May 28, 2016
Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, MI
Detroit City FC 3, FC United of Manchester 3
DCFC Javi Bautista 11′
FCUM Sam Madeley (Tom Greaves) 14′
DCFC Jeff Adkins (Javi Bautista) 25′
FCUM George Thomson 44′
FCUM Dale Johnson 45′
DCFC Alec Lasinski (Bobby Budlong) 93′
This was a long and memorable weekend.
Our opponent was FC United of Manchester. Not Manchester, Michigan, but Manchester, England, a team whose home is 3,600 miles away from Detroit.
FC United of Manchester play in the 6th Level Conference North of English Football. Eleven years ago, Manchester United of the English Premiere League was a solvent football club. But then came American ownership. The Glazer family (owners of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers) purchased Manchester United. To do so, they incurred debt, then turned around and saddled the team with the debt. When the supporters objected, they were told, “Too bad.” A group of supporters decided to come together and create their own team – FC United of Manchester. Quoting the team’s website,
FC United of Manchester is a community football club owned and democratically run by its 5,381 members. Its corporate structure is a Community Benefit Society and membership is open to all, with everyone an equal co-owner, holding one voting share in the club.
Personally, I am not a fan of either Manchester teams in the Premiere League. I’m an Arsenal man. My initial feelings about a team from Manchester coming here was tepid at best. However, learning the story of these rebels against Manchester United, and the similarity between their club and ours, won my interest. The supporters/owners I met who came over from Manchester won me over.
On Friday the 27th, FC United of Manchester held a training session open to the public at Keyworth from 1-3PM. A hot, sunny, 84 degree afternoon, I slapped on the sunscreen and snapped some shots at the practice.
While taking in the practice, I met three FCUM supporters/owners. From them, I learned a few things about the team.
- Goalkeeping Coach Nick Culkin (1st photo above), calls himself “One-Kick Nick.” He was on Manchester United’s roster and got into one match. He came on as a substitute in added time, delivered one goal kick, after which the referee blew the whistle to end the game.
- Dylan Forth was their 19-year-old starting keeper.
- George Thomson was last season’s leading goal scorer.
- Captain Jerome Wright is considered to be the top talent on the team.
- Like DCFC players, they have real-world jobs outside of the team. Unlike DCFC players, who are paid nothing, FCUM players are paid a small stipend of around the equivalent of $150 per game.
- The FCUM season having just recently come to an end, they finished 13th in the league table with 15 wins, 8 draws, and 19 losses.
Following the practice, there was a team meet-and-greet for Detroit City FC investors at the Sound Board inside the Motor City Casino.
Following this shindig was a party at Nancy Whiskey in Detroit. I met up with the trio of FCUM supporters/owners I spoke with at the practice. In conversation, not only did I find Janet Machen open to swapping an FC United of Manchester scarf for a Detroit City FC scarf, I learned that she partook in a fundraiser for the team. Last summer, she spent eighteen days walking the Pennine Way, a national trail that traverses 268 miles and 37,215 feet of ascent of English countryside, running north into Scotland. One of the songs adopted by the Northern Guard Supporters for this season was “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by the Proclaimers. Where we sing about walking 500 miles back to the rouge and gold, Janet actually walked 268 miles for FC United of Manchester.
Driving home Friday night, I realized this was not going to be the typical friendly. It was not going to be the usual, “there’s no such thing as a friendly,” and spend ninety minutes pouring out hate and vitriol upon our opponents. At least not for me. It’s hard to hate opponents whose team, organization, and supporters you respect.
Match Day, I missed the community breakfast at Third Man Records. I picked up a Detroit News which had a nice article about how FCUM and DCFC are of similar philosophies in their approach to team ownership. Before heading to the Fowling Warehouse where the party was to kick-0ff, I stopped at Steve’s Liquor Store on the corner of Canfield and Lumpkin. Two local companies have produced alcoholic beverages that are sold at Fowling Warehouse and Keyworth Stadium. Because I don’t drink, I am unable to support these businesses onsite. At Nancy Whiskey, I learned from a Northern Guard Supporter that Steve’s sold the drinks for home consumption. Having a son and son-in-law who do partake in adult beverages, I could pick up a six-pack of Cider Til I Die and four-pack of Axle City Ale for when they visited (and sample a taste for myself, too).
I parked the car and saturated myself in sunscreen. The sun was high, with the temperature nearing 90 degrees, and there was a threat of a stray shower. I walked to Fowling Warehouse, and was already feeling the heat.
I could not find my trio of Mancunians.
This being our second match at Keyworth, the NGS changed things up a little. For the home opener, we descended upon the police-blocked Conant Road where Sgt. Scary made his pre-march speech, then marched from there. Today, and for the remainder of the season, the pre-march speech took place in the Fowling Warehouse parking lot, then everyone moved to Conant, where the march would then be launched.
I found my Mancunian trio in the stadium. They arrived early at the grounds to pick up programs, but when they entered they didn’t realize they could not leave and return. I happened to grab a few extra programs for them, as well as copies of Hell’s Hymnals, the Northern Guard Supporters’ book of chants and songs. And, of course, Janet and I exchanged scarves.
After the Northern Guard sung the National Anthem, for some reason “God Save The Queen” was overlooked for our British visitors. So the supporters of FC United of Manchester sung, to a hushed crowd, “Dirty Old Town” by the Pogues. At its conclusion, a rousing ovation was given by the home team supporters.
It took only eleven minutes before Javi Bautista put us on the scoreboard.
The lead was short-lived as Sam Madeley leveled the match in the 14th minute.
Game On! (After a Tetris performance)
At the 25th minute, Jeff Adkins gave us the lead once more.
FC United scored two quick goals at the end of the half, giving the visitors a 3-2 lead. Their owners/supporters looked relaxed during halftime.
And this is two of the trio I hung out with. Al (white cap)…
… and Janet (red cap).
The second half was an up-and-down affair.
The heat combined with the depth of the DCFC squad, helped wear down our international visitors. In the waning seconds, Alec Lasinski scored to even the match. Bobby Budlong stopped the ball from crossing the end line and sent it across goal, past a sprawling ‘One-Kick Nick’ to a wide-open Lasinski for the tap in.
The final score: 3-3.
As is tradition, the City players walked along the Supporters Section, giving high-fives with the supporters. Unlike tradition, the FC United Manchester players and supporters also came across the pitch, exchanging high-fives.
This was the purest definition of a ‘friendly.’
The theme of Sgt. Scary’s pre-march speech was respect for a like-minded opponent from across the Atlantic. About two-hundred Mancunians made the trip to share in this event. We have hosted teams from Ann Arbor, Pontiac, Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo, and not once had they had as many supporters from their club in our stadium.
Two teams. One supporter-owned. The other supporter-built. Sgt. Scary called it “The Derby of the People.” And today, the People won.
After the match was the final event of the weekend. Dinner at Hop Cat. When the FCUM players entered the establishment together, it was a standing ovation from supporters of both teams. I dined at a table with a mix of City and FCUM supporters, then met up with the Mancunian trio, where we sat and talked about the game and the rest of their plans in Detroit until about ten o’clock.
Three weeks into May, and we 1) defeated the Michigan Bucks in the US Open Cup, 2) took Louisville City FC (USL) to PK’s in the US Open Cup, 3) hosted our first match at Keyworth Stadium to an amazing crowd of over seven-thousand people, 4) and hosted FC United of Manchester and a couple hundred of their owner/supporters to a thrilling 3-3 draw. So many highs so early in the season would have to carry us through the June and July to come.