A New Red
by Josh Dyson
A first football match is a big moment in the life of any child. It’s the start of an important journey. My first game was a 2-2 draw v Blackburn Rovers in 1996. Ole came on that day and scored a late equaliser.
For an 11-year-old lad that has spent most of his life in the foster care system, his first match was on the 28th January 2017. The score was FC United 0–3 Salford City. He has lived with my parents for two months and probably never experienced anything like it.
I think the lad correctly assumed everyone at the club was completely mad. At half time, he was moaning to my dad that he was cold and wanted to go home. Had they returned to Middleton at 3.50pm, the recollection of his day out would probably be very different. His experience of FC United would have been simply “that hot chocolate was nice”. On an important day for the club, the atmosphere inside CYCM was fantastic but on the terraces it was a little flat at times.
With about 25 minutes remaining and Salford dominating on the pitch, something changed for this lad and I’d imagine most of the 4,100 in attendance. The Main Stand was bouncing, the top reds who are too cool to sing started singing. The Giddys were getting giddier as the £2.50 pints of Holtses started to take effect. He came over to the bottom left of the MRE around this point of the match and was soon jumping up and down like everyone else. A complete party atmosphere developed and left everyone smiling, especially this 11-year-old.
He was singing a football chant to the tune of something that came out 14 years before he was born, on a terrace that used to belong to Northwich Victoria. Unlike many people of his age, his footballing education will be at a club where daftness is encouraged.
He’ll be able to spend his Saturday afternoons with like-minded people. He will hopefully make new friends, and make memories in his teenage years that will be remembered forever. For someone who hasn’t had the best start in life, that is quite beautiful when you think about it.
Speaking to him on the morning after the game, he had the impression that we didn’t lose 3-0. If you had walked into Broadhurst Park at 4.45pm on the day of the game, you would probably have thought we were 4-0 up and cruising.
Fostering a child could be seen as similar, in some ways, to being a co-owner of Football Club United of Manchester. You are always going to have problems. You are always going to have moments where you question whether you are actually having a positive impact. You don’t really have a day off. With fostering, it can sometimes be slammed doors and trying to find ways of getting a child to eat their greens. There are many days like yesterday though, where it all comes together.
As the Tory cuts continue, some probably believe it is not the time to start doing this. That is incorrect and in many ways, this is now the perfect time. In a world of Trump and walls. In a world where racism and general incidents of nastiness are on the rise. Some in society are becoming increasingly selfish as they become desperate. Showing a bit of love to someone who hasn’t had much is needed. The club opening the ground to the homeless on Christmas Day was just an example of we can do and how generous our fans are.
Working class kids in and around Manchester now have a club they can truly call their own, kids who have grown up with very little now have something. The look on that 11 year old’s face pretty much summed up everything good about this football club and why it will not fail.