Groundhopper: Malcolm Stephenson visits @FCUnitedMCR

FC United of Manchester 1 Buxton 1 (11/10/15)


Sundays are usually a day off from the Football where I either take the wife out or go and see ‘The Mutha’. A text from a fellow Blyth fan on the Saturday night changed all that within a second.

Due to the Rugby World cup and England thrashing Paraguay at The Manchester City stadium on Saturday the FC United of Manchester v Buxton clash was put back to the Sunday. It was a relatively straight drive down there to the Moston area of Manchester. Oldham Athletic and Manchester City are not too far from their ground. Car parking space is very limited at the ground but I managed to park up only about 5 minutes walk to the stadium.

I was actually surprised at how built up with houses the area was as I sort of expected it to be in the middle of nowhere as you tend to find many new grounds these days.

FC United of Manchester were formed in 2005 after a large number of Manchester Utd supporters were unhappy with the American takeover of their club. With no home of their own the club have been ground sharing at Bury’s Gigg lane as well as playing some games at Stalybridge Celtic and Curzon Ashton. It has taken the club 10 years of fund raising, planning permission and hard work to achieve what they have today. They started in the North West Counties league and had an average attendance of 3,056 that first season. Amazingly Karl Marginson has been manager of the club since the club started.

Oddly despite success on the field and three back to back promotions attendances steadily went down. By 2013 gates were ‘down’ to 1,835 although that sort of attendance many non league clubs would wish the same number as that attending thier matches. After several play-off attempts the club finally won promotion to the Conference North  and gates have shot up. The current average attendance is 3,347, the best ever for the club.

In the FA United have once reached the second round proper when they lost a replay at Home to Brighton. United had beat local ‘rivals’ Rochdale in the first round. Last season in the FA Trophy they had a good run and got to the 4th round when they were eventually beaten at Torquay.

There are two views of this club and its supporters by the media and possibly Manchester Utd supporters. One is that they are ‘traitors’. Even Sir Alex Ferguson had a dig at them in a book. Their motivation to form a new club and loyalty was questioned.

On the other hand you have to wonder why a large number of fans would want to go to these lengths to form a new club. There has to be something fundamentally wrong with Football somewhere along the line for supporters to say ‘enough is enough’. Maybe it is something to do with big American business men buying Manchester Utd and seeing it as a business proposition without even understanding the game itself? As one of the flags which adorned Broadhurst  said, “making friends not making money”.  Which to me symbolises so much of what the clubs stands for. The club is owned and democratically run by the supporters and aims to have links with the local community. A football club for the people ran by the people you could say.

I am biased and I favour the latter argument. These are supporters who love their football just a much as anyone else. Not once did they get on the teams back when they were losing this game. They create a good atmosphere at games and get behind their team like true football supporters no matter what is happening on the pitch.

The ground was not quite what I was expecting but good nevertheless. Behind one of the goals is a good large terrace and there are the seats and paddock area down all of one side. However behind the other goal and down all of one side it is just hard standing but covered. There is plenty of room behind the touchlines (approx20ft) and maybe in time as money allows these parts of the ground will be revamped at a later date. All around the ground, especially these latter two areas, were an array of FC United Manchester flags of all sizes. Their supporters certainly like their flags and I have never seen as many at a non league ground before. The only downside to the ground in my opinion was that the area below the terrace resemble a builders yard with the ground not cemented and several portaloo’s for the toilets. However I am sure this will be remedied in time and its more money required to be spent. I do not wish to sound critical as its still a great set up many non league clubs would die for.

The game kicked off against Buxton who are one league below FC Manchester and play in the Northern Premier league, Premier division. The first half was pretty uneventful with few real chances created by both sides. Probably against the run of play Buxton scored right on 45 minutes with a goal from Warren Burrell.

The second half livened up with FC United making constant attacks but it seemed Buxton were going to hold on for  victory. With about 11 minutes left FC United’s top scorer for the last two seasons, Tom Greaves, popped to equalise and save the day, for another day at least. On 85 minutes the visitors were reduced to 10 men when Glen Belezeka was sent off. It was real backs to the wall when Carl Taylor went off injured and Buxton had no one to bring on as they had used all their subs. They just about held out despite some near misses.

The whistle went and both teams will be now looking forward to the replay on Wednesday night. The winners will now be away to Sporting Khalsa or Spalding United in the 4th qualifying round.

Maybe one day I will be back here with Blyth Spartans. A great non league ground to visit and a set of passionate fans who just love the game.

Gate- £9






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