As we countdown to the new season starting on the 17th August, Tim Browning reflects on the teams pre-season preparations, the first for Neil Reynolds at FC, and why the Bangor fans indirectly raised a question all FC United fans might want to answer.
(Tim currently volunteers at FC in the capacity of PA Announcer at home games and is part of the Comms Team, responsible for the recent excellent player interviews).
Preparations for the first ever game of Bangor 1876 gave rise to a real sense of excitement that we, as FC, could be part of the birth of a new club, formed from the molten energy of fans who were disgusted about ’how things are’, and who cared about something enough to go to the effort of breaking the mould and forging something new which bore a better resemblance to their identity.
Part of these preparations were, and this was a first for me personally, to offer the away team fans the opportunity to select the half-time play list for the Broadhurst PA; a tiny gesture and one that would go unnoticed for the most part but it was the Bangor fans’ day.. The two songs that came back were, "I am the Resurrection", and "Human" by The Killers. The first song I know inside out as besides being a staple on the FC playlist, believe it or not I’m of a vintage where used to dance to it back in the day in various clubs; but the second I’d heard on the radio but never really given a second thought.
The slightly unusual title lyric "Are we human, or are we dancer" was, according to the lyricist, inspired by Hunter S. Thompson who wrote that America was "raising a generation of dancers afraid to take one step out of line", and that really chimed with me; so much of what happens does so because that’s what we’re meant to do, apathy rules and the default position for many in so many ways is do nothing.
But we’re FC and we’re used to doing things differently and stepping out of line; sometimes because we do what we want to do, and sometimes because necessity drives us in that direction. The need to get a team together for the coming season, which can not only maintain its status in the league below but also push for the play-offs with a modest budget means that we have to approach recruitment in a slightly different way; we need to capture the imaginations of players who are willing to work for less money than they can get elsewhere, in return for the opportunity to play in front of you and be part of FC. I’m not so naive to think that they’re all FC fans, and I appreciate that a move to FC garners a high level of attention for a club at our current level of football, but having spoken to most of them they’ve bought into the ethos that Neil Reynolds has shared with them.
This has been demonstrated by the way the pre-season campaign has been constructed and conducted, with virtually all the players signed in May while the relegation season was still making its way round the u-bend of history, through the players meeting in June where registration documents were signed. Players met up for the first time, but more importantly FC volunteer and founder member Paul Haworth shared an engrossing presentation for twenty minutes about FC’s origins, our creation and then a whistle-stop tour through the many highlights of our short but incandescent history.
I observed from the back of the room, slightly surprised, by the attention paid by the players to the presentation; where I expected a shuffling in the seats, or rolling eyes as the events leading up to FC’s creation were told to a room full of young men who’s allegiance in the money league is most likely to be not Manchester United but one of their rivals, the attention was rapt and Captain Mike Potts said in an interview shortly afterwards that it was vital that the philosophy was drilled into almost an entirely new squad early on.
This presentation was so important, and an inspired inclusion by Reynolds into what has been a very professionally run pre-season campaign. Yes, we’re a club playing down the football pyramid; yes, we’ve been relegated for the first time, and yes, our finances mean that to hope to be sustainable we need to cut our cloth accordingly when it comes to salaries, but we have a squad of players who know what we’re about and are ready to take on playing in a new league birthed from failure rather than success.
Results so far from the pre-season campaign have been promising, with convincing wins against Morecambe and Chester, and through a creditable draw with Chorley, though perhaps more importantly the team is playing a style of football that I long to see, short quick passing, good movement, work rate and players who are given licence to get at the opposition’s back line. That is played by a team who after five weeks have gelled well on the pitch, and also off it (quite understandable when on the recent trip south they had rooms which slept twelve each) as they’ve been selected for their characters as well as their playing attributes.
So, with less than three weeks to go, we find ourselves in a new league, with a manager whose passion is as great as his training ground bark is loud; with a team of players who’ve been chosen carefully for the season ahead by him as his first real FC squad.
It’s often said that a good team is greater than the sum of its parts, and FC isn’t just the guys in red shirts kicking a ball around; they’re an important part of it but they wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for the people who had the vision to create the club as explained in Paul’s presentation but that, like last season, is now the past and was the journey to get us to the present.
The future of the club depends on all those who choose to be part of it, the bigger team that is FC, be that volunteering their time to keep the clubs heart beating, or paying to support their football team in the flesh and experiencing every aspect of it for themselves. Are you human?