|Now only four promotions away from joining the football league the footballing phenomenon that is FC United rolled into town to play local side Blackpool Mechanics FC in a much anticipated pre-season friendly.|
The Red Arrows entertain the crowd before kick off.
On February 20th 2006 Blackpool Mechanics FC took on league rivals FC United at Bloomfield Road. The North West Counties Division 2 fixture attracted a massive crowd of over 4,300. Anyone who was lucky enough to be there will remember it for a long time. From early morning thousands of FC fans poured into the resort in coaches, buses, cars and trains. Most were families that included young kids and grandparents. A mass football match took part on the beach and by kick off time over 4,000 fans were creating a tremendous atmosphere in the ground which due to Blackpool's poor form at the time was something of a novelty.
The game was also worthy of the occasion. The 300 or so locals were first on their feet as the home side took the lead but in the end the visitors ran out deserved 4-2 winners securing three more points on their way to the title. It was good to see a couple of our Sunday footballers not only playing in front of such a big crowd but also finding their way on to the score sheet. For many FC fans the game at Bloomfield Road against Blackpool Mechanics FC on that February day represents their favourite ever fixture in the short history of the club. It was perhaps, the peak thus far of the cult that is FC United. The fans sang in unison for the full 90 minutes and for all those present it was a day to remember.
The game was also a lifeline for Blackpool Mechanics FC. The money generated from the fixture led to numerous improvements at the Jepson Way ground as the stands, clubhouse and pitch all had a lot of money spent on them. They may have their critics but FC United and their fanatical support have provided numerous clubs with a much needed financial boost so every credit to them.
This afternoon FC United were back. After winning North West Counties 2 in 2005/06 they went on to win North West Counties 1 last season taking six points off Squires Gate FC along the way. They've now reached the Uni-Bond league where once again they're well fancied for another promotion. The fans have undoubtedly demonstrated their confidence in the side as over 1,000 season tickets have already been snapped up.
Initially, FC United were expected to provide a 'second string' for today's friendly but although yesterday's floods in the Midlands were bad the storm clouds did provide two silver linings. Firstly, all those Brummies that sadly won speedboats on the 70's quiz programme Bullseye could at last take the coverings off and power them down Worcester high street. Secondly, FC United's first team friendly against Conference side Kidderminster Harriers fell victim to the weather so that meant today's squad included many of the proposed first eleven.
As for Mechanics the same stalwarts run the club behind the scenes but this season sees the return of manager Stuart Parker and assistant Terry Green back to the dugout. On the playing front many of the 'out of town' players have left to be replaced by many of Parker's ex players who are based in the town. There's rarely a dull moment with Parker and Green. Both take their football incredibly seriously and when it comes to footballing emotions they're certainly more 'Neil Warnock' than 'Eriksson'. Not many referees, linesmen and opposing managers will be looking forward to visiting Mechs this season. Fitness and commitment are demanded from the players or they'll be on their way.
Good news on the pitch front. Usually, the drainage through the sand is too good which results in the famous 'dustbowl' effect but pre-season a sprinkler system has been fitted which should improve things dramatically. Not that it was required today as the weekend rain had left the pitch damp but playable. The game also co-incided with a Northern Care 'fun day'.
Northern Care are this season's sponsors for Blackpool Mechanics and also have a partnership with FC United. Their continued involvement with Fylde Coast Sunday football teams is also much appreciated. On to this afternoon's game. Good weather for the big crowd and the pitch looked to be in great condition.
FC took the lead following a scramble in the area but it was a decent left foot finish that found the net. The score stayed the same until early in the second half when tireless work from striker Marc Beattie ended with him charging down a rushed clearance. The subsequent rebound went straight in the net. Late on FC scored the winner when Jamie Cook was beaten at his near post. 1-2 was the final score. It was a good run out for both sides in the warm sunshine. Here are few images from the game.
Good luck to both teams for the forthcoming season and whether it be Mechs, Gate, Wren Rovers, Poulton, Fleetwood, Freck, Kirkham etc get out and support your local Saturday sides.
Blackpool Mechanics FC 2007/08
FC United's first half keeper.
Back at Mechanics – Manager Stuart Parker.
Speighty and Frend in pre-season training.
Steve Palmer and Mark Spedding.
Marc Beattie (Right)
An athletic effort from Jordan Spedding.
FC take the lead.
I'm not telling him he can't smoke.
Ryan gets the chips in.
Mechs' assistant manager Terry Green.
Feed the horse and he will score. Tim Kinley (eating) and Paul Bromley of the Royal FC.
FC United's second half keeper.
Mechanics celebrate Beattie's equaliser.
Blackpool Rangers FC enjoying a beer or two.
Chris Cairns makes his entrance.
Beattie and Spedding given a well earned rest.
Keeper Cook is beaten for FC's late winner and gets some grief off the young FC fans.
A late chance for Cairns but the keeper takes it off his head.
Game over and handshakes all round.
Final score : Blackpool Mechanics FC 1 – 2 FC United.