FC United of Manchester, one of the most high profile supporter-owned clubs in England, opened its new ground on Friday with a friendly match against European giants Benfica. FSF Deputy Chair Martin O'Hara tells us more...
In recent years numerous football clubs have had the thrill of moving to a new stadium. There’s nothing better than leaving behind a decrepit stadium that has seen better times and setting foot inside something that promises a better future, an optimism that inhabits all football supporters who wish for nothing but good times, on and off the pitch.
Yet on a damp and blustery Friday evening in Moston, a suburb of Manchester, this official opening of a stadium known as Broadhurst Park carried significance far beyond its size. As they proudly say ‘we do things a little differently around here’.
And so they do. And that’s because this isn’t a replacement stadium, this is the first stadium that this club can call home. This is FC United of Manchester. A club born out of the trials and tribulations that Manchester United supporters went through some years ago, facing an unwelcome American invasion.
Those years number ten exactly. And Friday was the culmination of those ten years, a fitting result to the years of hard work by thousands of people and the dedication of staff, players, supporters and everyone involved with this fan owned club.
The smiles and warm welcome from everyone in this club is a joy. This is a club owned by the fans, for the benefit of the very same people and nothing can dampen their spirit, the sheer pride in their achievement is obvious to any casual observer.
There is a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, a sense that tonight we may be witnessing history, but by God, above all, we’re going to enjoy it at the same time.
It’s a neat and compact ground. It has a sight for sore eyes to most football supporters, a large terrace behind one goal that houses a wonderfully vocal section and is living proof that standing and atmosphere do go hand in hand.
They start early and don’t stop, the noise is wonderfully varied in tone and content. I particularly like the song ‘We built our own ground’ sung to the tune of ‘Dirty Old Town’ and another which pokes fun at a certain individual who suggested once upon a time that fans couldn’t run a football club. Oh yes they can! They have proven that in recent years.
Several promotions sees them within striking distance of the Football League, and along the way they have shown ingenuity off the park too with the ability to raise finances and be creative in doing so. It’s no wonder this club is shortlisted for the 2015 Cooperative of the Year Award.
The opposition on Friday were non-other than the champions of Portugal, Benfica. As with most things with this club it’s an achievement to be hosting such a prestigious team, and not one that fazes them in the slightest.
The match itself seemed somewhat superfluous to the events of the evening, but it was enjoyable, and despite the score line, 1-0 to the visitors, everybody had an enjoyable time. As I walked away from the ground that night I had a smile on my face too. It’s catching in this part of Manchester, and a habit that I hope everyone can subscribe to.
In a week of lows for FIFA and the global game this was the ideal antidote, this was what the game of football is about, this is a reminder of why we chose this sport, for the sheer enjoyment. And here in Manchester they have it in spades. I’d wish you all good luck on your journey, but somehow I don’t think you’ll need it.
Thanks to Richard Searle for the image used in this article.