FC United of Manchester
310 Lightbowne Road
310 Lightbowne Road
0161 769 2005
Ground Number: 495
Friday 29th May 2015
FC United Of Manchester 0-1 Benfica
For my final game and groundhop of the season, I wanted to go to FC United's official opening of their new ground, Broadhurst Park.My chances looked slim - tickets had all but sold out to members and the precious few were going on sale at 10am in Manchester when I'd be on my way to Wembley. But luckily my Macclesfield supporting mate George was on hand to get me one, which was very nice, as despite having me on Facebook for ages, we have not really spoken much. It was for that reason that I was a bit unsure about travelling all that way, especially when he didn't have a phone, making it almost impossible to meet. Luckily that was remedied the day before, and we were in regular contact for the 24 hours.
Talking of that Wembley trip, it was a bitterly disappointing 2 outings in 6 days. First up was the Conference playoff final, where I had hoped to meet all my Grimsby pals after paying £10 a ticket via an offer. But work really held me back, the busiest and most frustrating Sunday ever work wise and I didn't get away until the last minute. It got better, I met some of my pals and it was a good game. But ultimately the Mariners lost on penalties and I was gutted for my mates. Fast forward to the next Saturday and I was happy to have the day off. Expensive entry at £42, and an expensive train ticket from High Wycombe at £23 allowed me to go drinking in London's best pubs. This was fully taken advantage of with some great ciders tried. Less said about the game the better - a dire contest which Wycombe were winning with 10 seconds to go. However Southend got an equaliser at the death, then it was another round of penalties. Same end, same score, same result and it meant that after a terrific effort, Wycombe Wanderers would once again be plying their trade in League 2 the following season.
FC United of Manchester were founded in 2005. They were formed as an antidote to the expensive Premier League greed, in particular the actions of the Glazer family who took over their own club Manchester United, saddling it with debt and alienating a large part of the fan base in the process. This was particularly pertinent in a week where FIFA had disgraced themselves yet again, with the Kim-Jong-Un of football, Sepp Blatter, clinging onto his job despite a sea of corruption allegations. As well as helping out the local community a big thing they do is set the tickets at sensible prices - for the coming season they will be charging £9 at Conference North level.
After their formation, FCUM enjoyed 3 successive promotions. Starting in the North West Counties League Division 2 they were Champions at the first time of asking, beating Castleton Gabriels 10-2 along the way. They won the North West Counties Division 1 as well and found themselves in the NPL D1 North for the 2007-08 season. Again promotion was won at the first attempt with them finishing runners up to Bradford Park Avenue before beating Skelmersdale United 4-1 in the playoff. For the following 7 seasons they remained in the NPL Premier, that was until this season when they won the League after a succession of playoff failures.
In the FA Cup they enjoyed their best ever run in the 2010/11 season. Starting in the 1st Qualifying Round they beat Radcliffe Borough, Gainsborough Trinity and Norton & Stockton Aincients before meeting Conference side Barrow 1-0 in the 4th Qualifying Round. This saw them into the 1st Round for the first time where they met local rivals Rochdale in a game that was live on SESPN. They won 3-2 in a pulsating encounter. This set up a game against Brighton & Hove Albion who they took to a replay before losing 4-0 in a replay. Their only ever FA Vase campaign saw a 3rd Round defeat to Quorn, while in the FA Trophy this season saw them reach the Quarter Final before a 1-0 defeat to Torquay United.
On the day of the game, it was a reasonable day at work with me finishing at midday. I got change and got my things together before getting a McDonalds for lunch and leaving at 12.30. The usually reliable M40 was very slow and stop start pretty much all the way up, and this set the tone for the day. There were delays on the M42, the M6 was horrendous, so much that I had to go off at Stoke and through places such as Congleton and Kidsgrove to cut some of it out. Then the M60 was knackered, meaning I had to take the M56 instead. In the end there was around 2 hours delay on our miserable, pathetic, over taxed roads and I didn't get to Broadhust Park until 5.45 which meant I was unable to go into Manchester for a couple of pints, which dampened the day a bit.
Luckily I had been in contact with George, and we had rearranged out meeting point to be at the ground. Parking was plentiful on the street and I parked a few minutes away from the ground. I then went off to meet George and I was relieved to finally get my hands on the golden ticket. It was good that he was also a top lad and after a brief search for a pub we decided to go into the ground and have a drink in there. The main bar was full but there was a bottle bar under the terrace, which had previously seen service at Northwich Victoria FC. We each had a Bulmers cider while we shared our thoughts about the game.
After that we made our way back outside and looked at the merchandise stalls. I got the night's programme as well as a pen and also a few interesting programmes from games past. There were a large amount of flags and banners dotted around the ground which I captured on my camera as comprehensively as I could. The rest of the time till kick off was spent eating from the excellent food stalls at the ground. First up was some very nice Peri Peri Chicken in a fresh roll which cost me £4. Still hungry, I then had a fantastic hot dog with jalapenos, sour cream and pulled pork chilli which was absolutely sensational and worth every penny of the fiver that I paid. For the game we decided to stand at the top of the terrace behind the round where the FCUM faithful were creating a great atmosphere.
As for the game, for so long it looked as if it was going to be a goalless draw. Not that it was dull, but despite some great skills there wasn't a lot of end product from either side. The home sde probably shaded it, with Tom Greaves looking especially impressive before he limped off with injury. It was with around 10 minutes to go that Diogo Goncalves jinked into the box before beating FCUM keeper Nick Culkin at his near post. This sparked jubilant scenes amongst the Benfica contingent, with more pyro lighting up a carnival atmosphere.
After the game we hung around a bit to see what was going on. The players came to thank the fans but the biggest cheer of the game came when it was announced the bar would be open until midnight! We eventually got our way at 9.50 and it was very easy and quick to get away from the round. After a brief stop at Tesco so we could get a drink and some snacks each, I dropped him off at Macclesfield Town's ground at 10.40. Handshakes and promises of more meets were exchanged, before I set myself up for home with the sat nav programmed and my phone set up so I could listen to the Two Mikes podcast on the way home, which always provides good entertainment. Of course there were delays on the way home, with the M6 being closed for 2 junctions, and various other inconsiderate roadworks. Eventually though I got home at 1.40 and had myself a cider while checking out the numerous comments and messages from Facebook friends who had taken a keen interest in the game. I didn't get to sleep until nearly 4, which means I had stayed up for 24 hours without getting tired much. I went to sleep in a good mood, having had a great end to my football season.
Talking of that season, it had been a real blockbuster. 169 games in all, which smashed my previous record of 132. Yes, it had been expensive, costing me over £3500 in total, but then again, you can't take it with you. I had also driven over 18000 miles, thankfully most in my old car which got traded in near the end of the season. My head says that I am a madman spending so much but my heart has enjoyed every single minute, visiting some great places and meeting some brilliant people. I am unsure of my intentions for next season at present, but I expect it to be geared towards meeting people for sure, as that is the best part of football.
BROADHURST PARK is FC United's first home that they can call their own, and it's an excellent building block for the future. The main stand and the terrace are large and make up a big percentage of the grounds capacity which stands at 4400 officially, but physically you could fit around 5000 in. There is seating for around 1000 and although the other 2 sides are flat standing they are at least covered.
In keeping with FC United's community ethos, there are plenty of public facilities on hand, including a home for Moston Juniors who were resident when the area was just fields. For the football supporters there is a bar at the top of the stand which sadly I was unable to visit due to it being full although there is a bottle bar under the large Danebank Terrace behind the goal. Food was excellent when I went, with a number of stalls offering tempting and tasty treats way beyond the usual stuff you get in football grounds. The club shop is just a couple of stalls at the moment, although they do have a good selection at great prices.