Following the success of local non-league sides Salford City and Altrincham in the FA Cup first round, it was hoped that FC United of Manchester could follow in their footsteps ahead of the visit of League One side Chesterfield. The match was overshadowed by a row between the club and the FA as the cup organisers moved the game to a Monday night, to be screened live on BT Sports. FC United declared that “football isn’t a tv show” and the FA basically replied “it’s our way or the highway”.
Manager Karl Marginson hit the nail on the head when he said that the club “entered the FA Cup knowing full well this was a possibility”. I’m all for being anti-establishment but you have to pick the right fight. Success, whether that be progressing in cup competitions or climbing the league ladder, will bring more exposure and therefore more attention from TV companies. It doesn’t make it right, but it is what it is.
The club made an honourable stand before the game by opposing the move but, as the manager said, if you enter a cup you have to abide by that competition’s rules. A game was recently moved to a Friday night at the request of the GMP. That wasn’t met with any opposition. You wonder, if this cup game was played on a Friday instead of a Monday, if there would have been half as much opposition to it.
Protesters gathered outside the main stand before the game and sang “fuck the FA” and “fuck BT Sports” throughout. Amusingly, flag waving fans scaled the camera gantries to the delight of the crowd. Oh, and by the way there was actually a 90-minute football match played.
As expected, Chesterfield, three leagues above and full-time professional players, were fitter and classier on the ball compared to their National League North counterparts. Surprisingly, FC seemed to lack the fight usually associated with cup underdogs. Full back Jones was a constant menace down the left-hand side and it was his run and cross which was the standout goal of the night, converted expertly by Novak. FC old boy Ollie Banks closed the scoring for the Spireites before FC pulled back a stoppage time goal to make it 4-1. Losing to Chesterfield is no shame. The shame is that such a big occasion was overshadowed by an equally large distraction.