation upset by the Glazers at Old Trafford, and in my view FCUM missed a great chance to establish a local connection when they decided against a return to MUFC’s original name of Newton Heath when they established their new ground on the very edge of the borough. If you’re not United, would you really feel welcome at FCUM, and if you are that unfortunate, wouldn’t you now stick with the real thing?

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