The StirrerThe Stirrer

news that matters, campaigns that count

for Birmingham, the Black Country and beyond

The Stirrer's Easter Movie Treat………………Part Two

MANCHESTER DISUNITED

08-04-2007

Manchester Disunited

Manchester Disunited And Other Football Feuds was Stirrer editor Adrian Goldberg's first documentary after leaving the BBC last year. Here he reflects on the film and catches up with Andy Walsh, the inspiration behind the supporter-run breakaway club FC United.

There's no two way about it; I could have made a much more commercially successful film if I'd been kinder to Man United and their fans.

Let's face it, I took the piss, and although that's true to my experience as a supporter, it did me no favours at the box office.

We virtually sold out MAC cinema, had a screening at the House of Commons, and the film has also been shown at Warwick Arts Centre - but so far no one in the north-west has dared put it on for fear of inflaming the red hordes.

The bottom line is that FC United fans are still, at heart, Manchester United fans, and don't want some outsider - even a sympathetic one - mocking them. It's like intruding on private grief.

So I can understand it, but its still disappoints me.

In the meantime, history has slightly overtaken the film; there's a gag about saddam Hussein which is now obviously out of date, and Chelsea, I would say, have become more loathed than Manchester United.

I still believe that the ownership of English football's best known club by the Glazer family - who have no feel for the history or the culture of the game - is dangerous but in the short term that's obscured by their current dazzling form.

But what of FC United, the club formed by Old Trafford regulars who said “enough is enough”, and set up camp at the base of the football pyramid in North-West Counties League Division Two?

Well, after promotion last season, they are in line for another elevation this time around, and because of league re-structuring, will be in the Northern Premier League Division One next season - just four promotions away from league football.

Chief executive Andy Walsh reflects that, “FC United is not a moralistic crusade. It's about fans saying we won't be taken for granted. We're not saying we're experts at running a football club, we're just saying supporters shouldn't be for granted.”

With Man United enjoying a vintage season, he admits that “it's painful, very painful” to be missing out, but his new club is offering plenty of compensation.

Based at Bury FC, they've had a slight dip in crowds, but are still attracting a healthy average of around 2,500 for home games - although it can be several hundred less when fixtures clash with the Red Devils.

“The Glazers are trying hard to show nothing's changed” he says, “but everybody knows it has.

“And although they've saddled the club with all their debts, there's no explanation as to how that can be sustained. There's £60million debt every year which is bigger than their profits.

“They've loaded all this debt onto United and I can't believe that it's allowable and that the football authorities haven't challenged it. The people who will get hurt in the end are the people who love United the most.”

Leave a comment or raise new issues on The Stirrer message board.

©2006 The Stirrer