the real fa cup

Winners

You’ve heard from the runners up in The Real FA Cup’s Team Of The Year, Hythe, already and now we hear from the winners, FC United of Manchester.

Sparing us a few personal, honest and thought-provoking words on FC United and his relationship with the FA Cup is Ed Barrett. As a founding member of FC United, Ed has an equal share in the club and an equal say in running it, just as it should be.

Commercial or “modern” football are easy targets for criticism from matchgoing fans for all number of reasons; some more legitimate than others. One such criticism, and one where I must also hold myself accountable, is the decline in value of the FA Cup. For a brief period at the turn of the millennium, the almost impossible task of a British club progressing in the European Cup, meant I pined for matches versus the likes of Del Piero and Sammer and the FA Cup fell by the wayside. 1994 was the last time winning in the final for me held some all consuming importance. 1996 was just because of Cantona and the schadenfreude associated with effectively Ian Rush’s last touch in a Liverpool shirt being to divert the ball to Eric.

By the time the FA had persuaded MUFC to skip the FA Cup and head for Brazil, Id lost pretty much all interest. However with the creation of FC United, it gave me a new perspective on the football pyramid. Whilst our own participation in the cup was generally limited, bar a fine replay win versus Stalybridge, it re-awoke my love affair with the competition as a neutral, particularly the early rounds with its fine old grounds and unlikely match-ups.

This year, we progressed a little further. By now I was living in Germany, and my access to “FC” was limited to twitter (the celebration of beating Barrow took place in the car back from Amsterdam), FCUM Radio (the Norton and Stockton Ancients and the Brighton game) or luxurious illegal live streams through my home projector (the Brighton replay). But for one of our most defining moments as a club, I was there, and it was delivered by the FA Cup.

The top sides aren’t allowed access to the “romance of the cup”. They are used to expensive ticket prices to watch their team play some minnow, and are used to seeing their club in the papers in general. As soon as I touched down in the UK, the paper I picked up had a story on FC and it was a thrill. We were the underdogs, and bar the odd occasion, a team that doesn’t get much coverage in comparison to professional sides. Pre-2005 it would’ve seemed ludicrous to keep the clippings!

As a club we seek to represent the community that Manchester’s two premier sides have largely forgotten, yet often, outside of the odd gig or real ale festival where more kindred spirits are likely to congregate, you can be fairly anonymous as an FC fan in Manchester. The Rochdale game changed that. Walking through the streets and people approached me to wish me well, because of my scarf. They’d seen the coverage and knew that it wasn’t just a United scarf, but an FC one. After the match, the reaction was the same. Congratulations from strangers as we marched en masse through town having returned from Rochdale. Even the manager of a local bar, popular as a post-match/pre-night out hangout for FC fans, told us excitedly how much the other drinkers had celebrated as the final goal went in. The FA Cup had won us new fans and brought us a brief bit of fame.

Of course there were 4000 fans in that flare filled stand at Spotlands and now we are back down to the usual 2000 or so, but as other cup heroes might also be able to claim, one or two extras stick around. Then of course there is the money. Now we are back to the commercial gripes, uncomfortable territory. However those turnstiles clacking around and the prize money we gained, will be responsible for a few of the bricks laid when we get our own ground. And once that ground is there, we can work with and represent Manchester and our new neighbourhood for the long-term, not just for a few glorious days in November. Although if there is any chance of a repeat…

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You can read more of Ed’s thoughts via his TeddyFCUM Twitter feed and tumblr blog FCUM.AD featuring FC and St Pauli.

Photo courtesy of Andy Barker

Thanks also to Andy Hudson of Gannin’ Away who organised these words for us.

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