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Louder than bombs

01/04/2015

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I missed the first goal but that’s nothing new. I probably miss, on average, about ten per cent of FC United’s goals during trips to the toilet. It’s the price you pay for a weak bladder. But this time I was too busy chanting “you fat bastard” at the pot bellied King’s Lynn centre forward who a few seconds earlier had clattered into FC United’s right back Liam Brownhill. A horrible tackle that earned the number nine a yellow card which possibly should have been a red.

Earlier we’d queued to get into King’s Lynn’s ground, possibly the best ground in the Northern Premier League. Norfolk’s second largest football club are well supported and, as with any fixture over the festive period, there were a good number of neutrals keen to get away from the tinsel and the turkey for a pint and some football. Two blokes behind me were busy chatting about Norwich’s performance at Derby a few days before. Ahead of me a lad and his girlfriend fiddled with their hair before posing for a pre-match selfie.

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I’d eschewed a pre-match pint and wandered across town, taking advantage of a beautiful, crisp, clear winter day to enjoy the view from the banks of the Great Ouse. The wonderful, uncluttered, big open skies of this part of the world are a treat for anyone escaping the city. The river flows out into The Wash and the nearby Custom House provides a reminder of King’s Lynn’s proud maritime history. During the Middle Ages Lynn was England’s largest port and was a member of the Hansa or Hanseatic League, a cooperative alliance of mainly German speaking cities, including Hamburg and Bremen, that traded across the Baltic and North Sea. Even back then the fact that something was produced in Germany was indicative of high quality.

After the sixteenth century the growth of transatlantic trade meant that the Hansa declined in power and King’s Lynn’s importance as a port waned. It was perhaps apt, given King’s Lynn’s strong Germanic connections, that one of the first banners I spotted on entering the ground was one that proclaimed FC United of Manchester to be “das neue moderne fussball”.

The journey north on the Vancouver Express (the seafarer George Vancouver was born in King’s Lynn) from King’s Cross through Cambridge brought back some fond United and other memories for me. I lived in Cambridge for three years in the early nineties including that glorious Cantona-inspired 1992-93 season when Manchester United finally awoke from a twenty six year slumber and won the bloody league. A Monday night trip to Norfolk, just before Easter, was one of the many highlights of that season. I barely missed a match that season, clocking up hundreds of train and bus miles and regularly returning home from midweek games in the middle of the night before rolling up at work a few hours later hoarse and bleary eyed. Beautiful Ely cathedral, standing out like a lighthouse in the pancake flat Fens, became a regular sight as I frequently waited at Ely station for a connecting train. Passing through Littleport reminded me of an altogether more mundane visit to the town’s medical centre to do a stocktake of incontinence pads. Ah, the glamour of being a trainee number cruncher in the NHS.

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Back at the match, we stood next to a group of King’s Lynn fans on the covered terrace opposite the main stand, partly distracted by a lovely sunset over in the far corner of the ground. They sang that Millwall number “no one likes us” and when we replied with “we love you King’s Lynn, we do” they looked a bit gobsmacked, bless ’em. Making friends not millionaires that’s us. The first half was a scrappy but evenly matched contest until FC United’s goal machine Tom Greaves put the red shirted heroes in front just before half time. We queued for a half time brew to celebrate the goal (and warm up) but after a lengthy wait the lady in the refreshment kiosk informed us that they’d run out of water. “Run out of water? But this is the Fens int it?” She was having none of it though.

The second half was much more entertaining with both sides wasting good chances to score. It was marvellous end to end to stuff. FC went 2-0 ahead mid-way through the half when the King’s Lynn defence switched off for centre back Lewis Lacy to score from a corner. They’ll be disappointed with that, Clive. King’s Lynn eventually scored from a free kick in the last minute but, despite a few nervy minutes of injury time, it was too late. FC United were worthy 2-1 winners.

“A very merry Christmas and a happy new year, we’re FC United, we’re still fookin ‘ere…” we chorused John and Yoko style as we headed for the exit. We may be in the vanguard of the movement for “das neue moderne fussball” but we like an old tune or two. Happy new year. Let’s hope it’s a good one. It certainly promises to be.

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