Boxing Day games are nearly always reserved for local derbies. But the Rams never had less distance to travel for an away game than they did on Boxing Day in 2006.
Just 18 months previously, a group of disgruntled supporters of the football giants Manchester United, unhappy at the take over by the American businessman Malcolm Glazer, decided to set up their own fan-led club and FC United of Manchester was born.
Joining the North West Counties League for the 2005/06 season, they swiftly passed through and were promoted to the Premier Division for 2006/07, where they would be paired with the Rams for the first time.
Our inaugural meeting with them would be at Bury FC’s Gigg Lane ground – just six miles to the south – and would be watched by nearly 3,000 spectators.
Rammy had never played in front of as many as that in their history and haven’t again since. 2,924 to be exact piled into Gigg and most of them lay quiet for the majority of the game.
And the reason for that was that Lee Sculpher’s side, fresh off the back of a club record 9-1 demolition of Atherton Laburnum Rovers just three days previously – a hat-trick from Ryan Moore and two each for Steve Maden and Stephen McDonald leading the rout – climbed into a 2-0 lead which they held with just 20 minutes left on the clock.
A first half strike from Carl Lomax gave the Rams the half-time advantage before a Liam Foster own goal just a minute into the second put the Rams on the brink of a sensational away victory over the much vaunted opponents.
With a huge thanks to captain John Blackley, midfielder Anthony Johnson and now club secretary Tony Cunningham – all of them inextricably linked as former players and/or lifelong supporters of Bury FC – we look back at that game, the highs and the eventual lows.
TC – Driving down to Gigg, as I had done so many times over the years, was a fairly standard procedure. However, this day was strangely unfamiliar.
AJ – It was one of the biggest games I’d ever played in, in terms of the actual occasion. All our friends and families were there, so it actually felt a lot bigger than it was.
JB – I remember it being a cold, dark December Boxing Day and was genuinely looking forward to playing this game as I thought we would be more than a match for them with the players we had and was looking forward to playing in front of a decent crowd.
TC – There was just this feeling of immense pride that my ‘newer’ club were here at my favourite ground on equal terms with the club that had made the stadium their home. I usually sat in the South Stand for Bury matches, with an odd game in the main stand during reduced-capacity cup games. So for the FC United match, I was back in the main stand, looking round at a surreal situation. The stadium was not full of the usual blue and white colours of Bury but the red, black and white of the newly formed protest club. The only blue and white on show came from the much smaller following of my club six miles up the road!
AJ – I played right midfield with Carl Lomax and Ryan Moore up top. Going forward we were brilliant, in fact I’d say it was the best 80 minutes we’d played all season.
JB – We started really well and when we went 2-0 up I thought we were on course to get the win. But I got a penalty given against myself and I think we were dead on our feet in the last 15 minutes.
AJ – I remember being absolutely knackered come the last 10 minutes of the game and I think that was down to the nervous energy due to the crowd size.
JB – We definitely didn’t deserve to get beat in that game but full credit to FC who even at 2-0 down never gave in.
AJ – Normally being 2-0 up with little time left on the clock you like to think you’ve rode the storm and the crowd will start to quiet down but it was the opposite. It was wave after wave of attacks and we couldn’t get out of our own half.
TC – Having been two goals to the good, it felt deeply disappointing to see the full Manchester Road end celebrating three late goals which prevented us at least gaining a share of the points, which the performance had deserved.
AJ – The best way to describe it was that it felt like the Manny Rd end were sucking the ball into the goal.
JB – The lads were gutted at the end and it wasn’t a good feeling getting beat 3-2. I get reminded of this game quite a lot at work due to the captain of FC that day being David Chadwick who is one of my colleagues now! He is always showing me the video of the game!!!
AJ – We were unlucky to be honest but I think the majority of us had never been through that scenario before and I’d imagine there’s a few that never went through anything like that again!
TC – I had gone, in all honesty, expecting a defeat so looking back, it wasn’t a surprise but how wonderful it would have been to have come away from the ground where I’d seen at least a thousand games with a Ramsbottom United victory. It wasn’t to be but to have competed in a league match at Gigg whilst with Ramsbottom United will always be a memory to treasure.
JB – On a lighter note one of things I remember from that game is one of my mates running on the pitch with just his white boxers on during the game! Not a great sight if I am being honest
You can watch the highlights from that game here:
FC United’s match report of the game is here:
Above photo and more can be viewed here:
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Martin Campbell, Matt Holdsworth, Liam McManus, John Blackley (capt), Chris Nester, Paul O’Shaughnessy, Anthony Johnson, Steve Maden (Chris Steele 58mins), Carl Lomax, Ryan Moore, Stephen McDonald (Lee Cryer 80mins). Sub not used: Neil Rhodes.