FC United of Manchester officially opened Broadhurst Park on Friday night, setting a record home crowd of 4,232 for a fantastic European friendly fixture against a Benfica XI with an atmosphere which announced the Reds’ presence in North Manchester.
If we’re talking football, the game finished 1-0 to the visitors. However, all concerned will know that the occasion was, and in fact the club is, about so much more than football. The excitement, anticipation and sheer sense of achievement was palpable as ten years of hard work, determination and belief amounted in a long dreamt-of home of our own.
Benfica were fitting visitors to line up against in this first official fixture, contributing to the atmosphere in a game which marked the anniversary of the 1968 European Cup final at Wembley.
The guests pressed early on with a couple of pacy forwards making United work and Vitali Lystcov rattling the cross bar in the opening stages. Tom Greaves came closest in the first half, rounding the keeper and eyeing goal, only to be challenged before he could get a shot away. Unfortunately, the FC United front man was unable to continue and had to be replaced by Shelton Payne as the Reds went in at the break having kept Benfica at bay in the first half.
Karl Marginson ensured that all his squad were able to partake in the game, making eight changes just after half-time and further substitutions throughout the second half. Callum Byrne cleared Diogo Goncalves’ effort off the line as Benfica were looking dangerous but United couldn’t prevent the forward from firing past substitute keeper Nick Culkin with just minutes to go.
The reception the FC United fans received from the visiting players confirmed the inauguration of a long-lasting relationship between the two clubs, and the atmosphere which continued long after the final whistle left a lump in the throat at the realisation of how far we’ve come in our short existence.
FC United must now wait until August to play again at Broadhurst Park but the memories of Friday night will go a long way to make up for the wait. A nucleus of an idea which began in 2005 has now culminated in the opening of a fantastic community facility, proving the power of fan-ownership, hard work of volunteers and the value of doing things the right way which will surely continue in Moston.
Ten years of efforts from numerous people has come to fruition and the journey and those lost along the way cannot be forgotten now we’ve finally made it home.
Report by Victoria Fullen