Non-League Football?

Having had the FCUB experience, both the home and away version), I still believe it's one I can live without ever experiencing again. I've made my feelings known about the karaoke atmosphere, etc. in the past but having now witnessed things first hand on their “home” soil, they give me no other impression than that of a club trying to be a Premiership set-up whilst desperately trying to claim otherwise.

From the glossy programme insert detailing a Megastore range of merchandise to the choreographed goal celebrations in the stands and the “we're better than you” stance of some of their supporters, they are everything they profess to be rebelling against, only on a smaller scale. It's like a football version of Animal Farm.

And the less said about their surprisingly callous (particularly at this time of the year) 'Help the Homeless' appeal the better.

For all their whining about not having their home ground, what really sticks in the craw is the moaning about the sum of money they have to pay Bury every time they use Gigg Lane. No-one held a gun to their heads in order to agree to the deal. In fact a club spokesmen appeared on local radio not long after the agreement was made for the use of the League Two side facilities, bragging at the terms negotiated.

What's different now is that crowds have fallen to a level where it's having a significant impact on income and it's not just the 'happy -clappies' who're staying away. Stories of supporters who bought into their ideals initially but who have since become disillusioned as its slowly turned into what they hated about Premiership football in the first place and stopped going are becoming common place. And I doubt they're all as apocryphal as some would have you believe.

As for the stewarding, if a dozen or so Mossley supporters stood at a barrier behind a row of seats constitutes a health and safety concern, why on earth were the home fans allowed to stand not only in exactly the same places in their part of the ground, but in the stairways as well? I'm sure that FC's response would be that the stewarding is out of their hands but are they not worried about their own supporters not being warned of the dangers by the people entrusted with their safety? Or is it a case of double standards?

Finally, I'll go back to something said by an FCUB supporter at the game at Seel Park, and it's something I've seen mentioned by another fan on another forum - “It's not about the football.”

Well for the rest of us it is, so if you want to be some kind of revolutionary socio-political movement, could you do it elsewhere and leave those of us who want to follow the football to it.

I feel sorry for genuine supporters at the club (yes, there are some) who want it to live and breathe on its own, with its own identity. But whilst there others who can't go through a conversation without mentioning Manchester United, Old Trafford, the Glazers or crowd size (or all four) within the first sixty seconds in an attempt to sound like some sort of martyr and the Cantona/Busby/anti-City and Liverpool, etc. songs continue, then they'll continue to be neither one thing nor the other.

I do sincerely wish those genuine fans the best of luck in becoming the majority voice, but until then I'm afraid it's: meet the new club, same as the old one.


Anonymous said...
5:41 pm

Hello, a rather bemused FC United fan here.

I feel as if I have to present a counter-argument to your blog post, as I think some of the assumptions you have made about my club are, to put it short, way, way off the mark! I often read yours and Smiffy's blogs amongst others on the interweb as a non league fan but this is the first time i've felt compelled to reply to one of you.

Firstly, this whole notion that our club are trying to be MUFC on a smaller scale based purely on notions such as a "glossy programme insert detailing a Megastore range of merchandise" is grossly over-exaggerated to say the least. I have a copy of the programme myself and all it is a 2-page spread selling basic items such as clothing, hats, scarves and badges, items which practically every football club across the country sells. There is a small stall outside Gigg (and a car boot at away games) which sells these items, it's hardly indicative of us building our own supermarket in Bury FC's car park and selling Rory Patterson duvet covers is it?! It's also worth mentioning that all the profits made from merchandise goes straigt back into club funds and not into the pockets of shareholders or greedy chief executives.

Secondly, what on earth do you mean by "choreographed goal celebrations in the stands"? I assume you're referring to the twirling of the bar scarf over one's head and singing "oh FC United" (funny that, I thought we ONLY sung songs about Manchester United?). Do you think this sort of thing goes on just in the Premiershite? On numerous occasions we've heard that nauseating "ee-say" seal-clap chant coming from the left of the Main Stand and at away grounds follwing FC, so it goes on at every level. And even if the bar-scarf twirl is 'Premiership-like', at least it's more imaginative and relevant than playing some annoying tune over the PA like Dario G or The Fratellis and singing along to it. Ours adds a bit of colour at least :-D

With regards to renting Gigg Lane (btw, 'FCUB', very original and not at all childlike ;-) ) the decision to lease it for another 3 seasons in 2006 was on the back of our first season which saw us averaging over 3,000. It's a shame that some of this crowd were there just for the 1st season but the board obviously thought it those crowds sustained, we would easily be able to continue playing there. Sadly this is not the case, and we're stuck there till mid-2009. The only reason we 'moan' about it is because a lot of people at this level assume we have money to burn, when in fact we don't for this reason.

Now then, i'd like you to elaborate on this; "Stories of supporters who bought into their ideals initially but who have since become disillusioned as its slowly turned into what they hated about Premiership football in the first place and stopped going are becoming common place" - have they? Would you like to give me some examples? In the 3 seasons i've followed this club, i've heard a variety of reasons from the very few people I know who have decided to stop going, but I don't think i've ever heard "it's too much like MUFC" as a legitimate reason. If you have some examples then please don't hesitate to provide them.

With regards to stewarding, yes you're right, it's out of our hands but I'm somewhat surprised at some of you being told to stand away from barriers and stairwells. We're often told in the Main Stand not to stand on the barriers and in the walkways, but not always. I agree it smacks slightly of double standards so apologies for that.

I remember reading your match report of the 2-0 game at Seel Park and you mentioning one of our fans who said he didn't care about the result cos "it's not about the football". I'd like to say he is not indicative of our fanbase, and I'm surprised you think he is, given that if none of us cared, why would we cheer the goals we score? Some fans of ours are just happy the club exists and are keen to stress that winning isn't everything, as long as we're there again next week. You can understand that due to the 'win at all costs' mentality which became an ironic burden to us in our latter years following MUFC. On a personal note i'd like to say that I care deeply about the result, as do the majority of our fans, and I'm always in a shit mood when we lose and was particularly disappointed after our shambolic performance at your home game.

Lastly, i'd just like to say that whilst I personally believe FCUM do have their own identity, you have to remember that because we were created by a group of Manchester United supporters, MUFC will always be ingrained into FC United's history. The majority of us obviosuly still feel a spiritual connection to the club we've supported all our lives and see FC United as a vision of what we'd like MUFC to be - fan owned, democratic, no outright commericialism, non-conformance to TV schedules, standing, singing, affordable etc. I'd also like to say that we do have a large repetoire (I can't spell that word) of our own, solely FC United-related songs, a lot of which got a good airing on Tuesday (and at Seel Park I remember), but which you obviously failed to notice

I personally don't believe our club have gone against any of our founding principles and if you believe otherwise, then do give me some examples and i'll be happy to address them with my opinion

Phew, well that's certainly an enjoyable way of killing time when you're sick off work! Good luck to Mossley for the rest of the season, I enjoyed our midweek visit to your ground (apart from the cold and the walk up from the train station!) See you again next season maybe.

Kind regards

George (zutroy)

SJNR said...
7:56 pm


Thanks for the reply. It's not often I get one! ;-)

I wish I had the time to answer everything but I'll reply to a few points.

With regards to the stories of fans not going because they are disillusioned, one of them comes from somebody I know through work and the others through people I know. Like I said, most of them may be apocryphal but I know that in the former case this isn't so. He, and the person he attended games, both loved it when it first started but midway through last season (and at this point I will say that this isn't the clubs fault) they became fed up with the, and I'll use his word, "arrogance" that was starting to creep in amongst some of the supporters; one of the things he despised about going watching the 'other' United.

The turning point came after a defeat when he was berated by a couple of other 'fans' who had over heard him saying that FC didn't really deserve to win. Not just argued with - really verbally abused and told to in no uncertain terms to get back to Old Trafford. I know that all clubs have supporters who believe they've a divine right to win everything and that incident doesn't seem like much, but it was the icing on the cake for him. The last time I spoke to him he was going watching Altrincham occasionally so he hasn't been lost completely to the non-league game.

I stand by comments about the goal celebrations though. Even if itsn't a record over the P.A. (a horror slowly creeping into the non-league game), the scarf twirling still looks more choreography than spontaniety.

The fan I quoted at Seel Park may not be indicative of the majority of supporters but I think there's a sizeable proportion who do feel that way - the ones who think that following FC is some kind of martyrdom; a badge to be seen wearing rather than a club to be supported.

Of course you have a connection to Manchester United, it would be hard not to seeing as you were watching them three years ago, but do you think that link will ever (or be allowed to) fade enough to allow FC to stand on its own feet without references to the Premiership side or rebels or fan run (most of the clubs at this level, including Mossley, are)? And I'm not just talking about the media

As you may have read on the blog a couple of weeks ago, I was at the hastily arranged friendly between FC and Woodley and had a great natter with some of your supporters who turned up and whilst it may not prove anything, I'm not a rabid anti-FC United hater. I just have a, how can I put it, healthy scepticism about what is an admittedly noble venture. I will say though that you deserve points for finding another piece of league administration the NPL have been able to cock up.

And don't worry about the spellings in you post... it makes it blend into the rest of the blog. :-)

If you wish to reply could you do so by e-mailing me via my profile on the Mossley forum as it's less noticeable than Blogger at work! ;-)

Thanks again for responding!