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WE’LL CARRY ON THROUGH IT ALL - Part 2 of 3Here is Part 2 of our season review where we look back on the period November through to February which saw the appointment of our new Chief Executive, Youth Team success, a positive response to the club’s financial challenges and wonderful community initiatives which saw the ground opening on Christmas Day for the homeless, and concluding with a bumper crowd for our home match against Salford.

Here is Part 2 of our season review where we look back on the period November through to February which saw the appointment of our new Chief Executive, Youth Team success, a positive response to the club’s financial challenges and wonderful community initiatives which saw the ground opening on Christmas Day for the homeless, and concluding with a bumper crowd for our home match against Salford.


Our Flag Stays Red

November didn’t spawn a monster but a 3-2 defeat at home to struggling Bradford Park Avenue wasn’t exactly the prettiest way to start the month as we slipped into a not-too-comfy 17th place in the league. But the following Monday the club was boosted by Damian Chadwick joining the club as our new Chief Executive having been itching to get started following his appointment in August.

The club was also pleased to announce the signing of a three year deal with Manchester brewer Joseph Holt’s that means they will be the club’s all important brewery supplier for the next three years. Quite a commitment given how much beer our support typically puts away.

The mood was brightened further by FC’s youth team making their first ever appearance in the first round proper of the FA Youth Cup against Carlisle United at Broadhurst Park. The FC youth had already played four games to make it this far in the competition with wins over Curzon Ashton, Ashton Town, Gateshead and Nostell Miners Welfare in the qualifying rounds, scoring three or more goals on each occasion. The young Reds, captained by Sam Baird, gave a good account of themselves in front of a crowd of 342 but their Cumbrian opponents notched two second half goals to win 2-0.

Nevertheless there was much to be proud of on the youth team front not only in their cup run but also in the likes of Sam Baird and Mike Jones making the step up to the first team. And FC’s Academy has had a fine year too with praise from many for the quality of the teaching and reflected in the fact that, in contrast to last season, no students have dropped out during this academic year.

The Reds, backed by a large away following, secured a much needed win at Stalybridge Celtic in mid-November with Jason Gilchrist bagging a brace and Kieran Glynn also netting in a 4-2 win that saw young Sam Baird stepping up to make his debut in central defence and impressing with his composure against an experienced Stalybridge forward line.

The wonderful station Buffet Bar (we’ll miss it next season) was packed to the rafters before and after the match with several old faces returning and a certain song to the tune of the Stone Roses’ Waterfall getting an airing for the very first time. The win at Stalybridge was the first of three consecutive wins in the league and an unbeaten run that lasted into the new year. Although this was tempered a little by another early exit from the FA Trophy with the Reds crashing out 5-1 at home to Nuneaton.

Meanwhile off the pitch a statement issued by the board on the last Friday of November outlined in stark terms the perilous financial position of the club barely half way through only the second season in its own ground. It highlighted under-performing non-match day revenue, an “unrealistic??? business plan, a staffing structure that was simply “not fit for purpose??? and a lack of basic financial controls, HR processes and contracts for just about anything; mismanagement and incompetence on a scale that very nearly drove the club into oblivion. In addition things weren’t helped by having to function without a Chief Executive or Club Secretary for a significant chunk of 2016.

Of course, we are far from alone in experiencing financial problems. In our own league, AFC Telford United decided that they could no longer compete with the likes of Fylde and Salford City as a supporter owned football club and voted to seek outside investment; fan ownership viewed as a weakness rather than a strength as it was higher up the football food chain at Portsmouth where the Pompey Supporters’ Trust voted in favour of selling the club to the former chief executive of Walt Disney. And as the season ended Worcester City announced that they would be voluntarily dropping three levels down the non-league pyramid following their relegation from the National League North pointing to “excessive costs??? as the chief reason for this drastic action. No surprise then that some FC supporters have questioned whether we too can continue to compete effectively at this level of football and keep our founding principles and commitment to affordable football intact.

The response to the board statement was typically heartening with supporters digging deep once more with many fans taking advantage of Red Friday special offers on merchandise at the online club shop or renewing or increasing regular contributions to the Development Fund (which by the end of the season had raised over £110,000). Match sponsorship received a welcome boost too with the likes of the Giddys (a group of younger supporters usually to be found waving flags at the front of the SMRE), the Red Issue Sanctuary, Reporter from the The Soul Is One forum, the Rainbow Firm and the Secret Mustard Society of Rugby sponsoring matches which meant in the second half of the season almost all home matches were fully sponsored (match, ball and programme), a marked improvement on the previous season.

This spirit of defiance was also typified by Karl Marginson donating the fee that he received for his punditry during the television coverage of Curzon Ashton’s FA Cup first round clash with AFC Wimbledon. And Crystal Vehicle Hire very generously offered to sponsor all players who up until that point of the season had not attracted sponsorship.

Giving something back

The home match against Boston in mid-December saw another barrage of benevolence as both the match ball and programme sponsors gave away their spoils to good causes a trend started earlier in the season by the mysterious Redeye who sponsored the match ball and programme for the Fylde match in September and then donated the benefits to a couple of the organisations with which FC United work as part of our community programme.

A wonderful new initiative saw the club open its doors from 7am on Christmas Day morning for homeless people to get a cooked breakfast, a shower and enjoy some of the festive comforts that most of us tend to take for granted. In addition there was a dentist, a hairdresser and nurses on hand to provide medical advice and the club was overwhelmed with donations of food. A minibus driven by an FC United supporter was able to transport more than forty homeless people from the city centre to Broadhurst Park . The FC United volunteers included fans, players and manager Karl Marginson explained that it was all about the club “giving something back to people who are less fortunate than ourselves???.

The day was a tremendous success and attracted plenty of media interest with BBC Radio Manchester broadcasting live from the ground on Christmas morning and the Manchester Evening News running a piece. It’s hoped that this will be the first of many such initiatives.

The idea for the Christmas Day initiative stemmed from FC’s annual Big Coat Day collection of warm clothing for homeless people, the longest running part of our extensive community programme. This season’s Big Coat Day took place on New Year’s Day when FC were at home to Altrincham. The day was, once again, very successful with more than six tonnes of warm clothing and footwear collected, even more than last year’s record breaking collection. In total five charities were able to benefit from the collection including our regular partners Lifeshare which works mainly with young homeless people. St Paul’s, a charity based close to Salford Shopping Centre that offers meals, emergency shelter and clothing to homeless people described this season’s Big Coat Day collection as “magnificent???.

In a similar vein, FC also staged its very first Toy Story event in December, working with the Frost Foundation to collect toys and games to distribute to families and young people in need over the Christmas period; anything from cuddly toys, Lego and dolls to jigsaws, games, educational toys, train sets or remote control diggers. Toy Story took place at the home match on 17th December and was also a big success. Each Christmas we celebrate FC United still being here and Toy Story was all about us bringing some festive joy into the lives of others and helping some local children and families who might otherwise struggle at this time of year.

We are those lions

The year closed with a group of local supporters known as the Moston Knuckle Draggers helping to cover the pitch to ensure that the New Year’s Day local derby with Altrincham was able to go ahead. The pitch covering worked but despite an early Jason Gilchrist goal FC were unable to beat the bottom of the table team drawing 1-1. The following weekend FC’s unbeaten league run came to an end in front of 2,821 spectators at AFC Fylde’s new Mill Farm ground, with a 3-1 defeat to the league leaders, a scoreline that flattered the high flying Coasters, as the Reds went toe to toe with the full time professionals and could easily have scored four or five. It was perhaps one of our best performances of the season.

The Main Stand Bar was busy again as the latest edition of Course You Can Malcolm took place before the home match with Salford City on the last Saturday of January. In a slot called Rubbing it Red some supporters spoke passionately about their involvement in the club and its future, embracing the spirit of participatory democracy that had swept through the club in recent months. Where once we’d have been content to let the board and Chief Executive get on with things supporters were now collectively, via a progressive new board, taking charge of the club’s destiny.

Pam and Sarah from the Hummingbird Project, a High Peak based grassroots organisation set up in 2015 to help refugees, made a welcome return to Malcolmses collecting donations of underwear, socks, hygiene items and cash for refugees surviving the winter months in Europe and Syria. They described themselves as being “bowled over??? by FC the last time they visited CYCM in July and were back for more. The admiration is mutual.

This was all topped off with a storming set by the young Mancunian band Cabbage, about to start a UK tour, who had the room bouncing with their brand of politically charged post-punk. They clearly enjoyed the occasion as much as the audience if a social media post after the gig by one of the band’s members is anything to go by; “playing at FC United this weekend has galvanised inspiration in me richer than the thousands of records I’ve sat in awe at in my bedroom growing up???.

Similarly the bar under the St Mary’s Road End was also rocking both before the match and at half-time. A bumper crowd of 4,158 packed into Broadhurst Park for the visit of Salford, the highest attendance for a league game since moving to Moston and the fifth highest in the club’s history.

Although things on the pitch didn’t quite work out as the vast majority of the crowd would have liked (Salford City won 3-0) it nevertheless felt like some of the intoxicating joi de vivre of the early days of FC United was back, particularly in the second half, as a cacophony of old and new songs filled the air including an ace new one to the tune of the Stone Roses’ Waterfall…???we’ll carry on through it all, playing punk football???. Dissecting business plans and debating the finer points of the club’s electoral policy is, of course, important but sometimes you just want to go to the match and enjoy yourself. At the Salford match it felt like some of the fun had returned to FC and if you wanted evidence that there are folk left with the faith to fight for FC United then here it was in spades; board members, staff, volunteers, supporters and players united as one.

As a lovely footnote to all the positivity and togetherness in evidence at the Salford match it was great to see Cabbage and the Hummingbirds buzzing off each other too. So much so that the Hummingbirds were invited by Cabbage to go along to their subsequent Manchester gigs at the Gorilla club and the Academy and collect for refugees. Isn’t that lovely? Some would call it “networking??? but more simply it’s about people being brought together through a shared love. Love of a football club, of Manchester, of music and of our fellow human beings regardless of which side of arbitrary borders they are born on.

Look out for the final part of the season review, coming soon...

First Posted ~ 09:17 Thu 1 Jun 2017
News ID ~ 7476
Last Updated ~ 16:00 Fri 19 Feb 2021