Divided re-United: Info

I have taken the decision to publish in this blog the story- off the pitch, of Manchester United from the eyes of the fans, focusing on the half century between 1966-2016.

I hope many United fans and non-United fans find it of interest -below is a general summary of what you can expect to read over the next 6 months or so.

I will add clips from youtube etc, to bring some of the times past back to life -one big advantage to sharing a story online-if you have anything to contribute in terms of content or videos please email me direct…ricksimpson@totalise.co.uk….and if I think it adds to the overall content I will happily add both the content and your name to the list of contributors. Thanks

If you find it interesting please share -far and wide-thanks Rick aka politico

Many thanks to the following contributors, Sebastian Kristen, Mickey O’Farrell, Steve Prentice, Tony Wood, David Blatt, Tim Worrall, Dave Cullen, Bob-Whalley Range Red, without whom there would be no blogbook.

An anonymous quote which best sums up this obsession is “Anyone who thinks football is all about football, knows nothing about football”

The book will be published one Chapter at a time-every every 2 weeks approximately.

The Introduction -History of United from 1878-1966 will be published 1st June 2016

At ten years of age in 1972, I paid my 20p admission into the Stretford End juniors turnstile and from that moment my whole world changed, not by the action on the pitch, United were in the last throes of Busby’s great reign before relegation, no it was the noise, the movement, the passion and the hostility of the crowd around me which gave me an adrenalin rush which has not quite subsided 44 years later.

In May 2005, with countless other issues on my mind and purse strings tight, I donated £75, all the spare cash I had, to an idea, that ridiculous idea was the creation of a brand new football club, FC United of Manchester, 11 years later, the living embodiment, although far from perfect as I will detail towards the end of my book, is thriving well, and has international admiration as a fan owned club.

There have been countless numbers of books and articles discussing the action on the game side of the touchline, several covering ownership, and a fair few discussing the violence on the terraces.

What this book offers is to bridge the gap and explain the ever changing way that a supporter or fanatic interacts with the club. After an introduction covering the history from 1878-1966, the main body of the book covers the period from 1966-2016. Although this book is ostensibly about just United, the journey that we have been enduring over the last half century can be recognisably mirrored across many top football clubs in the UK, indeed across Europe.

What the book is about and Why it needs to be written?

In 2016 who cares about the fans, FIFA, UEFA the FA, in truth, we the fans are at the very bottom of the pyramid of importance and influence, and as it is we the fans who have built the clubs over the last 135 years, it is time our voices were listened to and acted upon.

I can only honestly and passionately write about the club which not only matters hugely to me, but to many, many people, yes in Manchester but also across England and much further afield.

By interviewing several lifelong reds I aim to capture not only my own views but intend to broaden out the fans own stories with the open and honest views of a variety of United fans both Mancunian and Southern based on a variety of issues regarding ownership and the uneasy relationship with the authorities governing the country and supposedly administering the game.

These are people who have lived through all or part of the 50 year period from 1966-2016 when the greatest changes in fans experiences have occurred. These are individuals who enjoyed their experiences in the raw, with likeminded reds who were only too aware that it is not always easy following United.

From a time when, if only in our minds we all felt United was ours, through the troubled days of the 70’s and 80’s when problems off the pitch made headlines for all the wrong reasons, whilst most United fans gave ownership of the club barely a thought, to the new millennia when we as a community realised that people with dollar signs in their eyes were ready to prey on the monster we had created.

Lastly, how and why did the United support base become divided in 2005, following the Glazer takeover and the creation of FC United, and are we becoming slowly Re-United as large parts of the huge United fan base learn to co-exist. FCUM and MUFC.

I want to engage with the reader on another level, because although this is broadly speaking a book about a community, a group, all these are made up of individuals with their own challenges and dilemma’s. My own experiences as a father of two sons on the Autistic Spectrum are fed into the story post 1994 when my eldest son was born.
I hope that I can transmit that the public perception of a “Football fan” as if they are a separate and unique species to be often dismissed and ridiculed is both shallow and unfair.

Why write the book?

I went to my first game at Old Trafford aged 10, without my parent’s knowledge let alone blessing, my interest with all things United has never subsided even at 54. But I was always more fascinated and intrigued by the people attending the game than those playing it. Odd many would think, perhaps rightly, it was the gradual realisation that all that they, the fans, thought was “theirs” was in fact a means of financial enrichment for people only rarely put in front of the cameras which helped shape my views of the once beautiful game.
I have long held political views which are on the face of it, perhaps a little more towards the political centre than the deeply entrenched left wing views of many fans from that last bastion of socialism-Manchester.
Or perhaps as events unfolded at the dawn of the new Millennia and through the noughties, my innate sense of what I considered right or wrong should not be classified by the old fashioned ideas of left or right, if something is just plain wrong, like a businessman being able to buy a football club by in effect dumping the fees and interest on the vehicle purchased, back onto the customers i.e. the fans, then politics play no part whatsoever, it is morally indefensible.
I invested both cash but more important commitment into FC United from its inception in 2005, my certificate on the wall above where I write this states proudly I’m one of 900 or so Founding Members of the club.
I took my eldest son for the first 2 years, volunteered running a bar for the following 6 years, and offered my time and knowledge from my background in catering to design the kitchen that was installed at our new home Broadhurst Park. Like any organisation that evolves, cliques and factions often grow beyond what is healthy, and I have first-hand insight into some of the issues at the top of the club, which despite its ongoing challenges is a huge beacon of light in an ever more disenfranchised football supporter’s world.

A chapter outline, with a paragraph or two explaining what will be addressed in each chapter.
This may vary slightly over the period of publishing -ie 6 months.

Chapter Titles

The History of Manchester United 1878-1968
Approximately 15 pages explaining the formation of the club, it’s rocky path from East Manchester to Trafford Park, the ownership, the triumphs and calamitous disaster of Munich in 1958 and how this event completely altered the clubs history up to the present day

1. Bloody Barwell – short chapter
A large part of the books mission is to compare and contrast my own experience of supporting the mighty Manchester United with a brand new fan owned football club FC United, initially plying its trade in Division 10, this brief chapter immediately summarises the chalk and cheese nature of that experience and why it felt so good!

2. 1960’s – the three kings and tribal beginnings – long chapter
Starting by covering the period of the mid 1960’s I interview United fans who are typically 10 years older than myself and gain an insight into the turbulent new world and what brought in particular people from the London area into the United fold, to an extent whereby one legendary United fan who has composed several United terrace favourite songs, describes himself as “ethnically red”

3. Bonfire night in Rochdale – short chapter
To continue my theme of enabling the reader to relate the experiences of decades ago with the modern era I again have a flash forward to an FA Cup tie in 2010, that was shown on live TV and drew in a new audience and fan base for FC from around Britain and perhaps more remarkably across Europe.

4. 1970’s fan fury and passion – long chapter
As the issues on the terraces begin to escalate I use numerous stories from a variety of United fans to explain the growing tensions both between rival fans and equally as destructive between authorities and the fans. One interviewee is a member of the British Transport Police who can add an extra perspective from the other side of the tracks.

5. Derby and Harrogate – short chapter
In my final jump from historical events back to the present day I aim to explain the complex reasons why a part of society has been partly air brushed out of the media promoted, happy clappy, jester hat wearing, modern football fan. And how, just occasionally the game is reclaimed by its working class roots

6. 1980’s off the pitch, violence heading towards meltdown – medium chapter
This chapter will deal with the growth of organised football violence and how the ever more desperate Authorities categorised not a minority as being thugs, out of control, but instead treated all fans as sub humans to be controlled at all costs, all costs!

7. 1989 Inevitable disaster – not yet complete
The antipathy between United and Liverpool fans is well known, but in this chapter I will explain how there was a genuine sense from many fans across the country, if they were completely honest with themselves whilst watching those horrific images in April 1989 from Hillsborough that “There but for the grace of God go I”

8. 1992 Sky and the “Premier League” take over football – not yet complete
After meetings in 1990 between the supremo’s of the 5 largest clubs and LWT headed up by their then Chairman Greg Dyke (now ironically Chair of the FA) the Football League sought to have a more structured administration with a new board to include the FA, but the 2 competing authorities behaved like sulky juveniles with the disastrous result that the 1st Division as it was called was sold lock stock and barrel to a new breakaway company called the Premier League, designed partly to help shift SKY satellite dishes. The match going fans loyalty from this point onwards was milked mercilessly.

9. New Millennium, New Football World, a rich man’s game – not yet complete
From the creation of the Premiership in 1992 through to the Euros of 1996 the media and middle England once again fell in love with football. Not only that, but the financial whizz kids started to realise that genuine monetization was possible due to the nature of fans one eyed support, they had a captive audience. With the ever increasing revenues from TV, numerous individuals and even state’s recognised that owning a club could be very useful indeed, as for the old grass roots fans, and their ability to afford to watch or travel to the games, this was a mere afterthought. Manchester United was not immune from this!

10. 2005 No Longer United – not yet complete
May 12th 2005, after months of turmoil, claim and counter claim, tales of ego’s hurt and stallion rights, the unthinkable became reality. Manchester United shares exchanged hands and a hugely wealthy former trailer park owner who had never visited the City became the new owner of Manchester United. Meanwhile in a curry house in Rusholme a ridiculous response that to quote one ex-player “Would not last until Christmas” was vaunted, the creation of a club owned and run by United fans – FC United of Manchester –I have the inside story, including the aborted attempt to build a new ground on the edge of the new Mancunian football giants backed by immeasurable amounts of oil soaked money.

11. 29th May 2015, Chaos and Control – not yet complete
Ten years after its creation an inaugural game was held at the brand new Broadhurst Park, Moston, in a stadium largely financed by their own membership, between FC United and Benfica, the Portuguese giants faced by Manchester United in 1968. Much had happened at Old Trafford in the intervening decade and FC had endured the growing pains inevitable for a football club without a home, created by headstrong individuals with their own agendas, and political beliefs that became over powering to some club founders.

12. Can fans reclaim the game? – not yet complete
To conclude, the 2015-16 season has finished, football from the outside looking in, is as healthy as it has ever been, but below the surface there have been huge changes, with many traditional fans simply priced out of the game and many stadiums a stagnant hollow shell of what once they were. So what practical and financial measures might be implemented to help return the beautiful game to its historic heartlands so the next generation can share the passion and sense of community we the older fans have enjoyed

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About rick

Living in Poynton, close to Manchester, Rick is a co-founder of FC United of Manchester. He works at the Main Stand Bar at almost every home game and if you see him in the stand you'll hear him scream as loud as anyone. Rick has also been involved in greeting international visitors and hosting several pub crawls and dinners for FC United-fans from all over the world, making a lots of friends in the process.

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