Burscough FC

The following is a complete copy and paste from a news report concerning Burscough FC, the club I support.

I could copy and paste the dozens of angry, confused and emotional messages and forum posts from across the League and Non-League communities, or the Burscough fans who have found themselves in the middle of one of the most rapidly developed rug-pull stories in a part of the football industry which has an unfair share of unfortunate events. I could let rip myself, because the walks to and from work have given ample opportunity to refine exactly what I feel about the people currently travelling down the road which would see the home of football in Burscough – over a century of the game in the middle of a small village in West Lancashire – vanish at the stroke of a pen. From many perspectives, that fate has already occured. Victoria Park is a no-go area, the club effectively wiped off the map without a chance for supporters to gather their thoughts.

Across the Internet, and beyond, the reaction from football fans up and down the Leagues has been edifying. To their credit, Skelmersdale are being as welcoming and supportive as they can, though the finer details of the ground share into which Burscough is being forced lies beyond the finanical reach of those desparately trying to save the club from extinction.

The Burscough supporters message board can be found here. As of last week, the club’s official website has been taken down for reasons unexplained.

The future of Burscough FC is in the balance after the Chairman and Secretary were sacked by post and the team was moved to nearby Skelmersdale in dramatic new developments in the long running ownership saga.

Discussions over the club’s future has led to the owners of the club sacking the Chairman and Secretary with immediate effect, as fans wait and see if they will even have a club to follow next season.

Chairman Frank Parr and long-running secretary Stan Petherbridge were sent letters on Saturday (13 May) informing them they are no longer needed at the club.

According to Keith Forshaw of the Burscough Supporter’s Club: “This morning Stan Petherbridge was informed by post that his position as club secretary has been terminated with immediate effect.
“Martin Gilchrist has appointed his son as the new secretary. Stan was informed to end any correspondence regarding the club and cease to use any official BFC letterheaded paper.”

Meanwhile, Chequer Properties, the owners of the club, will pursue a ground share with nearby Skelmersdale United, moving the club out of Burscough for the first time since its foundation in 1946.

Owners Paul and Martin Gilchrist have signed an agreement to share the ground and plan to sell Victoria Park. However, unlike when the company bought the club last year, they refused to promise to offer Burscough an alternative ground once they moved out.

A covenant on the ground states the current site can only be built on if there is another site for the team to play on in Burscough.

This means any move to Skelmersdale should be temporary, but it is believed Chequer Properties are searching for ways to bypass the covenant and permanently move Burscough out of the town.

However, things could get even worse for Burscough because of the added cost of renting Skelmersdale’s ground. With crowds of around 150 expected to drop dramatically once the club is no longer playing in Burscough, the club’s days seem numbered.

The club’s website has been removed, with only a sign stating it is ‘under construction’ in its place as fans await the owner’s future plans for the club.

Fans are already in discussions about the possibility of a new Burscough team owned by the fans after seeing their team, which won the FA Trophy as recently as 2005, ripped away from the village it serves.

A member of the Supporter’s Club says ‘wheels are in motion’ to create a new supporter-owned club, and talks have begun with Supporters Direct, an organisation which advises on setting up and running football trusts.

Property developers Chequer bought the club last year when it was struggling financially. Chequer had already bought the rights to build on Victoria Park and completed a takeover of the club when previous owner Chris Lloyd.

Chequer Properties originally promised no intervention in the playing side of the club, but have already sacked manager Andy Gray in February to the dismay of the supporters.

Chris Stammers, Gray’s replacement, was forced to deal with player sales as the club struggled in the Evo Stik Premier and were relegated to the First Division this season.

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Initial considerations

It’s very easy to over-romanticise the FA Cup. Worse culprits than ITV are hard to find, with the broadcaster assured of the similarity between it and the TARDIS, the game as a time-machine able to whip up mythical good-old-days of level playing fields and jumpers for goalposts.

(“Level playing fields never existed,” comments the cynical old friend of mine. “We’d struggle not to do our ankles on the molehills.”)

It is ten years after – this should be the only time I type this today – “magic of the Cup” was debated within a stitch of its life following Manchester United’s decision to fly half-way round the globe rather than take part. From fair-weather fans to utter fanatics, the future of the Cup and by extension English football was exhaustively debated and analysed, with my then boss at the time agreeing totally with “Brand Utd” sidestepping the competition “they have clearly outgrown”.

The discussion comes round again this season, related in that spooky-fate-and-fortune sort of way to Manchester United. Following the turning of Old Trafford into a holding bay for Texan debt, plans scrawled on the back of naan bread by disillusioned fans created FC United of Manchester, a protest club which would turn into something non-league football had not quite seen before. Fan-owned, eschewed of shirt sponsors, and now with share-save style promotions to raise money for a new ground, FCUM made an extra slice of history their own this week by beating Rochdale in the First Round Proper of the FA Cup.

(Remember for teams of the Pyramids, the Cup starts in August).

FCUM polarise and divide opinion to this day. Their reputation within the hitherto stuffy world of non-league is polarised. Frankly the atmosphere and attitude was long overdue for some clubs at the lower levels, whose grounds desperately needed the singing, chanting and enthusiasm of League football which FCUM almost always guarantee. The terraces of some provincial towns must thing the echoing choruses of football crowds have been missing for generations. When Burscough, the team I follow, played Boston some years ago, their supporters acted just as they would in the League, an attitude FC has maintained despite long years clawing their way through Leagues were polite applause can be sneered at…

The FCUM attitude to the FA Cup has been one of hyperactivity, giddyness and outright hunger for success. The jokes about meeting Manchester United in the Third Round are told with straight-faced seriousness…..

…..which reflects very differently to the attitude in the London Borough of Merton…..

Below are three Tweets sent to me in response to questions forwarded to those AFC fans suggesting their potential game with MK Dons could be boycotted or even forfeited:

@doktorb Not really. It justifies them. And they say we’re arch rivals, but we’re nothing of the sort.

@doktorb why? The idea of playing the franchise isn’t like playing rivals you realise. I don’t want rivals to go bust.

@doktorb i genuinely would not want to be there which is different from principled boycott stance

The extent of the disquiet – to put it mildly – amongst AFC Wimbledon fans against a potential match with MK Dons utterly stunned and silenced me. There is no charity, no olive branch, no eagerness for playing “rivals”. The two teams may appear to have been cut from the same protest movement cloth….It is only on closer inspection that the different patterns are discovered. Although a minority of AFC fans want the game to go ahead, there is no pounding-heart nostalgia amongst the majority. FA Cup or not – achievement of making the First Round Proper or not – “Franchise FC” would not be welcome at the “home of the Dons”.

(I highly recommend this WSC blog on the subject)

Such is the continuing problems at the heart of the oldest club cup competition. AFC fans are clearly principled – mayhaps too principled to the point of blindness. It is just as easy to over romanticise the fan-power teams as it is the Cup itself. How we all paint the game in the garish pop-art colours of the ITV title sequence, wrap every fault in scarves and wooly-hats. There are hooligan tendencies within the fan base of both AFC and FCUM, there are non-league fans unhappy at the perceived easy ride given the ‘novelty factor’. Nevertheless both sides have ultimately transformed the non-league organisation as much as the game.

There will always be exceptions to prove rules. FC fans are out there now sharpening defiance against ever playing Manchester United, and of course AFC Wimbledon fans who are excited by the prospect of playing Milton Keynes look forward to each respective replays. Ultimately, however, the Cup is only a symbol for the sides at their level, an icon too far to reach, the fervour amongst clubs and fans overblown and knowing. It has not been the Cup we’ve wanted it to be for years. Blame whoever you like for ‘reinventing the wheel’.

It keeps on spinning. AFC Wimbledon and FC United of Manchester find themselves positioned on opposite sides…

playing on the right

Breathless, verbless news coverage met me this morning. BECKHAM INJURY SHOCK WORLD CUP LATEST.

I had assumed – expert on right-sided midfielders that I am not – that common consensus amongst front-room Fabios had agreed upon the notion of Beckham barely featuring in South Africa at all, almost to the point of inventing a Walcott/Wright-Phillips hybrid capable of combining pace with accuracy of crosses. Until such a splice actually exists – no, don’t think too much on that either – I will continue to largely sit out the 2010 equivalent of the mid-90s baroom discourse on “Why the left in English football is an almost impossible position to fill”.

If the sight of both Beckham and former England posterboy Michael Owen limping off with injuries on the cusp of middle age is not too much of a reality check for people (don’t….just don’t….), I found solace and reality all bundled together in a footballing context down at the humble setting of the Unibond Premier league. While my own club Burscough continue to suffer from successive poundings and High Court nail-biting, two places below the plucky stalwarts from Durham FC make things all the better to be alive.

In short, Durham beating FC United of Manchester 2-1 at Gigg Lane may not seem to much to make life seem nicer in a roundabout, barely tangible way. However the details really do shine a big light of reality on the hyperactive, hypereality of Premier League excess and showboating celebs. Durham barely have the right to exist, stripped of their sponsors and funding after an FA ruling against plastic pitches and “University teams”. With almost 30 games of this season gone, Durham had a goal difference of minus-120, not even a draw to their name, and the ignominy of a 6-point deduction for pulling the “Sunday League trick” of registering a player under a false name. That Durham won at all is worth celebrating; that their fans have stuck by them through cricket score drummings with Newcastle or Sunderland or Middlesbrough or even Conference side Gateshead on their doorstep is worth more than just a pint lifted to the skies. Durham sum up far more than a romantic notion of “real” football; they did what they could over a very hard season to brush themselves down, offering local teenagers the chance to play against semi-pro and ex-League players, and did so every week from Kendal in the north to King’s Lynn in the south with a good natured smile on their face every time.

King’s Lynn, of course, were wound up for debts far less than the hourly wage bill of Manchester United. That Durham got their first ever win against FC United of Manchester surely adds that extra line of black irony to the story. Long may Durham have success when the inevitable relegation occurs.

I am no more a football “purist” than I am a real-ale evangalist. It is just refreshing to have moments away from the big brands and tiresome Big 4 soap operas. Long may the lower leagues offer this break from the ‘norm’.

interruptions from history

FC Utd. Bank. Exploding lightbulbs. There’s a lot to remember after some time away.

And I’ve not, technically moved anywhere.

You need to listen to the Empire State, they’re very good.

I made it to FC Utd, for a very good struggle but ultimately a 2-0 defeat for the mighty Berske. For the first time I was, all things considered, the target for “You Scouse bastards” chanting. “They’ve got a Liverpool postcode, that’s enough for me,” commented a bloke on the tram back to Victoria.

Two days later, at home, normal service is not quite resumed, ending up 8-0 victors against a clearly hastily thrown together Durham side. Two goals disallowed (one for “pushing in the area”, which in non-league surely isn’t an issue?)

The Bank are getting testy. I haven’t been chased for the c/c so often before. I think it’s just the mood of the nation, such as it is. But they’ve got an increase in minimum payment, that’ll do for now. Covered tracks, sort of thing. Then I go and see a bloke on BBC News talking about how his wife and he managed to pay off some multi-thousand debt during the credit-crunch “which now is gladly over” or some such dribble. Balls to it, I say.

Woke up this morning (no, this ain’t a blues song), all my lightbulbs blown out. Need to get a torch. No, revision: I /have/ a torch but no batteries (damn Maplin). So may have to hot-foot it to Argos. Or buy matches. I’ll buy matches, probably.

I have limited time on this computer. Darn it! I must get internet access at home….

Away!

upsidedown

London – aim one. Maybe I could find the pub half-way up the Northern Line with the French “mathscore” band upstairs, the place from which I had to belt down towards the Underground station due to complete ignorance about matters relating to Night Buses. Many years ago now, thinking about it. My hotel was way out East, employing only – it seemed at the time – surly Spanish women and clearly bored West African men.

But any future plans could be turned upside down, they often are. Everything slots into place in my brain rather like the placings in school sports day races. Once such a thing and t’other things are done, only then can I do Activity C followed by subsequent pencilled-in ideas. There is a way through, most things are not always as complex as they seem.

Financial matters are quite another matter. Got the dreaded Television License letter through the post – for the first time in….ten years, now….I have to pay the whole thing rather than being one part of a shared household. Oh growing up, you never promised me so many outgoings when I was younger….

But you know things are going alright, really. Routines are easily returned too following holidays, after all. The same people are catching the same bus, just as ever, indeed the 126 retains the peculiar “arbitrary stop” half-way to Brig as though there’s some ritual among bus-drivers. Maybe there’s a reason.

Bury (football, for FC United. T’was good to see Burscough winning last night. It took me two-and-a-half-hours to get to Moorthorpe for Frickley on Saturday. Never thought West Yorkshire was quite so far away until I was in the arms of Northern Rail). Then London? What to do on pay-day weekend, if owt? There’s something that needs slotting in….what is it….Health Insurance, darn it, still not got that sorted. Or the gas meter people.

Right….until the next time….I’ve got more ad hoc diary preparing to sort out….

karaoke

Positive thinking. Things are good. By the bathroom mirror I notice stronger more defined muscles in the arms, a lesser belly, broader shoulders. All will fade once the effects of yomping up mountains carrying camping equipment wears off (or for that matter eating at the Wellington followed by munching an entire fruit-loaf while watching England) but for now OPTIMISM and FEELING GOOD are orders of the day.

(Inserted thought, though. Did sit in the Wellington next to the jukebox which inevitably means the usual selection of songs. I finished on Have A Nice Day which is not my preferred choice. Drained by pint when the warbling women restarted with the tinny beats and “off” production. I’m sounding like my father moaning about rappers on childrens’ television back many years ago; he said once-upon-a-time the moon landings were carried live, now it’s all….well, there was a term for people it may be best not repeated….If I am sharing the same disquiet over musical tastes it’s not from the same social commentary perspective.)

Specifics, though. Devil in the detail. Damn TV Licencing people sent me a letter during my break (do their “chase up team” not know my budgeting starts and ends with payday weekends? What good is every third-week for me?). Powergen, e-on, buggery sods from the bank (they lured me into complacency, now their letters go almost directly from letterbox to shredder).

Goodness, though. That’s the spirit. Sunshine, more days off work (though, ah yes, must buy breakfast cereal to avoid continuing the microwaved-cheese-on-warm-floppy-bread habit). And this Saturday I am off to watch the mighty Burscough against Frickley (so I replace the West Highland Line with a muddled jaunt across Manchester and Leeds commuter routes). FC United in two weeks time, never before has the promise of a day in Bury seemed so appealing….

Must concentrate, though. Could have taken the leccy reading and done it all here, on-line. CDs to review, I could send them off from the Conty tonight if the laptop is repaired. Now there are things to do, do them.

notepad

Right – LibDemmery in a general sense, paying the bank something, anything, getting the High Voltage profiles written, packing for next month’s holiday, getting some food in the house, working out how much monies I have for the next week, reminding myself never to drink “Tennis Elbow” again, work out why someone from the Isle of Man visited this blog recently, remembering where and when I’m supposed to be covering the Tringe, working out when I can get the gas meter changed, working out when I can try BT again for the internets, sorting out a bit of a piss-up next week, sorting out when I can get to Frickley for the first away match of the season as well as Bury for the first FCUM meeting of the season…

I /think/ that’s everything…

always something

On the train to Burscough, to catch the friendly against Accy Stanley (it’s a 1-1 draw, they scoring with some assistance from our back-four having a collective brain freeze. We pull it level half way through the second half, with the kind of curved freekick-with-rebound-and-triple-Salko movement which suggests all is pretty much as was since I last took the visit to Victoria Park.)

(Oh, no, wait, there’s two un-covered stands suddenly constructed, that’s new.)

A bloke at the Baron’s bar takes a look at Sky Sports News’ coverage of Rhyl playing Belgrade in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League. “How come they’re playing Belgrade and we’re stuck with Accrington Stanley?”. Good question, well phrased, to which one answer would be “Because they’re Welsh” but that sounds insulting and disingenuous so….

Onwards to crazy dreams. The new flat has caused some elements within my deeper moments of sleep to be ever more creative than usual. Miniature trains, song-and-dance numbers, narrative structures far stronger than usual, colour when they’re usual monochrome or an unusual gold-and-black…I assume when all is settled in the real world the same will happen to that which flows through the brain at sleep, but as there always seems to be something going on this could take some time. There’s not always important things, but enough to be going on with. Worries but not of anything important, niggles perhaps. Getting by, making do, terribly and awfully English things.

I should do more with the overheard conversations I pick up when travelling to work on Class 142s juddering along the East Lancashire Line. One bloke having a whinge about swine flu (he was considering with his mate how much of an actual government-created conspiracy it all was). A few days ago I overheard a bloke propping up the bar discussing a recent claim made to him about racist views. “F’cours I’m racist, course I am,” he explained to whoever was listening, “And this bloke says to me, he says, ‘You’re ignorant, you are’, and I says to him, I says, “You’re blind and braindead’.” I’ve been beaten to “Overheard in New York” but there’s always a more local version…

Saying that, I’ve got reviews, LibDemmery, a new reviewing project, interviews, “settling in”, three weeks of work on a limited budget…..Always something. I’d complain if I were bored, I bet….

after the rain comes sun again

My current employment is with a company who carry out streetworks on behalf of BT, so the news banded about the mainstream media today about bizarre financial incentives took my attention. When BT sniffle, my company sneeze. Massive pay-cuts for not being seen until January, “term-time” employment, and bonuses for highscores on Facebook quizzes – only one of which is made up – are ideas which should be applauded cautiously. These troubled times are deleting many millions from the order books of some very large companies, indeed one our own “high ups” gathered us around for the kind of talk usually concluded with the announcement naming which two of us would be nominated and up for the public vote.

Okay, so bizarre news is all over the place recently. Michael Owen to Manchester United is not just unexpected it is almost as though history has flung a rumour from ten years ago into the spin-cycle of contemporary headlines: the usual saturation on the sports channels is tinged with total disbelief.

The heatwave now over – ish – I found myself the other night lying in a toasty-warm room, shirtless, listening to Olive’s drum-and-bass lead/only single “You’re Not Alone”, in a scene which could have been another drawn from history and flung through time and space. My cluttered and not-so-ordered mind has not prepared for anything which is to come between now and somewhere on the windier side of October. There’s the house-move itself, three weeks of getting to work on a budget tighter than most airlines, a pre-camping holiday drinking session, and the delivery of 2-and-a-bit-thousand Liberal Democrat leaflets. Somewhere at the end of all this is an exhausted body flinging itself into the Ribble. Every other day my mind remembers something important – email landlady, buy a better rucksack, check Burscough’s new signings – but until there’s one to focus on entirely there’s going to be more changeable thoughts, some kind of “cerebral sunshine and showers”, for some time yet.