Soulful weekend

25 10 2009
Bangor City 4 Prestatyn Town 0
Welsh Premier League

Thanks to the doom and gloom spewed forth, the entity known as Bangor City was surrounded by much trepidation. We have an attack that can’t be arsed, a midfield that is terrible and a defence that’s not much better. We were stuck in the valley waiting for annihilation, the football version of Rorke’s Drift.

They attacked from the off, it was relentless. Passes found their intended targets. Shots found the net. Shots were smashed here there and everywhere. Were my eyes deceiving me? Weren’t all of the players shooting, and passing well!, wearing the blue of Bangor? No it couldn’t be, wait a minute Sion’s about to score. He does score, that makes it   3-0 you say. Well well well.

Bangor were already 2-0 up thanks to goals from Limbo (a low shot after a never-ending run across the edge of the area) and Reedy (a smart shot after a smart turn) when Sion sidefooted his contribution. The passing was superb, one touch, short, long, medium, it had them all. My favourite was a pass to Sion that arrowed across the turf, just around a defender’s outstretched leg. Jesus, I thought we were crap this season, and Prestatyn are 3rd in the League as well. It was too easy.

The second half passed me by a bit, I had conversation after conversation. The match was that enjoyable kind where you didn’t need to keep track of things too much because the situation is so relaxed, we were too far ahead. A few details that I did manage to notice included; Prestatyn’s Number 5 appears to be a tool (, he fouled, he squared up to people, he tapped Stotty’s ankles then squared up to people, which led to a footballer’s aggression followed by Prestatyn’s manager diving to attempt incrimination); one of the ball boys accidentally kicked the ball into the face of Prestatyn’s keeper, the look of shock was rather amusing; finally and most beautifully, many evidentally joyful visages at the final whistle.

A good day!!


Northwich Victoria 3 FC United of Manchester 0
F.A. Cup 4th Qualifying Round

It’s hard not to see the romantic side of FC United. They are, of course, a fan-owned club set up by disgruntled fans of Manchester United. You sense the romanticism in Ken Loach’s Looking for Eric. So with a free saturday and FC United playing in the F.A. Cup just down the road the romantic in me made plans to go to Northwich. Watching Looking for Eric last week also helped to focus my thinking.

After checking the plans for this match I found that Northwich operates a “Cash-free entry system” or “buying a ticket” as it’s usually known to you and me. We had to carry out this step well beforehand so we didn’t become part of the multitude that will only turn up on the day of the game. Why do multitudes always leave it to the last minute?

A brilliant two-part plan was hatched in order to avoid disappointment. Part One; misread an electronic timetable in Chester Station. It’s amazing how modern technology can make a 3 and an 8 appear similar. Part Two; turn the 10 minute stroll, from the nearest station, into a 25 minute hike. The plan worked perfectly; I arrived at 10 past three. I may have missed the kick-off but I’d also missed the congestion.

On my way to the ground heard a faint throbbing, whatever it was was muffled by trees. As I cleared the trees the throbbing changed into more recognisable sounds, a crowd! The songs became clearer the closer you got to the ground. By the time I got through the turnstile I could see that FC United fans made up about 2/3 of the crowd, and they were in full voice. After visiting the toilet I interacted with a fan “Would you care for a hot dog?” I thought; “What’s the point, it’s dead!” I said; “No Thanks”.

I hadn’t been on a packed terrace for several years so I’d forgotten the basics, I was quickly reminded; 1) Getting somewhere is difficult; 2) The etiquette i.e. don’t stand in anyones’ way, be careful with bags (i.e. don’t swing them around), don’t tread on peoples’ feet, etc, etc; 3) Your view may be interrupted. After the enforced recollection it was almost a pleasure to stand there. Then again today was always about more than just going to another match, it always felt like being a very small part of something special.

From this point of view the day didn’t disappoint. For a start the songs were witty. I especially liked the re-worked punk ones; “I am an FC fan, I am Mancunian, I know what I want and I know how to get it, I wanna destroy Glazer and Sky…” A classic by any definition. Now the crowd may not have appeared very romantic, in your classic sense (on one occasion a few people indulged in the chant “Murderersssssss, murdererssssssss” when the subject of Liverpool came to their mind) but that didn’t mean you didn’t feel a warm glow being part of this crowd.

I felt as though I was part of a proper football crowd. You just had to hear snippets of peoples’ conversations to realise that these people were proper fans; been there, seen it, got the tall tales to tell about it all. Due to the fact that these people were here and not just waiting for tomorrows big game shows why there is a problem with the Premier League; it alienates people.

If you read around on the subject of the foundation of FC United you will know that lots of people were unable to stomach the direction in which the capitalist behemoth of Manchester United was taking. You will also realise that FC United is not just a protest against the ownership of Manchester United, it was also about a sense of frustration at modern football, at what’s missing from the modern “match-going experience”.

You do gain a sense that the FC United fans feel an alienation from their past, how part of their life had been diluted. To put it simply, as one fan did in one of the extras on the Looking for Eric DVD; “Basically following United wasn’t fun any more.” That world has become less about feeling and more about experiencing, and it has squeezed anything out that couldn’t be packaged and sold as wholesome family entertainment. It’s now a world where standing up is forbidden, taking photos is a crime and even singing can frowned upon.

On the other hand all of these FC United fans are actually united, united by the idea that there is more to football than spending all your disposable income on it. They are united by the idea that their Saturdays had been turned into drab experiences by desiccated counting machines in marketing offices. Due to the fact that there appeared to be many  long-standing fans of Manchester United here today there seems to be a good deal of mileage in the theory of “alienation felt by traditional football fans”. If this match is typical then every FC United match is a ludic festival. They seem to have created what was missing by themselves and you have to applaud that.

Anyway, the match. You’ve probably already guessed that this was of secondary importance for me today. It would have been nice to see FC United win but the fact they didn’t wasn’t too annoying. FC had a lot of the ball but they didn’t really create many clearcut chances. In the first half Vics didn’t really look like scoring either. In the second half Vics had a bit more about them but still didn’t look much like scoring until they earned a dubious looking penalty. The number 11 seemed to vault over the challenge in a more theatrical manner than a lot of people with nefarious reputations for such behaviour. He held his painful shin for ages before the penalty but was sufficiently recovered to play a full part in the celebration of the goal. Vics looked dangerous on the break after this and FC looked about the same. Vics scored their second via an own goal. The deflation of the crowd around me was almost audible. Vics scored their third in injury time to give the match a very unfair image. Northwich didn’t look that much better than FC United even though FC United are in the division below.

On the way home I had to wait in Chester station for the connecting train. Whilst there I couldn’t help hearing joyful  lilt of the Dublin brogue wafting around the ether. I turned around to see plenty of Irish tourists, wearing red clothes and accessories, waiting on the platform for Liverpool-bound trains. It wouldn’t have taken Sherlock Holmes to deduce that they had tickets for tomorrow’s game. There won’t be a more succinct example why clubs like FC United come into existence.














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