FC United set to unveil their first stadium nine years after forming
By James Cooper
Last Updated: 12/10/14 8:47am
FC United have risen through the leagues since their formation nine years ago and are now about to open their own stadium, reports Sky Sports News’ James Cooper.
Their story is unrivalled in football's modern era - born out of fury following Malcom Glazer's Manchester United takeover the men and women who formed FC United of Manchester are about to cement their place in the game's history by laying down permanent roots at the club's first home.
Few believed those who walked away from Old Trafford in protest would amount to anything tangible but 'The Rebels' have climbed the leagues, basing themselves at Bury's Gigg Lane and latterly Stalybridge Celtic.
Currently seventh in the seventh tier of English football, the club's chief executive Andy Walsh, who has been there since day one, predicts the new stadium in North Manchester will be another crucial turning point.
“No other football club has done this,” Walsh said. “No other group of supporters have ever done this, starting a football club from scratch and building a facility like this is testimony to the strength of the supporter ownership model.
“We're constantly told as football fans that it’s not our place to concern ourselves with the running of the game, the running of football clubs - leave that to others who know better than us. Well, we're proving here that we're doing pretty well ourselves, that football fans should and can have a say in the way that the game is run.”
The birth of FC United of Manchester was unconventional and there have certainly been growing pains but this is a club which likes to do things differently.
Like many clubs, they have received funding for their new home in Moston but a Community Shares issue saw their fans raise around £2m of the £6m required for the scheme.
Another man who's been there since the early days is manager Karl Marginson, someone who's just looking forward to having his own home dressing room.
“It'll be take-off time,” Marginson said. “We'll have a dressing room, which we've never had. We train at a great facility but it is a community used facility and we can't get in there to get the players changed.
“Now they'll be able to arrive here at the ground, get changed in the dressing room, all the banter that goes on in most dressing rooms will be thrown about.
"And I’ll have somewhere that I can base myself, I'll have an office where I can dish out good news or bad news, whichever it may be, rather than doing it in a corridor or a toilet somewhere where we need to play. But once we're here it will be a football club.”
There are plenty of new ideas incorporated into the club's new HQ, some supporters are nurturing a nature reserve on the edge of the stadium site, another has created a mosaic which will take pride of place in the entrance hall.
But FC United have also drawn on the past and one of football's most revered venues by regenerating an entire stand from one of the oldest grounds in the world - the Drill Field, formerly home to Northwich Victoria.
“When that football club hit the rocks, the stand and the rest of the ground were going to be crushed,” Walsh added.
“We worked with Cheshire West council and the team that was taking the stand down to dismantle it, bring it here, re-engineer it, put it up here on the end of the ground and there'll be housing for two to two and half thousand supporters on a large terrace cheering the team on.”
The Broadhurst Park site is seven miles from Old Trafford but just two miles from Manchester United's birthplace in Newton Heath, a quirk that's reflected in the wooden cladding on the main stand designed to evoke the railway heritage of the club they walked away from.
As well as the main pitch, which boasts a sprinkler system, two further 3G pitches are under construction while the club is also providing a couple of grass pitches for local side Moston Juniors.
Walsh said: “To have achieved the success that we've had on the pitch in the last nine years has been remarkable.
"To actually build a £6m facility that's not only going to have our first team games but our womens' games, our youth team games, the games of local junior football clubs, providing facilities, training facilities, classrooms, function rooms, meeting rooms for people in north Manchester and the wider Manchester area is a remarkable achievement.”
A green and gold anti-Glazer scarf attached to the builder's fences is a reminder that feelings still run deep at FC United of Manchester but as the club looks towards the second decade of its existence there's a feeling the future will be more about 'us' than 'them'.