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Sunday 11th October 2015 ko 15.00

FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round


BUXTON 1 (Burrell 45) Belezika sent off 85 (2nd booking)

Att 2,357

Entry (all areas) £9

Programme £2

When you think about it, it is easy to protest, “I’m against…” or “I’m anti..” but far more difficult to actually do something concrete about it. In time I suspect the great achievement of FC United will be turning all that anger into something far more positive.

For the odd person who doesn’t yet know FC United were formed in 2005 by fans of Manchester United disgruntled at the take-over of the Old Trafford club by the Glazer family, and in more general terms by the commercialisation of the game. The idea was and still is to create a cooperative-style, non-profit organisation based on the principle of one-member, one vote.

My presence was because FC United have managed to do what no other fan-owned club in the UK have managed to do so far, and that’s to build their own stadium, the club moved into Broadhurst Park in Moston in May 2015. The stadium is just a mile or two from Newton Heath, where the original Manchester United were founded in 1878, and 3 miles from the Etihad Stadium, Manchester City’s home. That last fact was why the game took place on a Sunday, with the Etihad being used for a rugby match, restrictions on Broadhurst Park’s use saw the game moved.

The ground is clearly a work in progress, with the main (seated) stand only complete in the centre sections and two of the other sides featuring only covered flat standing. The vast majority of the fans stand on the terrace behind the goal. That is a piece of footballing recycling, the whole edifice saw service at Northwich Victoria’s former homes, the Drill Field and Victoria Stadium.

But to concentrate on the fabric of the place is to almost entirely miss the point of the place. The whole ethos is so obviously “by the fans, for the fans,” so when I asked for the correct turnstile, the friendly steward was a volunteer. It was a pattern that seemed to run throughout the whole club.

I don’t normally mention the catering, but it would be remiss of me to miss it here. You have a choice of a van outside the ground, a sausage sizzle in one corner inside, and the bar food at the back of the main stand. They all were excellent, both in terms of their value and quality. I’d go as far as to say that FC United are the club you make sure you haven’t eaten beforehand when you visit!

The FC Fans proved to the most interesting part of the visit. Some Manchester United fans still regard them as traitors, and the split personality still prevails. On one hand, they are obviously passionate about THEIR club, but on the other they still sing anti-Manchester City and anti-Leeds chants, clearly a nod back to their former selves. The excellent programme contained a piece on the Kaizer Chiefs clearly written from a Manchester United fan’s perspective.

The influence of clubs such as St Pauli and their left-wing fans is there too. There was a banner displayed protesting about a government minister visiting the ground during the previous week, and another stating “Tories- not on our pitch.” At the time I wondered how that could be enforced? Now as I type I do wonder whether those fans realise that the stadium is named after Edward Tootal Broadhurst who bequeathed the land the stadium lies on to Manchester Council in 1920 as thanks for the workers’ sacrifices during the First World War? Broadhurst also was president of the Prestwich Conservative Association. But banners in general are what the fans are good at, the displays are mighty impressive, although a working knowledge of the band “Joy Division” is handy!

It points to a club who’ve established both a home and an identity and what makes it all so fascinating is that both are still very much changing. Will the Manchester United roots gradually die off? Will the club attain Football League status? They’ve got the support, and the ground is clearly a League ground in waiting. Its all there, if the club and its member fans want it.

On the pitch the club are newly promoted to the second tier of non-league, the National League North, and this game saw them pitted up against Buxton, from the division they’d left the Northern Premier League- Premier Division. And throughout the game the difference in status was clear, with FC United maintaining a stranglehold on possession but time after time failing to convert the chances that game.

They were hit by the proverbial sucker-punch just before half-time and despite even more territorial superiority the chances were still being fluffed, but the relief when Tom Greaves slammed home the equaliser was obvious. Buxton’s Glenn Belezika saw red late on which should have seen the hosts force the win, but in the end the Buxton faithful with no doubt relish the replay at Silverlands and a bumper crowd.