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15 Years of FC: The Joz Mitten Interview

15 Years of FC: The Joz Mitten InterviewWhile FC was still in the imaginations of many, a call was made to someone with a surname synonymous with United. Joz Mitten took the call while on holiday which led to him sacrificing money and dropping several leagues to play for a club that many didn’t think would be around six months later.

His input was invaluable in attracting personnel to the club, 15 years after he took part in the first ever FC game at Leigh, we put the questions you asked to him, and found out about that iconic image, a player held aloft by joyous fans - no barriers.

If you could be invisible for a day, who would you spy on? (and keep it clean!)
if I wasn’t allowed to hang around Liz Hurley’s gaff then I’d sneak into Akbars kitchen in town and watch how he makes the spiced lamb chops in a tikka sauce, I don’t know what he puts in them but they’re amazing, there’s no place I’d rather be than Akbars kitchen. They’re so tasty and I recommend everyone to go there; when I go I order two mains of lamb chops and sit there eating them, a little bit of rice on the side, the missus goes mad but they’re so good, we literally sit there in silence as I work my way through them.

Do you ever secretly write some of your brother Andy’s articles?

Ha ha, no I’d love to but he wouldn’t let me! I used to have some input when my dad had a page in the fanzine called ’Gus’ where he used to slate everyone and I’d chip in, I remember slating Victoria Beckham one month, I used to go round to my dads and he’d slag everyone off, even Ferguson, I’d say ’Dad you can’t slag him off he’s a brilliant manager’ and he’d say ’He’s this and he’s that, blah blah". He never liked Carrick as he thought he was a wimp especially after the Bayern Munich game when he got shoulder-barged off the ball’ He hated him but he loved Keane, Robson and Big Jim Holton. I used to help him and never told our kid, I’ve not done anything else in terms of writing for Andy, he’s never let me though I’ve never asked him to be fair.

Did you have any particular superstitions or rituals before a match?

I used to drink a lot of the energy drinks like Lucozade or Red Bull, washed my hands then have a couple of cigs with Si Carden, Margy knew what we were doing out the front as he played with us the season or two before at Radcliffe, where we all played along with Steve Spencer and Rory Patterson for a short time.

When did you find out about FC United?

I found out about FC off a call from our Andy, I was in Thailand on holiday at the time and I got a call off our kid saying ’there’s a new team going to start that JP and Andy Walsh were involved in, they’d had a meeting in a curry house and it looks like it’s a goer, they’re going to start off in the North West Counties, they don’t have a manager, they haven’t got a ground, they haven’t got anything really’, and I thought ’F****** hell Andy!" I was at Altrincham at the time and we’d just got into the Conference proper via the play-offs but I was getting released and I had a move to Lancaster lined up on good money, I was going to be on £280 a game and £30 or £40 a goal plus my petrol money, the manager really liked me so it was a good offer. I liked JP and Andy Walsh so I rang our kid back and said ’Yeah, I’ll go for it’ even though my wages for FC were less than half of what Lancaster had offered. Then they said ’Do you know any managers or players who might be interested?’. Again I thought ’F****** hell Andy!".

The next day I was on the beach and JP then rang me and said it had got a lot of attention and pledges and there was talk of a few different managers that they had looked at. I felt that Margy was a good lad and he was coming to the end of his playing days and having been in the same dressing room I thought he would be a decent manager so I put his name forward, and everyone went ’Who??!!". I got a call off someone and they said are you sure? and I said ’yeah give him a go, he’s your man and he’ll do a good job’. There were a few big names in the frame at the time too.

Did you have to take part in the trials?

No I didn’t but I recommended a few players I knew and respected like Si Carden, Craig Fleury, Tony Coyne; I tried to get a few of the Curzon Ashton players to come across but it was really hard to convince people that FC would be a goer, it was a hard sell.

Then we had the trials which got a lot of attention, I helped Phil Power, Daz Lyons and Margy with them and we got a few good players, from memory we got Adie Orr through them, we had a good couple of hundred at the Armitage Centre in Fallowfield. We started off with games of 5-a-side and you can tell who’s a player quite quickly. We had a mix of lads who were just trying their luck and then we had other guys turning up with their agent saying "I want a house, I want a car, I want, I want, I want’ but they were terrible in the training matches.

The biggest head-smoker for me was the drop in the leagues, Lancaster were in the Conference North and I effectively dropped five divisions to play for FC but that’s what it was, and weirdly I had my worst ever season in my career at FC, I still don’t know why as every season for 15 years I averaged around 30 goals a season, so I was a solid goal-scorer but at FC I didn’t have a good season at all - really strange.

Can you remember much about running out at Leigh RMI?

Before the game a lot of the players were looking for some sort of reassurance that it had legs, I suppose Margy was too and when we got there it blew me away.

I got a lift to the game with Craig Fleury and I remember warming up and looking around the packed stands at Hilton Park thinking ’F****** hell what’s going on here" and I just couldn’t get my head around it really, it was surreal, it was one of the most bizarre games of my life. After the game there was a press conference with the media like the Guardian, the Sunday Times and Sky, it was crazy! I don’t remember much about the game other than playing against Liam Coyne, he was massive, and I remember Steve Torpey playing and I thought ’He looks decent’ because I’d never seen him play before.

That’s about it really from the game other than being carried off the pitch at the end, I don’t think it was anything other than I was the last person on the pitch and all of a sudden I got picked up by all these lads who were singing so I joined in for the craic. I’d taken my boots off because my feet were killing. They’d blistered due to my boots being new and the first game I’d had in them. And that was that really, it was a buzz.

Do you have the boots still and would you take an offer for them?

I don’t know where they are, I have no idea, they were Adidas Copa Mondial boots that I always wore - I think they might be in my mum’s loft somewhere, I’ll have to have a look for them and if I find them I’ll give them to the club if they want them but I wouldn’t take money for them.

After Simon Carden who was the best player you played with at FC United?

Even though I didn’t get on with him at the time Rory Patterson was a good player, or Josh Howard who was a barm-pot but was a very good player, I think he’ll admit he missed a good opportunity there as I think he missed the motivation to make a career out of it, he was so talented he could have earned really good money, for whatever reason he didn’t.

Do you remember much from Leipzig?

Yes I do, we had a great weekend in Leipzig! I remember being at the Airport and Simon Band turned up in an unbelievably s*** leather coat and he came up to me in the airport and asked me "Do you reckon £100 will be enough for this weekend", "Ha ha - £100 spending money for a weekend? Bloody hell Bandy!" So on the first night we went to a hotel and Si Carden, myself and someone else snuck out for a beer, we got into a bar, got a drink each and sat down thinking we were onto a winner but I turned round and two tables along was only Margy, Phil Power, Daz Lyons and Andy Walsh, I think that’s why I didn’t get to play in the game, I think Margy saw his arse so I didn’t play.

The game itself was great, loads of people there, the hospitality was really good, loads of media and then after the game they hired a nightclub for us, we all had this german beer that was really strong and after about three or four pints everyone went mad, I remember having a great time with Phil Power that night. The bar we were in had sawdust on the floor, Margy and Phil started ramming all this sawdust into my duds and then both gave me a wedgie, it was crazy!

Do you still keep in touch with the squad?

I don’t see so much of Si Carden, Rob Nugent I text every now and then, Margy I see once a year, he rang me about five years ago and we went for a drink in Chorlton with Phil Power and he said sorry in an indirect way for how it ended at FC.

Why did you leave FC and were you disappointed?

I was massively disappointed to leave, I didn’t want to leave FC at all, I didn’t have a good season but I went into the pre-season for 06-07 and it was really good then I heard indirectly that FC had signed Stuart Rudd who I’d always been neck and neck with in the goal-scoring charts when we were in the same leagues so I thought ’my days are numbered here’, I was really disappointed with Margy, given that I’d bent over backwards to get him the job in the first place, I would have appreciated a word in my ear to say ’Look Joz, you’ve not had a great season but get your head down and take your chance when it comes’ but he didn’t and he gave me squad number 23.

Anyway Barrow got in touch who were in the Conference at the time and I played in a couple of pre-season friendlies but it was too far for me to travel, then I went to Flixton who got promoted with FC and I scored 25 goals by Christmas, then I signed for Curzon Ashton and finished the season with around 40 goals, which to me was a two fingers up at Margy to say ’I’m a good player and you should have given me a chance’. He admitted that time when we met that he should have handled things differently and he had regrets, I was really p***** off with him back then but it’s all ok now, all sorted but disappointing when I look back.

Have you followed FC’s progress closely?

I did, but I’ve not been back that many times, I played in the Dave Brown charity match, and I played in the 2017 old boys game at Atherton LR, JP has tried to get me to a few games last season and maybe get involved in something with former players but the way I left the club gave me a sour taste in my mouth, I did go to one game and chat to a lady working on the bar who’d been there from the start so that was nice but I don’t think either myself or the club have made much effort to do anything so it’s a bit of a funny one. It’s a real shame because that season was such a craic with the fans, it was belting every weekend and I looked forward to it every week; I got in so much trouble because every home game I’d be leaving my car in the car park at the Swan and Cemetery, I’d be leaving the place at midnight then going into town on the tram, I made a point of saying to the players in the changing room after the game ’stay and have a few pints with the fans after the game, don’t just get your money and get off, it doesn’t work like that’ and the rapport with the fans was amazing, that what the club was all about, but then looking in from the outside it all seemed to get a bit political which wasn’t the way I expected it to go having been there at the start, and I think that it would be good for FC to reconnect with it’s a roots a little but I don’t think there was any appetite to get hold of it, I don’t know what it’s like now.

Did you seriously think that FC would be going strong 15 years later?

No, no I didn’t, in the first year I did then watching the results after about 6 seasons I thought it was going to go a bit pear-shaped and then the club seemed to stall, then I heard about some of the stuff off the pitch and I thought it would implode and the ground would become a ’white elephant’ but now I don’t really know where FC are up to now. When Margy left I recommended Gary Lowe to FC and I think he got interviewed but obviously they went with Tom Greaves, and that was the last time I really had anything to do with FC. I was going to come down for a game last season and the tram broke down so I ended up staying in town for a drink instead!

Have you got a copy of that iconic picture over your fireplace?

No I don’t actually have a copy but if I did then I would

Did you like an elbow?

People used to say that but I saw it more as self-defence when you’re coming up against a centre-half, at least that’s what I said to the ref but seriously, I used to love watching Mick Harford and Duncan Ferguson and watching them challenging for those aerial balls, elbows were just a part of the game back then and the defenders would be just as willing to use them too, it was a case of who got the elbow in first had the easier game, and I was on the receiving end loads of times, but I’ve dished out a few out too...

How did you get involved in the charity bike ride to raise funds for a new Ambulance, travelling from Barcelona to Manchester and can you describe what the adventure was like?

My dad died of cancer a couple of years ago and just before he died he was in Salford Royal on his end of life treatment and he needed an ambulance to get to St Ann’s Hospice, and we had to wait for hours for one to become available, and I said to our kid this is ridiculous, they’ve only got one ambulance to service Greater Manchester, so then Andy came up with the barmy idea of cycling from Barcelona to Manchester, over 2,000 kilometres, which at 10.30pm in a pub sounded like a great idea so no problem!

I’d not been on a bike for ten years and didn’t do any training at all before the start, I’ve always been reasonably fit so I got there on the first day and we went from the Nou Camp to fifty miles up the coast, and after about twenty miles I wanted to puke but I was in a personal battle with our kid, and I’m not going to lose so I think that’s what got me home, knowing I couldn’t lose to Andy.

It was a grueller, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was an adventure and it was quite emotional because it took me to places I didn’t think I’d ever go to in my mind. It was that hard and painful and tiring, I had a breakdown twice while I was cycling, I was riding through Toulouse against the wind, I was crying my eyes out and JP said we still had another 45 miles to go and I thought "what am I doing here?".

Then we got on the ferry back across the channel and our tails were up, we were buzzing, it was a proper rollercoaster. We went through some beautiful countryside and towns and it was a top adventure and we raised around £50,000, a lot of people kindly put their hands in their pockets to support us.

Is it true you sold your bike afterwards?

No I didn’t - I said I was going to put it on ebay with a message saying ’barely done 20 miles’ but it’s still in my house, I’ve not ridden it since then though but I will be doing as I’ve just bought a motorhome and I’m going to get in touch with the outdoors this summer.

Click here to read the match report from that first game

First Posted ~ 22:39 Tue 14 Jul 2020
News ID ~ 8733
Last Updated ~ 17:07 Fri 27 May 2022