Ah, man, you read The Book of Exodus and you’d think Moses and the Israelites had it bad. They fled Egypt, which was wise given the current political turmoil over there, and mooched about the wilderness for forty years before God gave them a bit of land to call their own, and they all settled down to do whatever it is they did. Compared to us at FC United they had it easy. OK, they mooched about the wilderness for forty years, but did they have to get the tram all the way to Bury? Did they fuck. Bury! It’s past Besses o’th’ Barn for crying out loud. And when it was time to stay put, God gave them the Promised Land just like that. No planning permission applications, no community share issue, no pleading for grants and hand-outs. Nah, man, it clearly pays to have friends in high places. And I’m talking much higher than Richard Leese of Manchester City council.
But shit, we’re doing it the hard way, and that’s fine. We’re a secular kind of club, and I’m not sure cashing in favours from Him would go down well with all of our membership. So planning applications, grant funding, and the development fund it is. And the way things are going we’ll be well inside Ten Acres Lane within forty years, showing Moses and Co exactly where hard work will get you.
I feel I should stop at this juncture and apologise for this awful, blasphemous intro. Not so much for the blasphemy, but for the clunky clumsiness of it all. I had intended to riff on an expat, patriotism and identity kind of theme, bringing in to question whether FC United’s intrinsic Mancunianness had been magnified by us being exiled all the way in Bury. I’ve long argued that we are the football club most representative of Manchester, its people and its culture. But then this is a claim as ludicrous as it is arrogant. It manages to be both magnificently conceited and essentially meaningless, so I steered clear. Except I didn’t, did I? And now having mentioned it, I feel almost duty bound to defend this indefensible position. Which shouldn’t be too difficult, actually. Especially if I ignore fact and reason, and deal only in hyperbole and bullshit. Which just so happens to be my speciality.
See, Manchester United are doing everything in their power to pretend they don’t have a local community to serve, so that they can expand their markets overseas. Did you know that a donation of ‘$10,000 and above’ was made by the club to a school recently. The school was West Day Academy, a private school that costs a student $20,000 a year, located in West Palm Beach, Florida. One of the school’s governors is Jill ‘wife of Avram’ Glazer. I wonder how many schools in Manchester or Salford have received such a donation from the club? I wonder how many local sports teams or football teams have seen anywhere near 10% of that figure? It seems from the outside, even the inside part of the outside that FC United fans sit in, that the whole ‘being part of Manchester’ thing is a massive inconvenience for the Glazers.
Now city, to give them credit, city pay attention to the local community. They have long shamed their Big Red neighbours when it comes to both community work, and playing on the importance of the local fan to the club. This is Our City posters, the Tevez posters, the creation of the myth that they are ‘Manchester’s Club’. It’s all been very clever, and very good. But since the arrival of Garry Cook, the club have manically been trying to annex parts of Manchester through aggressive marketing like a giant game of local Risk, to the degree that they threw Hyde United a load of money, made them wear blue, and drop the ‘United’ suffix. All very odd. And how Mancunian can a club be that’s owned by Abu Dhabi and used in the same way my mate used his Breitling watch – to show off how much money he had and how flash he was.
All of which leaves us. Assuming you conveniently ignore all the other local non-league sides, which I’m delighted to do. We’re a proper community club. A club set up by the people of Manchester for the people of Manchester. The city and history and traditions of Manchester are central to everything we do. They’re key to our very existence. Except. Except, except, except. Except we’re stuck in Bury. And until we’re rooted in a community of our own, hopefully and probably Newton Heath, we’re about as much use as a, errr, whatever.
So this is the problem. This is where we are. A ghost walking the corridors of Bury, rattling our chains, waiting to end our period in limbo and head off to our final destination, whichever way that may be. Which is why our stadium plans, and the whole Ten Acres Lane project is so important to us. Without it, we can’t be who we’re meant to be. We can’t be a Manchester community team without having a Manchester community to serve. It’s a right pisser.
But last Friday the dream got a little bit more real. The finishing line a little more visible. The club released a 3D fly-through of the stadium. The tree-lined car park. The reclaimed timber cladding of the stand. The redeveloped astroturf and sports centre. The fucking amazing looking terrace behind the goal. Jesus, the whole thing looked stunning. A mate called it a “tidy looking little ground”. He did it a grave injustice. It’s the single most awesome football ground I’ve ever seen, depicted in the most savagely beautiful video ever posted on to the internet – and believe me, I’ve spent FAR too long looking at videos on the internet…
If the club’s purpose in releasing the video was to push the community share scheme back in to the public consciousness just before the deadline, then I hope it works. I hope those who are in a position to help but haven’t yet see this and think, yeah, let’s make it happen. Let’s take us home. Every success on the pitch between now and whenever is irrelevant if we don’t make Ten Acres Lane work. It’s as important and as simple as that.
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