Welcome to volume two of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume one of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard


September 2015

Sunday, September 6, 2015

F.C. United of Manchester

F.C. United of Manchester is a non-league football club, which was set up by disenfranchised supporters of Manchester United protesting against the ownership of Malcolm Glazer on the 14th July 2005. FCUM is owned and democratically run by their supporters.

At the time of their formation following help from another fans owned club AFC Wimbledon, nearby non-league club Leigh RMI asked FC United to take them over as they were in financial troubles. The offer was kindly declined as the founders of the new club didn't feel that taking over an existing club was appropriate.

Karl Marginson was appointed as manager, and open trials were held soon after. By 8 July 2005, over 4,000 people had pledged money to FC United and the club had over £100,000 in the bank.

FC United were admitted to the second division of the North West Counties Football League and arranged a ground share with Bury at Gigg Lane. The first season was a great success as FC United stormed to promotion by collecting the league title in front of a league record gate of 6,023 for the visit of Great Harwood Town.

A second successive title came in the 2006-07 season and with it promotion to the Northern Premier League Division One North. The NWCFL's Challenge Cup was also lifted following victory over Curzon Ashton.

The 2007-08 season was one of consolidation in the league, although the NPL President’s Cup was collected after a 2-0 victory against Radcliffe Borough in the final. Promotion was won to the NPL top flight in 2009 via the play-offs. Bamber Bridge were beaten followed up by 4-1 win against Skelmersdale United.

The formidable Rory Patterson and fellow striker Stuart Rudd departed to join Bradford Park Avenue in the summer of 2008, to be replaced by the goals of Kyle Wilson. A couple of relatively disappointing seasons on the pitch came before FC United reached the play-offs again. Bradford Park Avenue were defeated in the semi-final, but Colwyn Bay ended the hopes of Conference North football by inflicting a 1-0 defeat.

In 2010 plans were unveiled for the club to build their own home stadium facility at the Ten Acres Sports Centre in Newton Heath, where Manchester United were originally formed. However Manchester City Council backed out from funding the stadium.

The club also gained national coverage in that seasons’ FA Cup. A fine run in the qualifying rounds led to a First Round appearance on live TV away to neighbours Rochdale. FC United won 3-2 at Spotland to send the travelling hordes wild with delight. Their reward was a tie away to Brighton & Hove Albion. ‘The Rebels’ managed a 1-1 draw at Withdean before the underdogs went down 4-0 at Gigg Lane in front of 6,900 fans.

During the season new plans were announced for a stadium to be built at Broadhurst Park in Manchester. Funding was forthcoming from Manchester City Council, but further income and an appeal from local residents would hold up the start of construction for a further two years.

In 2011-12 FC United once again reached the play-offs, this time by courtesy of Northwich Victoria breaching financial rules. Chorley were defeated before the heartache of another final defeat as old rivals Bradford Park Avenue won 1-0.

Remarkably the following season once again ended in defeat in the play-off final. Witton Albion were seen off 3-1 but Hednesford Town persevered 3-1 in the showpiece. In 2013-14 FC United bowed out in the play off semi-finals as they fell agonisingly short once again.

The 2014-15 campaign was the greatest in the clubs history up to that point. FC United reached the fourth round of the FA Trophy before bowing out to Torquay United. However, it was in the Northern Premier League where the club celebrated as promotion was won to Conference North as the team were crowned as Premier Division title.

FC United’s brand new home at Broadhurst Park was opened after a series of delays with a game between FC United of Manchester and Benfica B on 29th May 2015, the anniversary of Manchester United’s victory over Benfica in the 1968 European Cup Final.

FC United of Manchester will play in Conference North in the 2015-16 season.

My visit

Tuesday 1st September 2015

Finding myself with a couple of hours to kill in Manchester before my train back to London, I decided it was a good opportunity to visit FC United.

I was in the city after going to the Glaston-Bury music festival the day before to see my cricketing pal Kes Roscoe and his band Riflemen of War perform. If I hadn’t have been so tired after a fun packed weekend I may well have gone to the FC United v Curzon Ashton game on the way, but a siesta in my hotel bed was a far more prudent option.

The Rochdale bound tram dropped me off at the Newton Heath and Moston stop. From there it was a straight forward walk slightly uphill along St Mary’s Road to the stadium.

Outside it looked a picture with wooden panels and bright red paint, with an artificial pitch funded by the Football Foundation across the car park. All gates were locked but there was movement in the offices, so I went inside the main entrance to try my luck.

I must hold my hands up. I generally liked fans owned football clubs, but personal experience was leading me to treat them with caution. Not all would be able to perform to the same level. FC United seemed to do everything very well. The fans were decent and they seemed very well organised, but perhaps it was the fact that they were held up as an example as to how Scarborough Athletic should be run that rankled me? Both clubs had very different dynamics, and I thought comparing them was not fair. I also had a great deal of sympathy with nearby traditional clubs who struggled for fans, without further high profile competition.

FC United did seem a formidable machine. James, one of four full time staff in the club offices could not have been kinder in showing me inside Broadhurst Park. He was quite naturally very proud of what was a terrific arena.

Broadhurst Park was instantly likeable. For a new ground it was traditional rather than identikit. The Main Stand did not quite go all the way to each end, but there was room for expansion. Terracing was backed by seats and then the clubhouse and sponsorship facilities. The St Mary’s Road End had a magnificent covered terrace, which was previously in residence at Northwich Victoria’s Victoria Park home before they were evicted. At the Lightbowne Road End was a basic cover, as was the case down the far side. Both had been installed with space to put in terracing when demand and finance allowed.

James was a fine ambassador for his club. He genuinely seemed interested in Boro and our long awaited return to Scarborough. It’s hard to not like a club with staff like him.

I crossed over the road and caught the bus from the Arden Grove stop on St Mary’s Road straight back to Piccadilly Gardens to grab some breakfast before my train back to the metropolis.

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