29 November ~ Supporters of Droylsden FC are nothing if not realistic. Standing geographically in the shadow of Manchester’s Premier League giants (almost literally since City’s move to Eastlands), those involved with the Blue Square North club understand that moments in the limelight may be fleeting and any recognition of achievement limited. However even with such reduced expectations fans still feel a little miffed by lack of reaction to tonight's FA Cup second round home tie with Leyton Orient. Despite this being the club’s second involvement at this stage in the last three years, it seems that local media now only have eyes for the new kids in town when it comes to non-League coverage.
Friday’s Manchester Evening News might serve as Exhibit A if Droylsden pursue an unfair treatment claim. The paper’s FA Cup weekend preview consisted of a double page spread featuring FC United of Manchester’s tie at Brighton, complete with large colour photograph of the team’s post-match celebrations after their previous round win. A single sentence footnote informed readers that Droylsden were also still involved in the competition. As cursory as that seemed it was still more than the Cup round-up on ITV’s Granada Reports provided later that evening, which consisted of a glowing five-minute piece on FCUM and no mention at all of the region’s other remaining representative.
Fortunately any website snippiness from some supporters (“apparently non-League football is only five years old”) has been more than offset by the fact that ESPN have chosen the Droylsden tie for second round live transmission. With BBC Radio 5 Live completing a multimedia experience, the match is due to generate over £100,000 when FA prize money and gate money are taken into account; for a club whose average gates remain obstinately below 400 not a penny of Droylsden’s share will go unappreciated. It will represent more than a full season of gate receipts.
The match also gives the club a chance to bring to a wider audience a team of whom the fans are justifiably proud. Owner/chairman/manager Dave Pace has – apart from challenging the myth about males and multitasking – spent well over a decade preaching the gospel of pass-and-move, which his sides have put it into practice. Their ascent up the non-League pyramid received a chastening blow when promotion to the National Conference in 2007 lasted just the single season during which they found themselves overpowered by full-time outfits but, undeterred, the Bloods continue to fly the flag for football’s purists.
If Droylsden give a good account of themselves tonight they believe they have an opportunity to dispel the notion that football at this level is more about physicality than technique, perhaps attract some new admirers through the turnstiles for forthcoming league fixtures, and maybe even snare a few extra column inches in the MEN. Modest ambitions, perhaps, but perfectly in keeping with this particularly grounded club. Tony Curran