The Untold non-league tour continues: men against gingerbread boys*

Grantham Town 1-5 FC United of Manchester (att. 739)


Last Saturday Tony and I travelled to the South Kesteven Sports stadium, in Grantham, Lincolnshire, to watch a match in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League. It’s part of the Untold Non-League tour, which has already taken us to watch Corby and Guernsey (away at Crawley Down Gatwick).

All I really know about  Grantham is that is was the birthplace of Maggie Thatcher (which didn’t exactly endear it to me!) but there was little evidence of the Iron Lady here today. The travelling hordes from Manchester (who must have accounted for about 400-500 of the gate) remembered her though, chanting ‘Argentina, Argentina!’ at various points in the game (very witty these Mancunians).

lineupsThe teams line up – Grantham in red but their mascot in black and white…

The South Kesteven ground is an impressive local sports arena; complete with a stand on both sides and a running track with hurdles (Tony and I broke the Untold World Record during the break…).

I presume the ground belongs to the local authority rather than the club but it meant we had an excellent view of the game overlooking the centre line. The facilities were good too, we enjoyed a beer and food before the game in the bar; good value but Tony was a little upset they had run out of steak pies – chips were good though! And the locals were friendly, especially when they realized we weren’t actually ‘proper’ away fans but ‘football tourists’.

The phenomenon of FC United is interesting. Here are a group of disgruntled MUFC fans who (unlike some we might mention) instead of simply grumbling about the takeover of their club by unwanted owners, have actually gone and done something constructive about it. They formed their own club in 2005 and now command impressive gates at their home (Gigg Lane that they share with Bury) and take plenty away.

To give you some idea, the average attendance at an FC United home game last season was 1,842. The next highest in this league (King’s Lynn) was 667.  At ou game they created nearly all the atmosphere at Grantham, singing throughout the game with hardly a pause for breath. Admittedly several of their songs were dirge-like and rather uninspiring but you can’t fault the effort and the passion they have for their team.

Presumably ‘City, what’s the score?’ was aimed at the sky blue Manchester club because there are no ‘city’s in the NPL. They brought loads of flags with them which they dotted about the ground so that it resembled an England away game more than a lower league clash.

Ok, what about the game? Well it started slowly and wasn’t much of skill fest. Indeed by contrast to Guernsey FC (who won their first ever FA Cup game today!) and Crawley Down Gatwick I thought the quality of football from both sides was poor in the first half. FC United started best but the Gingerbreads came back into it and up until the 30-minute mark it was pretty even. Then United took the lead through Lee Neville (possibly Gary and Phil’s other brother…) and this prompted the already excitable away support to let off a red flare that fluttered in the cooling late summer breeze.


United were two up by the end of the half, as the home team’s already fragile looking defence committed collective suicide and Tom Greaves (the great great grandson of Jimmy, possibly…) took full advantage and scored.

Tony and I retired to the bar (and discovered that it would have been quite easy to avoid the £10 entry fee and sneak in). There we chatted to a weary home fan and asked him why the team were playing in red when everything indicated that their regular kit was black and white stripes (a la NUFC and Notts County).

It seems that they have a new sponsor who picked the kit, so a similar situation to Cardiff but on a smaller scale. Should sponsors or owners be able to dictate what colours the team wears? What would we feel about it? Our friend wasn’t happy (‘you have to buy a new kit each year’, he complained). He also told us this was  a newish side, with lots of players trying to fit in and a new manager. They certainly didn’t play as a team – notably at the back where the keeper alone kept the score down in the first 45 minutes. The motto over the bar read Ubi concordia, ibi victoria, which I translated as ‘where there is harmony there is victory’ but unfortunately there was little concord in the home team’s performance.


The second half was more lively and Grantham pulled a goal back through the impressively large Gregg Smith. He had quickly become the butt of the travelling fans chants of ‘you fat b*****d’ because he tended to throw his weight about.

However the home revival was short lived and at times the gulf between the teams was quite apparent. A beautiful pass split the GTFC defence and FC United were 3-1 up. This soon became 4-1 and then, with the short distraction of a semi-clad streaker (it wasn’t Tony folks, calm down!), it became 1-5 and a veritable rout. The home players had simply lost it by now and were backing away from the oncoming United attack instead of closing them down. Confidence is a crucial thing in football and when their short comeback collapsed the heads dropped and most of the fight went out of Grantham.

SmithandtherefsGregg Smith trotts off with the ref keeping an eye on him

But then they won’t have to play FC United every week and I would wager the Manchester outfit will be a good shout for promotion this season. They weren’t classy but they did look efficient and very well organized.

And I hope Grantham do ok because this is a nice little club with a good ground that came up from the league below two years ago and are consolidating. Overall it was another great day out with good company. Next weekend there are no PL fixtures because of the Internationals and is therefore Non-League Day, so why not go and find your local team and have some fun?


* Grantham’s nickname is the Gingerbread – I didn’t discover why.

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10 Replies to “The Untold non-league tour continues: men against gingerbread boys*”

  1. having had a nice message from the FC United press room I can now reveal that the fans were singing ‘Margentina’ in homily to their manager. Karl Marginson and that Grantham is famous for its gingerbread.

    This weekend I might go and see Cambridge City

  2. Oh it was only one letter difference then blacksheep 😉

    Love this write ups. This is where football is kept alive in fact. In a way us fans of big teams are spoiled and look at football ‘the industry’. At those lower league teams you can see football the sport.

  3. Don’t know where Tony gets this yearning for meat pies at football grounds. It must be a form of self flagellation. My dear wife’s recipe (bags of pastry, potatoes, carrots etc and carefully selected pieces of beef with no fat or gristle, plus gravy) would easily beat the ghastly examples which Tony is used to buying throughout our land.

  4. @blacksheep 63 – nice , really love these articles about life in the lower reaches .
    Do you think that those from the lower reaches of Arsenal’s ‘support ‘ would ever do the right thing and start their own club and leave us be ?
    The Robsons , Wrights, Adams ,Mersons , Dixons ,Nicholas and the legends of yore could help them with their expertise !
    We’ll call them The AAAA ( or aaaa to begin with ) and at each promotion, the can use capital letters ! What do say about this rating , Moodys ? ; Standard and Poor ?
    Sigh ! We can always hope ,can’t we ?
    I have a funny feeling that the flies will soon be coming.

    And so here’s to flies and wives !

    A woman walked into the kitchen to find her Husband standing around with a fly swatter

    “What are you doing?” She asked.

    “Hunting Flies” He responded.

    “Oh. ! Killed any?” She asked.

    “Yep, 3 males, 2 Females,” he replied.
    Intrigued, she asked. “How can you tell them apart?”

    He responded,
    “3 were on a beer can, 2 were on the phone. “

  5. Dear AKBs ,

    Why do I have a variety of friends who are all so different in character?
    How is it possible that I can get along with them all?
    I think that each one helps to bring out a “different” part of me.
    With one of them I am polite.
    With another I joke – with another I can be a bit naughty…
    I can sit down and talk about serious matters with one.
    With another I laugh a lot. I listen to one friend’s problems.
    Then I listen to another one’s advice for me.

    My friends are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
    When completed, they form a treasure box. A treasure of friends!
    They are my friends who understand me better than I understand myself.
    They’re friends who support me through good days and bad.
    Real Age doctors tell us that friends are good for our health.

    Dr. Oz calls them Vitamin F (for Friends) and counts the benefits of friends as essential to our well being.

    Research shows that people in strong social circles have less risk of depression and terminal strokes. If you enjoy Vitamin F constantly you can be up to 30 years younger than your real age.

    The warmth of friendship stops stress and even in your most intense moments, it decreases the chance of a cardiac arrest or stroke by 50%.
    I’m so happy that I have a stock of Vitamin F!

    In summary, we should value our friends and keep in touch with them.
    We should try to see the funny side of things and laugh together and
    pray for each other in the tough moments.
    Some of my friends are friends on-line.

    I know I am one of their friends because their names appear on my computer screen often and I feel blessed that they care as much for me as I care for them.

    Thank you for being one of my Vitamins!

    Brickfields Gunners

  6. For what we are about to receive … in earth as in heaven ?

    My Kind of Confessional…

    A guy goes into the confessional box after years being away from the Church He pulls aside the curtain, enters and sits himself down.

    There’s a fully equipped bar with crystal glasses, the best vestry wine, Guinness on tap, cigars and liqueur chocolates nearby, and on the wall a fine photographic display of buxom ladies who appear to have mislaid their garments.

    He hears a priest come in: “Father, forgive me for it’s been a very long time since I’ve been to confession and I must admit that the confessional box is much more inviting than it used to be”.

    The priest replies, “Get out, you idiot. You’re on my side”.

  7. Thanks Blacksheep.

    The original stadium used by Grantham Town was taken over by Morrisons supermarkets who paid for the development of the new ground. I believe this happened in the early 90s.

    Its been a number of years since I was there and remember the construction of the new ground taking place. The Morrisons store used to have images of the old ground in the café, they may well still be their but I haven’t been back their for 20 years or so.

    Interestingly Morrisons also took over the site that Walsall played on and paid for the development of their new ground which can be seen quite clearly from the M6 at J9.

    Maybe Tottenham should have done a deal with Morrisons and not Sainsbury’s, they might be in their new ground by now if they had.

  8. Grass roots football deserves a bit of attention. Try going to watch Oxford City, my second team’s local rivals. And meat pies at a football ground, sounds lethal.

  9. Thanks for that information Ian, and Rupert, I might try Oxford City, couldn’t face Utd though with my old affections for CUFC!

  10. I watch Montreal Impact since they are in the MSL East and are currently top of the division. They have DiViao (former Inter striker) playing with them and he is currently top scorer. We are Football starved here and have one of the largest per capita youth programs in North America but we have very little quality amateur or professional adult Football and our best players often quit the game when they Our officials are not bad but they have to kiss a lot of ass to get on the MSL list and even more to get a national badge, and boatloads more to get on the FIFA list. since we are such a large country with such a small population, it is hard to promote sports like Football against the more popular hockey and baseball.

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