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You get four hundred words in to a match report of FC United of Manchester v Witton Albion and then all hell breaks loose regarding the scheduling and ticketing of the NPL playoff final plus Alex Ferguson retires as manager of Manchester United. If ever there was cause to CTRL-A > DEL an entire document, that was it.
Which is just as well. Writing a match report to a game you weren’t even at can be troubling. It can also be liberating, not being constricted by fact and actual occurrences, but there’s always the chance that someone who was at the game would read my fictional tome and pull me up on being a liar and a charlatan. The truth can sting.
So here’s what you need to know. Last night at Gigg Lane FC United vanquished (I’ve been reading the Go Between, get with the programme literature freaks) Witton Albion 3-1. Scorers for FC United were Wolfenden with an incredible forty yard volley, Mullholland, and Stott from the penalty spot. I don’t know who scored for Witton and I can’t be bothered to look it up. I know this isn’t the fair, even-handed reportage you expect from 200%, but Ian asked me to write this, and he should have been wise enough to know what to expect.
Tactically, for those of you who are interested in such things, FC United apparently lined up with a Christmas tree formation, if that tree had been left out until April. At least that’s what the FCUM Radio boys tweeted to much glee and amusement. If you ask me there’s far too much tactics in football. Free yourself from this drek. Tactics are fun and interesting if you have the soul of an accountant. What football needs is poetry. Love. 40 yard teed up volleys. Not false nines, inverted wingers and trequartistas. You may as well hang around with a camera and a notebook at the end of Platform 4 at Crewe station if that’s your thing, you big weirdy.
FC United are now ninety minutes away from promotion out of the Evo Stik glue league in to the Blue Square gambling North division, or whatever it’s called. I’ve mixed emotions about this. Promotion is nice. The giddy gadding about in post-victory blissed out state is hard to beat. Plus there’s the added incentive of new and exciting away trips to go on (Oxford City, anyone?). But there’s a grim reality to all this. Are we ready as a club for promotion? Can we afford the increase in playing budget? Will the move up a division while we’re still sharing at Bury infringe on our core principles? At a time when someone feels comfortable to run for the club’s board on a more commercialism platform, I’d rather we didn’t have to face these questions. I’m more than happy rattling about the NPL until our ground is built and we’re ready to grow organically. As it is I can see people advocating increasing ticket prices, or merchandising, or saying things like “maximising revenue streams” in order to compete at a higher level. And forget that, as they’d say on a badly dubbed, pre-watershed action film on ITV.
The thing about a democracy is that if that’s what the people want, than that’s the way it’ll be. I’m not arrogant enough to think my way is the right way (OK, I am. I’m completely arrogant enough to think that). But already people are questioning the club’s priorities and we’ve not even been promoted.
Following our and Hednesford’s semi-final victories, Hednesford announced they would only allocate FC United 500 tickets for Friday night’s playoff final. This seemed to be their way of blackmailing us, and the league, in to moving the game back to a Saturday 3pm kick off. There’s no question it should have been a Saturday game in the first place, the Friday fixture being announced as ‘due to the FA Cup final’, but having set the time some weeks ago, and with fans having made allowances and changes to free up their Friday night, the late swap left a sour taste in the mouth. It’s the second successive year FC United fans have been messed about over ticketing for the playoff final, after Bradford and the West Yorkshire Police combined to give us a 2pm kick off on a Sunday last season. Fans are questioning why this keeps happening, and how, if we keep getting messed about so clubs can make a few extra quid here and there, this is any different to what we walked away from in the Premier League.
It’s a viewpoint I have some sympathy with. But as I’ve said, we’re a democracy, and the board has to work within that system just as much as we do. They have to do what they can to please as the maximum number of people possible. By switching the fixture to a Saturday they ensured that we would get 2500 tickets, pay on the gate rather than five hundred all-ticket. Is this a better situation for most of our fans? Unquestionably. So is this the right thing to do in their position? Yes, it probably is. It’s a shame that in a moment we should be enjoying, basking in a glorious performance from our team on a night that those there assure me was one of the best atmospheres in our history, we’re having to talk internal club and external league politics, but that’s the way of football these days. I see the fact we’re having this discussion as positive. A reminder that we’re sensitive to the issues that effect us and others. And while the outcome may not have suited everyone on this occasion, the club did the best they could given the framework that they have to function within. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, and you certainly can’t please a handful of shouty, rebellious Mancunians most of the time. The very history of our club lends itself to people who are easily irked, so issues like this will continue to come to the fore. I guess we need to get used to it.
I’ll be going up on Saturday. There’s been no official call for a boycott, and I doubt there will be. I gave the final a swerve last year, partly for moral reasons, partly due to not being arsed getting to Bradford on a Sunday train service. But this year feels different. 3pm on a Saturday feels right. And the best way to deal with this situation is to beat Hednesford, get promoted, and ensure we don’t have to worry about the teams in this league and division any more.
Give ‘em hell, Reds.
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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
The Ryman Premier (where we qualified for three play-offs before winning our first final, something I hope FCUM will do too) was harder in many ways than Conference South (which we won first time).
Presumably this was (still is?) due to the glass ceiling of only two promotion places from a well-funded feeder league (just like the Conference National jump to the League) and the amount of dead-wood that never gets relegated from level 6 (for a variety of bad reasons).
I would expect FCUM to easily hold their own in Conference North. It’s just getting there that is the problem. Good luck!
Forgot to say that Staines tried a similar thing on us but we just bought their home tickets instead (unlike Hednesford they have no fans):
“Wednesday 30 April 2008
Staines tickets nearly gone
We are very sorry but, after reconsidering their situation, Staines have now decided that we can only have 1,000 tickets for the play off final. As a result, following an early morning rush for tickets, we are very nearly sold out.
While this is very unfortunate, Staines were only required to give us 600 tickets and so we are getting nearly double that amount, which is generous of them.
The credit card hotlines and office will stay open until we sell out.