Wednesday, September 28, 2005

[RED11 REDitorial] Digest Number 69

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There is 1 message in this issue.

Topics in this digest:

1. Reditorial - FC UNITED by Salford Lass
From: Barry Leeming <barry@mufc.dk>

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Message: 1
Date: Wed, 28 Sep 2005 12:26:04 +0200
From: Barry Leeming <barry@mufc.dk>
Subject: Reditorial - FC UNITED by Salford Lass

Published: 20 OCT 2005

FC UNITED
by Salford Lass

For most of my life, Manchester United has been a passion that has never
waned. No matter what has been going on in the rest of my life, I've been
able to lose myself at the game. For that 90 minutes (and for the hours I
shared with other fans before and after games) nothing else mattered but
the atmosphere, the banter, the team, the club, the feeling of fresh
Manchester air on my face. And football was always the passion that had
nothing to do with money or background. No matter how poor you were, you
could always manage to get enough together to go the game with your mates.

Then in the early 90's what seemed the most permanent thing in my life
began to change. Many of the changes were wonderful - Le Dieu arrived and
we began to have the success that culminated in the best night of my life
in May '99. But at the same time, changes were afoot that were not so
positive. Football clubs were becoming businesses, prices began to rise,
players grew further and further away from the ordinary supporters, fans
who had been going to Old Trafford for years began to be priced out. After
'99 I began to feel more and more distant from the Club I had loved all my
life. After years of going home and away I was one of those being gradually
priced out. This season it has come to a head and for the first time in
many years I am not going to away games and I am having to contemplate
missing home games at Old Trafford. Next season, I will probably have to
sell my season ticket for the whole season.

But it's not just the money. It feels to me that "my" Manchester United,
the club I have loved all my life, is no more. Fans like me have been
increasingly sidelined over the years. All the things we love - the
chanting, the banter, the humour, the passion -have disappeared from Old
Trafford. United fans today are a different breed. They have money, lots of
it, which they spend in the Megastore. They seem to want all the things
that I hate. They want a theatre, not a football ground - they even have
girls walking around the perimeter at half-time selling ice cream now! They
want celebrities not football players! For some years we were able to live
with all this, loving the team and the shirt, but not having to buy into
the rest of it. But in the last couple of years that has all changed. As
the team of the late 90's begins to break up, the players have begun to be
as distant from us as the board and Glazer. Apart from a few notable
exceptions, the players no longer seem to care about the fans. They live in
a world so far removed from the real world (millionaires at 18/19!!) that
they have no understanding of the reality of supporting a Premiership club
today. Most of the time they can't even be bothered coming over to thank
the fans for supporting them - Gary Neville is the only player who still
comes over to applaud the fans at the end of every game. When fans booed
Rio recently I understood why they did it. I wouldn't have done it - I have
never booed a United player in my life - but I understood it and I
sympathized.

And it's much too simplistic to blame it all on Glazer. It was happening
long before he came along. For years now, there has been an inexorable
movement towards this summer, towards a situation which would eventually
attract someone like Glazer, who would plunge the Club into the sort of
debt that could eventually destroy it.

This summer has been one of the saddest times of my life. I feel I have
witnessed the final nails in the coffin of "my" Manchester United. I'm sure
that the Club will continue, even if Glazer does his worst, but "my"
Manchester United is no more and can never return. I have managed (thanks
to the son-and-heir) to renew my season ticket but, if I am honest,
attending home games has not been a pleasure. My addiction keeps me going
to OT but at the same time I look around at the crowd and at the players on
the pitch and I feel nothing but sadness. I chant and sing, I jump up and
down when we score, I argue about Fergie's selections as I've always done,
but my heart isn't in it.

Others (including many pals who I have known for years) have made different
decisions and have been following FC United. I have to admit that over the
summer, whilst the new club was being set up, I was very sceptical about FC
United. I had no animosity towards the new club, in fact I wished them
well, but I simply couldn't see what it had to do with me. Despite my
misgivings about the situation at Old Trafford and about Premiership
football in general, I renewed my season ticket and decided that when I get
priced out - most likely next season - I will walk away for good and
perhaps support my local non-league club. I couldn't see any reason to
support a club that plays in Bury and with which I have no emotional ties,
and I couldn't see how anything could possibly replace the buzz I used to
get from supporting United.

One of my friends, however, who shall remain nameless - she knows who she
is! - has been mithering me to see for myself what FC United is all about.
She even offered to treat me to the day out. So on Saturday morning I
finally gave in and arrived in Manchester to meet up with other FC United
supporters in a city center bar. After traveling en-masse on the tram to
Radcliffe, where the game against Castleton Gabriels was being played, and
into a local pub for a pre-match drink and sing-song, we headed off to the
ground and Radcliffe Borough's club house. No segregation, just lots of
good natured chanting, banter and drinking and, in the middle of it all,
taking good natured flack from the fans and joining in the singing, were 3
of the injured players who weren't in the team that day! What was this
about? Football players mixing with the fans? And genuinely enjoying
themselves? This was certainly different to supporting the modern
Manchester United! Another pleasure was meeting up with so many people that
I knew but hadn't seen for ages.

Eventually we dragged ourselves away and headed off to the area behind the
goal where my friend insisted we stood on the "left side" - yes, they have
a right and a left side! And along with us came the players who had been in
the bar. They spent the game on the terracing, with the fans, singing and
chanting along with the rest of us. I'm not going to comment on the
football because I don't know enough about either the players or the
standard of football at this level, but suffice to say that it was far
better than I expected but without any of the histrionics that accompanies
the modern Premiership game. The atmosphere was excellent with lots of
humour and banter - particularly between those of us behind the goal and
the fans standing under the "bus stop" (just in case it rained a bit!) FC
United won 3-0 and I had had a very enjoyable afternoon. It still didn't
explain why this new club had become such a passion with it's fans so
quickly, but then we all headed back to the pub, where I got my first taste
of what supporting FC United really is about and where that passion comes
from.

The buzz in the pub was excellent but then it went up several notches when
all the players, the coaches, the kitman and the manager turned up! The
next 2 hours were incredible and impossible to adequately describe to
anyone who wasn't there. Just take a memory of the away end at one of the
best away games you've ever been to, add all the staff and players to that
mix after making sure that they all have a Gary Neville-style love of, and
commitment to the club, stick a drink in their hands and sing your hearts
out. And the players don't just sing along with the fans - they lead the
singing, they chant about each other, they request their own songs over and
over again. And that goes a little way towards describing a buzz which is
still with me today. I made a hundred new mates yesterday and came home
hoarse and exhausted but with the biggest smile on my face I've had for
ages. And when I asked whether this was a special day, I was told no - it
happens like this every week!!

So where does this leave me now? Well it certainly leaves me wanting more!
And it leaves me more positive about football than I have been for a long,
long time. And it wasn't just the session in the pub, the whole experience
was a refreshing change from the modern Premiership experience. The crowd
was a wonderful mix of men, women and children of all ages, all getting
behind the team. There was no aggro and no heavy policing or stewarding.
There were lots of colours but no jester hats! There was no anti-United
chanting and a respect towards the opposition that I didn't expect (the FC
United fans clapped the Castleton players off the pitch at the end of the
game and chanted Castleton at them). There was no sign of the arrogance
that can make some United fans embarrassing to be around. And all this at
3pm on a Saturday, for the princely sum of £6!

The formation of FC United has polarised opinions in the last few months
with misconceptions on both sides. The biggest misconception of all seems
to me to be that you have to choose to support one or the other. That you
can't support FC United and still love Manchester United. Well I won't be
giving up on Old Trafford willingly - I've loved Manchester United all my
life and that won't change - I'll love United until I breathe my last and
I'll carry on going to OT as long as I can scrape the money together to do
so. But I found something yesterday that I thought was lost forever and I'm
so excited about that that I feel like a massive black shadow has lifted
and I can't wait for the next time!

FC United are having a United United day on 8th October when all Manchester
United fans are being invited to come along to their home game at Gigg
Lane. It's an international weekend, so no-one has to miss a game at Old
Trafford. I'm going, if you want to know what it's all about - come along
and join me!

Copyright © 2005 Red11. All rights reserved.
Not to be reproduced without permission of the author.

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