For many football fans following the Premier League and Football League, FC United of Manchester is a club they may well be aware of. The most general talking point surrounding the club and the issue many will claim is the reason for its creation was the takeover of Manchester United by the Glazer family. It is correct up to a point to assume the Glazer regime is the reason for the creation of FC, but many around the club are keen to stress it was not the only reason. The failure of the Manchester United board to prevent the change in ownership was seen by many as the final failure of a club which had been neglecting the interests of the core fan-base for a number of years.
Manchester United was initially built on the values of local working class railway folk from a small area of north east Manchester. Following the influence of men such as Sir Matt Busby, Bobby Charlton, George Best, Sir Alex Ferguson and Eric Cantona the club has created a history of expansive, innovative attacking football. The fans have always played a part in the club through the bleak periods where rebuilding and restructuring was needed following the bombing of Old Trafford, the Munich air disaster and the relegation to Division Two. However, following the creation of the Premier League and the onset of the commercialisation of the game the local fans felt their values have been lost. For many individuals who proved influential in the prevention of Rupert Murdoch’s mooted takeover, the perceived loss of the club to its new owners in 2005 was the final truth the club had been taken from the ordinary fan. It was therefore felt something needed to be done. FC United was thus created.
FC is the fans’ club. It is created by the fans for the fans. It is a place where loyal working class football fans of Greater Manchester are able to sing songs, watch attractive football and reminisce about days gone by, before the globalisation and commercialistion of the game they love. For a team which has only been around for five years FC are certainly on the up. They have the highest attendance for any team in a division which they entered in 2008 following three back to back promotions. FC plays home matches at the ground of local Football League side Bury and has a record attendance of over 6,000 – a huge achievement for a club at this level. Gigg Lane has been a good home for FC but this is a club with big aspirations. If progression is to be fully achieved then FC will need a home to call their own. Plans are already in progress for a stadium to be built in Newton Heath, Manchester. The FC United Development Fund has been set up with this exact target in mind with fundraising continuing on a constant basis throughout the season and off-season. It is expected the club will have a home to call their own in 2012.
Matters off the pitch may be well in hand but on the pitch FC have just experienced the worst season in their short history. The FC fans are used to success and although continually asked to step up a level in the first four seasons of the club the team has always met the challenge with style. However, their second season in the Northern Premier League Premier Division did not go to plan. The 2008/09 season saw FC miss out on a play-off spot on the final day of the season. This was to prove the first season without a promotion but high hopes were placed on a championship the following year. The team would become more used to the rigours of a tough division and many thought they would go on to be crowned champions. The club was to finish 13th. This has not, however, diminished a loyal support which has stood by the only manager in the club’s history – Karl Marginson. Marginson has re-jigged a squad which in his own words simply was not good enough and is hoping at least a play-off spot can be achieved.
There is no doubt notions of success were never far from the mind when creating the club, it is what the fans are used to and what they will crave. The values of United have been maintained with the side playing an exciting blend of football utilising two wingers and playing in the style of old. Success, however, does not come without its pitfalls. In their short existence the fans of FC have already had their values put to the test. Despite playing in the semi-professional divisions of the game the club has faced the issue of fixtures being moved for television programming. This has prompted an angry reaction from the FC fans which have instead opted to attend youth team fixtures. With the growing success of the club the core issues of the FC mentality may well be continually put to the test. Whether a club with strong principles can maintain this along with the desire to attain Football League status is something which will remain to be seen. It appears there is much more to come for one of the most interesting football clubs in the English game.