Filed under: News | Tags: Aaron Grundy, BPA, Karl Lenaghan, Kendal, Kings Lynn
And so it begins. The long trudge through winter. For the second time in a week a game between FC United of Manchester and Kendal Town was called off. This time is was Gigg Lane that succumbed to the weather. The water table was so high it was touching the clouds. Sheets of rain fell on Bury, and the referee took the decision to call the game off and reduce the risk of the players contracting trench foot.
So not for the last time this season the afternoon was not spent listening to the mellifluous tones of Keg, Swampy and the rest of the FC radio crew, but sat in the pub drinking beer, eating crisps, and wondering whether or not Sky’s continued employment of Paul Merson as a pundit counts as care in the community, or cruelty to animals.
But just because the cardigans weren’t in action, doesn’t mean the world stopped spinning. It seems that goalkeeping coach Karl Lenaghan is off to Ossett Town as their new assistant manager.
A couple of seasons back Sam Ashton broke his hand and was replaced in the team by a loanee from Bury, Aaron Grundy.
Grundy, whose website is among my favourite things on the ‘net, performed so well he won the coveted Unibond ‘Safe Hands’ award for goalkeeper of the month. An award conspicuous by its absence in the trophy cabinets of Lev Yashin, Peter Schmeichel and Gianluigi Buffon. Indeed there are members of our congregation who decided that Grundy was a better goalkeeper than Sam Ashton, and there were calls to sign him when he was released by Bury that summer.
What folly, if you excuse me dipping in to the lexicon of an over-excitable Edwardian dandy. What we were seeing in Grundy’s performances was the benefit of full time training and specialist coaching. Was Grundy a better goalkeeper than Sam Ashton technically? Probably not. But what he was was fitter, more focused and better drilled. None of which detracts from Grundy’s ability as a ‘keeper – he made one save in particular, away to Skem, that was World Class. With a capital W and a capital C.
But having had a chance to work with Karl over a prolonged period of time, the improvements in Sam’s game have been obvious. Ashton has matured into one of the best goalkeepers in non league football. Only the performances of former BPA and current Guiseley ‘keeper Jon Worsnop have come close in terms of consistent excellence. We can even forgive Sam one of his ‘moments’ against Harrogate Town last week. Given how many games he has kept us in this season, I think it’s only we allow him a couple of fuck ups.
So a big thank you to Karl Lenaghan, and fingers crossed his departure doesn’t adversely affect the player who has, in my opinion, been FC United’s best for the past season and a bit.
We weren’t the only team not to have a game on the weekend. Kings Lynn’s game against Guiseley was called off as doubts about the Linnets future continued. It’s too complicated a story for me to recount here, so I’ll direct you to the ever-excellent twohundredpercent for his synopsis.
With Newcastle Blue Star already missing form the league, and the potential end for Kings Lynn, we could only see two teams get relegated this season. Which still wouldn’t be enough to save the hapless Durham, who lost 7-1 away to Hucknall this weekend. That takes their goals against column up to 102. Still, at least they scored.
Long time It’ll Be Off devotees will notice I’ve been very quiet on the subject of Bradford Park Avenue so far this season. This is largely down to Robert S Blackburn and his idiot cohort Kev Hainsworth keeping a relatively low profile recently. But also because the team are performing impressively in the league. The horrible bastards. Plus, the memory of our first half performance at the Horsfall Stadium at the start of this season still causes me sleepless nights. We were rank. Fucking rank. Almost as bad as the research that went in to finding out our squad for the back of their programme that day. Phil Priestly? David Brown? Craig Fleury? Probably could have done with Spenner, mind. He could have rested his bad hip as he watched Adam Tong throw-ins sail over his head to the vague direction of the penalty area.
“Football isn’t just a sport. Nowadays it’s an industry,” says Besiktas fan Ozan Ilhan ahead of his side’s clash with Manchester United on Wednesday.
The smallest of Turkey’s “big three”, Besiktas are seen in their country as the halk takim, the people’s team.
The three big clubs in Turkey – Besiktas, Galatasaray, Fenerbahce – their presidents don’t want these fans in the stadium… like in England, they want rich fans
The team’s fan base is traditionally more working-class and left-wing than those of rivals Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, and their supporters’ club, Carsi, takes this history to heart.
Formed by six teenagers in 1980, Carsi is now a thousands-strong organisation that, unusually, marries fanaticism for the team with political causes.
Ozan is a 24-year-old student who lives in the German city of Koblenz, and works in the city’s car industry.
He is one of the 1,000 or so Carsi members making the trip to Manchester.
“My wife cannot understand me,” he complains. “She says: ‘Why fly to Manchester for Besiktas? You can watch it at home on the television.'”
Supporting Besiktas is seen as more of a way of life than a hobby
They are coming from all over Europe – 150 from Germany, 50 from Holland, 50 from London – for a match they probably won’t win and, even if they do, has no bearing on them qualifying for the next stage.
“Carsi is like a spirit,” says Devrim Borcek, another fan from Germany.
“Those living in Istanbul are close to Besiktas. I’m living 3000km away but I have to live the same as these guys.”
But this is more than an ordinary supporters’ club trip.
Carsi is a hive of activity, both at matches and away from the stadium.
It has a changing cast of members but, for the core, the group is central to their lives.
Together they take part in Labour Day marches, do charity work, produce placards for matches, and even protest against government nuclear policy – or just meet up to drink and talk about football.
Fans are introduced to ideas like anarchism and socialism that don’t get an airing in traditional media, let alone most football stadia.
By contrast, the fans they will encounter on Wednesday have been dubbed the “prawn sandwich brigade” for their corporate approach to supporting a team.
So how do Carsi members feel about Manchester United fans?
Ozan respects United’s history and success, if not their fans’ style of support.
I cannot imagine Besiktas like Manchester. It’s not possible and I don’t want it
Besiktas fan Ozan on Manchester United’s supporters
“They are a good example of people who like the football industry, who like to go to the stadium, watch the match and go home,” he says.
“That’s not the culture of Besiktas. We have to scream whether we win or lose – all that matters is the atmosphere, the expectation that you are not only there but you are living it.
“I cannot imagine Besiktas like Manchester. It’s not possible and I don’t want it.”
But they do want to be successful. Although winners of the Turkish league last year, Besiktas are currently at the bottom of Champions League group B, yet to win a European match this season.
Those in charge need to decide whether triumph on the European stage can be achieved without diluting the club’s identity, in an age in which success increasingly depends on money.
The club’s efforts to boost revenue have seen Carsi lose out.
Ticket prices have increased year on year, making it harder for the traditional fanbase to attend.
Seats in Carsi’s section for last Saturday’s derby against Fenerbahce cost 250 Lira (£100) – more than all but the most expensive tickets at Old Trafford.
“The three big clubs in Turkey – Besiktas, Galatasaray, Fenerbahce – their presidents don’t want these fans in the stadium,” a Turkish journalist tells me.
“Like in England, they want rich fans.”
Where next for Carsi, then?
The globalisation of the game has brought the group opportunities and threats in equal measure.
Some members worry its 1980s collectivist ideology doesn’t resonate with younger fans in an era of multi-million pound transfers and instant success.
But televised games, the internet and cheap European flights have brought more people into the Carsi fold.
Widespread publicity means the movement has become a magnet for those disenchanted with “typical” football fans, or even Turkish society in general.
They are fighting for a vision of what it means to be a fan – an all-consuming relationship with the club that they believe is alien to most in English football.
And so to Old Trafford, the 76,000-capacity, all-seated cathedral for the modern game.
“It will be a hard match, I think,” says Ozan.
“Our chances aren’t good. But remember the match in 2003 against Chelsea, when nobody expected Besiktas to win. It was wonderful, so why not again?”
The thing that got me about this whole ‘Welcome To Manchester’ thing (topical, I know) wasn’t the bare-faced cheek of it, which I secretly kind of admired, but the ludicrous nature of it all. I can’t really see any other club having done something similar. Could you imagine Everton putting a picture of Dirk Kuyt up on a huge billboard in Liverpool city centre if they ever signed him? No, and not just because the sight of a twenty-foot tall Dirk Kuyt is almost certain to lead to countless dozens of road fatalities. It just seemed such an odd and desperate thing to do.
The Tevez poster, combined with the Arndale Adebayor public spittoon, are the latest in a long line of Manchester city derived hijinks with the sole aim of perpetrating this whole ‘city are the true Manchester’ team myth. A few years ago, with their ‘This Is Our City’ posters spamming every free billboard in an SK postcode area, you could sort of see their point. They were wrong, of course, but there was maybe a slither of a nugget of a truth in there. While Manchester United were off chasing global markets, increasing brand awareness, and in the case of Martin Edwards hiding in the women’s toilets to catch a glimpse of his employees pissing, city were left behind on and off the pitch. Claiming the local high ground was the only thing left to do. While United were in danger of forgetting, or more likely ignoring, their roots, it’s all city had to play with.
But times have changed since then. city have been bought not once, but twice. Firstly by Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai PM with an appalling human rights record (outlined here), and more recently by Sheikh Mansour. And what do the city fans do? Nowt. First of all they make a banner saying ‘We Support Thaksin’ and anyone who has read the link posted up there will know what a diabolical thing to say that is. And then, after Shinawatra sold up, they make a new banner, the appallingly snivelling ‘Manchester Thanks You Sheikh Mansour’, which they all sit under in keffiyeh made out of tea towels. city fans, it seems, are delighted their club is traded like a pannini sticker. They love it.
That isn’t right. That isn’t what Manchester was built on. There’s a long history of revolution and rebellion in Manchester; industrial, cultural, footballing. When the Glazers first visited Old Trafford, were they welcomed by half a dozen spazzy fans dressed in fake ginger beards and high waisted jeans? Were they fuck. They were barricaded in the ground, whilst angry protests made it clear to the world that these chancers, these carpetbaggers were unwelcome. There were marches, meetings, chants. There was a strong and staunch belief that Manchester United didn’t belong to any one person, but to the people of Manchester. You can’t buy and sell generations of history, tradition, and shared experiences. And to sit back and not only watch it happen, but wave in the likes of Glazer, Shinawatra and Mansour is a disgrace and an insult to Manchester and Mancunians everywhere.
All of which comes straight from my A Level text book of political philosophy and righteous indignation. And of course I don’t even need to point out how daft it is city playing on this whole ‘Manchester’s club’ thing now, when they have a team filled with foreign stars, are owned by a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family who spent their summer holidays playing friendlies in South Africa.
So far from representing Manchester and Mancunians, city have been embarrassing them for over forty years now. The spirit of arrogance, soul, rebellion and revolution that helped form the city has long lived in the heart of Manchester United, and we at FC United are the logical conclusion to that.
Furious FC United fans were left with nothing to whinge about tomorrow after tonight’s League Challenge Cup tie at Kendal was postponed.
Heavy rain left standing water on the pitch, and with further downpours forecast for today, match officials ruled that the game could not go ahead.
“This is ludicrous,” moaned one forum regular, “What am I meant to do tomorrow? I’d already typed out half my rant about how the Deegan and Marsh partnership wasn’t working, and how we should sign a generic, unknown striker who’s currently under contract with another club who pay more than us anyway, thus rendering my whole post fantastically ridiculous.”
A second fan added: “I had my mind made up that I would spend all day Wednesday in the forum complaining about going out of another cup competition, and how it would affect the crowds, and then we wouldn’t be able to build a stadium, before pointing out that we wouldn’t last another two seasons if things carried on this way. Now what am I meant to do? I can’t believe how unfair this is.”
The fixture will now be played in Kendal on December the 8th, prompting a long post from a forumista about how he can’t make that date, as he’s drinking mulled wine and singing carols with Aunt Bessy who’s up visiting for the week, and isn’t this typical of the club, and the league, and this never happened in the North West Counties League, and it’s all Iain Mills’s fault.
But fans of the Rebels needn’t wait long before they can unload their drippy “waa waa waa” nonsense back on to the internet. Saturday sees the return of league football to Gigg Lane with the visit of Kendal Town.
Filed under: News | Tags: Adam Carden, Harrogate Town, Kendal, Plague of frogs
Should round-up be hyphenated? I’ve never really got to grips with hyphens. Like semi-colons (is that even hyphenated?) they remain a grey area. A constant reminder of the cruel hold the English Language has over me. Language is my master, not vice versa.
Anyway, last week’s game at Hucknall was a pleasant departure from the norm. After racing in to a three goal lead, we were forced to cling on until the death, finally winning 3-2. This week, against Harrogate Town in the Trophy, things returned to normal.
It’s been a template for the season. Play like guff for a half, then stage a rousing comeback late on, spurred on by a very vocal crowd, before just missing out on snatching a dramatic and arguably unjust draw. We did it against Boston on the opening day of the season, and we did it again a few days later against Bradford Park Avenue at the Horsfall. And to be honest, it’s getting a little boring. Assuming something can be boring at the same time as being heart stoppingly dramatic, and unquestionably exciting. Ah, the paradoxical complexities of modern football, eh? FC United are a quixotic beast and no mistaking.
Meanwhile, this week’s home game, away to Kendal (doesn’t get much more quixotic than that) appears to be seriously under threat after half the world’s water supply fell on Cumbria last week, with further biblical plagues forecast overnight. There’s set to be a pitch inspection tomorrow, but with the pitch under six-foot of frogs, locusts, hail and fleas, I’d wager a large amount of someone else’s money that the game won’t be going ahead. Still, that’ll save us getting knocked out another cup so soon, which’ll be nice.
Moving on. And not just us, but also Adam Carden. Late last night, or indeed early this morning, a message was posted on the official site that our spiky, Scouse, winger-come-fullback would be leaving the club. “With great regret,” typed Andy Walsh with his two index fingers, whilst smelling strongly of gin, “We have parted company with Adam Carden.” It was only last season that Adam was being linked with AFC Bournemouth, so someone is sure to benefit from his moving on. And it was only the other week that Adam was legging it off the pitch at Stalybridge, followed by three hundred furious and blood-thirsty Spartans. I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing him all the best. Or maybe I am. Who knows?
For those of you with a keen eye for detail and the mind of proper po-lice, you’ll notice that the statement said ‘parted company with’, which should set alarm bells ringing. And if not alarm bells, then certainly that annoying beep you get when your smoke detector is running out of batteries. Log on to the members blog for a more in-depth report of what happened with Adam. And if you’re not a member, then why the fuck not? What’s the point of being a fan of a member owned club if you’re not even a member. I swear, democracy is wasted on the, uhh… stupid. Or something. Sign up here, or else.
Finally, massive congrats to Durham City, who managed to avoid defeat this weekend. OK, they didn’t have a game, but when you’ve been knocked about as much as Durham have, looking at the positives is a must.