2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 23 – Tuesday 18 February 2020: FC United of Manchester (FCUM) v Stafford Rangers

Matchday programme cover

Another Tuesday night out courtesy of Paul. A rainy night in Manchester, and boy was it wet. It rained all the way on the drive across to Manchester, and when we arrived the pitch was already looking in a very wet state, with what looked to be developing a large puddle/small lake on the far side of the pitch. The facilities at Broadhurst Park though are splendid, even more so for this level of the game, the seventh tier, but this is a very new club.

FCUM were formed in 2005 by Manchester United fans in response to the takeover of The Red Devils by the Glaziers and initiated by the United Fanzine Red Issue. The club are the largest fan owned football club in the UK and the club is democratically run by its members who all have equal voting rights, owning one share each. They initially were tenants at the now sadly defunct Bury FC at Gigg Lane, but in 2015 moved into their own stadium which we are visiting tonight. There were a number of names put forward after the FA rejected FC United for being too generic – AFC Manchester 1878, Manchester Central, Newton Heath United but FC United of Manchester was officially registered by The FA in June 2005. Their early plans for their own ground were in Newton Heath in the area of the original Newton Heath FC who became Manchester United. However, the local Council did not approve the planning request and new plans were drawn for the Broadhurst Park Stadium in Moston.  They finally moved to their new home after playing primarily at Gigg Lane but also took in a further six venues for home fixtures, including, Altrincham’s Moss Lane, Radcliffe FC’s Stainton Park, Hyde United’s Ewen Fields, Stalybridge Celtic’s Bower Fold, Flixton FC’s Valley Road and Curzon Ashton’s Tameside Stadium, who all accommodated the club during the various promotions, which saw FCUM rise through the divisions of the North West Counties Football League and Northern Premier League (NPL), and then into the National League.

Teams out on the pitch

Tonight’s visitors were Stafford Rangers. I had already seen FCUM at Stalybridge Celtic earlier in the season in a cracker of a game and with The Red Rebels riding high in the NPL Premier Division I was hopeful of another good game. Despite the persistent rain before kick-off including a couple of heavy bursts, the game was on. Rangers came into the game bottom of the table, but their recent form had seen them only lose one in their last six matches.

Indeed, the visitors nearly took an early lead when Jaiden White broke down the wing and crossed into the box. FCUM ‘keeper Cameron Belford unable to hold the wet ball parried it out with it falling to Rangers’ Joshua Burns who drove it goal-wards, only to be cleared by FCUM. From the long ball downfield the Stafford ‘keeper Lewis King made a hash of his attempt to clear his lines, and he was grateful to see the effort from FCUM’s top scorer Tunde Owolabi thankfully sail over the bar with the goal unguarded. FCUM though did strike first, when following a free-kick on the edge of the Stafford box, Luke Griffiths curled home past the Rangers wall and King who was wrong-footed in goal, after eleven minutes.

Rather than deflate the visitors, it spurned them on, and following a throw and cross into the box, Jake Charles (grandson of the late ex-Wales, Leeds United and Juventus legend), got above the FCUM defence with a header that ‘keeper Belford just managed to scramble away. Before the break, the home side had a couple of decent headed chances themselves, both from corners. However, that elusive second goal wasn’t forthcoming and FCUM had to settle for 1-0 at the half-time whistle.

With the rain still belting down in the second-half, Stafford got back level on fifty-five minutes. From a free-kick out wide, FCUM ‘keeper Belford didn’t claim the cross and it was knocked back for Rangers skipper Jon Moran to tap in from close range. As the teams went back for the restart there was an incident which neither Paul nor I saw. However, the FCUM website filled in the blanks as follows: In the aftermath of the goal there was a silly exchange between Cameron Belford and Stafford’s Danny Burns, who in the heat of the moment threw the ball towards Belford’s face. Burns missed with his petulant throw, but the referee quite rightly booked both players for the coming together. Unfortunately for Burns, he had been booked for a cynical challenge in the first half and the second yellow card saw him dismissed. 

As so often when a team goes down to ten-men, they seem to pull together and make it difficult for the opposition. Stafford certainly achieved that and although ‘keeper Lewis had to pull off a good save from Adam Dodd, on the whole Rangers were holding their own. Then with just eleven minutes remaining, Dodd found substitute Morgan Homson-Smith, who took a touch, cut inside and curled home past King into the corner. With Stafford tiring, Dodd was involved once again, getting behind the Rangers defence with his cut-back put the wrong side of the post by the usually lethal Owolabi. FCUM continued to look for a third goal in the closing stages and sub Paul Ennis forced King into a save at his near post, which proved to be the last significant action of the game. A final score of 2-1 to FCUM which they were made to battle for.


Tuesday 18 February 2020

Bet Victor Northern Premier League

FC United of Manchester 2 (Griffiths 11’, Homson-Smith 79’) Stafford Rangers 1 (Moran 55’)

Venue: Broadhurst Park

Attendance: 1,336

FC United of Manchester: Belford, Morris, Dodd, Griffiths, Doyle, Elsdon, Hawley (Ennis 54’), Potts, Owolabi, Donohue (Lenehan 46’), Sinclair-Smith (Homson-Smith 63’).

Stafford Rangers: King, Burns, Hill (Grayson 81’), Moran, Burns, Harvey, White, Coulson, Charles (Luckie 86’), Diau, Thorley (Sheratt 80’).

(Both sides used all available substitutes)


Steve Blighton

2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 13 – Saturday 05 October 2019: Stalybridge Celtic v FC United of Manchester (FCUM)

Matchday programme cover

A local ‘derby’ just down the road for me featuring Stalybridge Celtic against FC United of Manchester at Bower Fold in the Northern Premier League’s top division. Two clubs that have interested me for different reasons, we’ll leave FCUM to later in the season. Stalybridge Celtic for me were a cup team, and I also remember them because of the Celtic suffix, in the time when I used to play games as a boy, like ‘name all the suffix’ of the league clubs’ (I think there were 26 at the time, the question and answer will be different now). Celtic wasn’t a suffix of any league club then or now in the English top four divisions but (Glasgow) Celtic are one of the largest sides in Scotland and were the first British club to lift the European Cup. So I naturally assumed that Stalybridge played in green and white hoops and had origins from a Roman Catholic church or church school.

There is some question around Stalybridge’s actual formation year in that whether it is 1906 or 1909, and no they didn’t spring from a Catholic but by Herbert Rhodes a local businessman and philanthropist, additionally they have always played in blue. How wrong my misconceptions were! Celtic were a former league club and were one of the founder members of the Third Division (North) for the 1921/22 season, along with another 19 teams from the north, some of whom have and will feature in this journey at one stage or another.

Handshakes before kick-off

It was local Football Charity Day at Bower Fold and there was a carnival atmosphere with a large FCUM contingent joining the home fans – the bar will have done very well today. Good footballing weather, a nice compact ground and a boisterous crowd, let’s hope that we had a game to match.

Stalybridge came out the block quickly and scored within two minutes. Darius Osei was fouled outside the box and Declan Walker took the resulting free-kick. Paddy Wharton in the FCUM goal couldn’t hold the effort and Osei had a simple tap in to give Celtic the lead. FCUM were nearly level just three minutes later when Jordan Buckley was denied by Alex Fojticek who dashed out of his goal to make the save. The opening of the game continued at a pace with Wharton having to save a Craig Hobson effort with nine minutes gone. It was an end-to-end encounter with play switching from one end to the other. Stalybridge’s Jonathan Ustabasi was a constant threat down the left-wing and managed to pick out Hobson and Osei on a number of occasions. The tempo couldn’t be sustained and eventually the game settled down. As the first-half was coming to a close Celtic had the ball in the net. However the effort was disallowed after the referee ruled that Osei handled the ball in the build-up. At the break the home side went in 1-0 up and deservedly ahead.

FCUM were eager to get a leveller early in the second-half and did so after fifty-seven minutes. The lively Tunde Owolabi firing home ball past Fojticek. Owolabi was then involved ten minutes later when he nipped in to collect a wayward Celtic back-pass which allowed Ennis to stroke into an unguarded net. FCUM held the 2-1 advantage as the game entered the final ten minutes, but the home side struck with eighty-two minutes on the watch as a Walker free-kick was headed home by Osei for his and Stalybridge’s second of the game. Celtic then sensationally nearly went ahead as another free-kick was met by the head of Valentine only for his effort to come back off the post. There was to be a winner though, but it came for the visitors as a free-kick from Ennis evaded everyone and nestled in the Celtic net as the game entered time added on to clinch a 3-2 win for FCUM.

What a great game, a five-goal thriller, the best of the season for me, especially the second half. The three United midfielders, Luke Griffiths, Alex Babos and Mike Potts ran the game and were the difference between the two sides. A great advert for the standard of football at this level (Step 7 of the football pyramid).


Saturday 05 October 2019

BetVictor Northern Premier League – Premier Division

Stalybridge Celtic 2 (Osei 2’, 81’) FC United of Manchester 3 (Owolabi 56’, Ennis 66’, 90’)

Venue: Bower Fold

Attendance: 1,188

Staylybridge Celtic: Fojticek, Walker, Mantack, Dent (Whitehead 71’), Lees, Smalley, Ustabasi,

Valentine, Hobson (MacDevitt 83’), Osei, Freedman (Bakkor 55’)

Unused substitutes – O’Halloran, O’Leary.

FC United of Manchester: Wharton, Morris, Dodd, Griffiths, Doyle, Jones, Babos (Lenehan 76’), Potts,

Owolabi, Buckley (Ennis 55’), Curran (Joyce 90’)

Unused substitutes – Rodney, Belford


Steve Blighton