Someone in FC United’s offices at Hope Mill in Manchester is very good at burying bad news. On Wednesday night the team suffered their heaviest ever defeat, 1-5, handed out by rivals, league leaders, and all round terrible bastards Bradford Park Avenue. Supporters could be forgiven for waking up Thursday morning and feeling a little bit glum.
But instead of long faces, hangdog expressions, and a forum full of idiots clogging the place up with their ill-targeted rants, there was a collective expulsion of noise, a primal belch that sounded a lot like “OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!”
Rumours had been flying for a long time over the proposed location of FC United’s new ground. According to cabbies and internet railway enthusiasts, the club would eventually find itself playing in Newton Heath, the spiritual and original home of Manchester United. Each new rumour sent fans scurrying on to Google maps, surveying the area for available land. But due to the nature of these things, no official announcement could be made.
Until Thursday morning.
It was a joyous morning. The sort of morning that can clear your fuzzy head and make you forget what a considerable beating you got the night before. In my inbox sat an email from ‘the FC United good news dept.’ with the subject ‘FCUM ANNOUNCE LOCATION OF PROPOSED STADIUM’. Just like that. It was in uppercase as it’s not the sort of news you can say quietly. I tried saying it quietly to the girlfriend but ended up bellowing it full blast in to her face. She somehow maintained her sang froid and asked me if I wanted owt from the shops. I didn’t.
It turns out the cabbies and internet railway enthusiasts were right all along. The proposed site is set to be in Newton Heath, less than half a mile away from Bank Street, Manchester United (then Newton Heath LYR)’s first ever ground. The site is a council owned sports centre on Ten Acres Lane. And while the links to the history of Manchester United are romantic for a team primarily run for and by Manchester United fans, it’s all just a beautiful coincidence.
According to FC United General Manager Andy Walsh, the primary concern was to have a ground within three miles of the city centre. Not only to make the prospect of attending a game more inviting to local people, but to ensure the club has a community to support. It’s a core belief of the club, locked in to the club constitution: “The club will develop strong links with the local community and strive to be accessible to all, discriminating against none.” At the same time that FC United fans were receiving the good news, leaflets were being posted through letterboxes in the Ten Acres Lane area letting the population know that this was as much for them, as it was for us.
The ground itself is to be a 5000 capacity, with seven to eight hundred seats, costing in the region of £3.5million. It’s a modest size, but a realistic one. Should FC United ever reach Conference National level or above, it doesn’t take a Roald Dahl-like imagination to see the place full. In the Northern Premier League, stuck out in Bury, crowds have leveled out at the 2000 mark. But the record attendance remains the 6023 that saw the North West Counties League division 2 trophy presented to the team in 2006. Aside from the ground, there are to be sports facilities for the local area, an all weather 3G pitch, changing rooms, sports and community hall, and whatever else it is felt is needed. Walsh was keen to stress that this side of things was a blank page, and that local residents had as much a say in what they want there as anyone else.
The giddiness was temporarily punctuated by the reality that this is only a proposed site. That planning permission and the consent of the locals is still required to make this a goer. But when have football fans ever let fact get in the way of a good goon? Regardless of future politicking, this is the first important step to building FC United a new home. Now there’s just the small case of raising the £3.5 million needed to complete the dream.