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Owolabi makes Scottish Premier League move
FC United of Manchester Owolabi makes Scottish Premier League move By James Gordon

Prolific striker Tunde Owolabi has left FC United to join Scottish Premier League side Hamilton Academical for an undisclosed fee.

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In the summer of 2005, Malcolm Glazer completed his takeover of Manchester United. Within weeks a backdrop of supporter protest led to a breakaway group forming their own club, which eventually took the name of FC United of Manchester.

The club was accepted into the North West Counties Football League (NWCFL) Second Division and eventually, Bury FC agreed to groundshare their Gigg Lane home. Karl Marginson was named as the first manager.

On the opening day they won 5-2 at Leek CSOB, and by the end of the season they were celebrating title success and promotion to the NWCFL First Division. At the final home game of that season a North West Counties record crowd of 6,023 turn out at Gigg Lane to celebrate league glory against Great Harwood Town.

The club’s second season saw FC United go from strength to strength as they once again wrapped up a title triumph, adding the League Cup to their collection as they moved on up from the North West Counties into the Northern Premier League (NPL) First Division.

The 2007/08 campaign saw FCUM finish second to Bradford (Park Avenue), the Reds eventually went up via the NPL’s First Division Play-offs, defeating Skelmersdale at Gigg Lane to secure the club’s third consecutive promotion. The NPL President’s Cup was also added to the list of honours that year.

In 2008/09, FC missed narrowly missed out on the Play-offs. Then the story of regular late surges into the NPL Play-offs was met with three consecutive final losses to Colwyn Bay in 2011, Bradford (Park Avenue) in 2012, and Hednesford Town in 2013.

Although the 2010/11 season ended in Play-off defeat for FC, Bonfire Night of 2010 produced the club’s greatest achievement to date when they knocked League One side Rochdale out of the FA Cup First Round thanks to an injury-time Mike Norton goal securing a 3-2 success at Spotland. In the Second round the Reds took on Championship-bound Brighton & Hove Albion, earning a 1-1 draw on
the south coast before a 4-0 replay defeat in front of a club-record 6,731 fans.

After nine years at Gigg Lane, FC United moved to Stalybridge Celtic’s Bower Fold ground for the start of the 2014/15 campaign, whilst also playing a number of games at Curzon Ashton’s ground. And it was at the Tameside Stadium, where FC United finally put behind them the misery of previous NPL Play-off heartaches by wrapping up the title with a 1-0 victory against Stourbridge after 7 years in the Northern Premier League’s Premier Division.

The summer of 2015 also witnessed the much-anticipated opening of the club’s first ground at Broadhurst Park, opened with a game against a young Benfica side on 29 May 2015, with a sell-out 4,232 crowd watching the Portuguese side secure a late 1-0 win on a memorable night for the club.

The 2015/16 season saw FC United compete in the sixth tier of English football for the first time in their short history. The National League North campaign kicked-off with a close-fought defeat at Gloucester City on a sunny afternoon. George Thomson would go on to top FC's goalscoring charts as he inspired a second-half of the season revival which saw FC finally end the season in 13th position after drawing 2-2 with Champions Solihull on the final day of the campaign.

The 2016/17 season saw consolidation in the National League North with a 13th placed final position. George Thomson was again the club’s leading goal scorer. The season ended on a high note with FC United’s first ever victory in the final of the Manchester Premier Cup. That match also saw Jerome Wright mark the completion of his career at FC United on his 400th appearance for the club.

2017/18 saw several changes, the most notable being Karl Marginson, manager since the club’s foundation in 2005, leaving the club in October. He was replaced by player, Tom Greaves, with his assistants being Jack Doyle and Tom Conroy. Soon after starting his managerial career, Tom scored his 100th goal for the club and so becoming the club’s all-time leading goal scorer. After flirting with relegation, the team finished 16th and retained the Manchester Premier Cup.

Their four year stay in National League North came to an end in 2018-19, when three managers and 57 players were utilised in a turbulent campaign. Greaves left the club in August and following a period with David Chadwick as caretaker boss, Neil Reynolds was hired from Bamber Bridge in October, but a miserable record of one home League win all season was instrumental in a placing of 21st and a return to the Northern Premier League for 2019-20.

During the summer of 2019 Neil Reynolds recruited almost an entirely new squad (only three players survived from the previous season) and after an underwhelming start (FC were bottom of the table after three matches), the 2019/20 season blossomed into the most enjoyable in years – a young FC
United side playing attacking football with passion, verve, and a recognisable style and, like all the best United sides, seemingly never knowing when it’s beaten. FC were in second place in the league when the NPL season became another, relatively minor, casualty of the coronavirus pandemic and was brought to a premature close in mid-March with all results and goals expunged from the record books. This included the hatful of goals scored by Tunde Owolabi, who joined FC at the end of August, scored 35 goals in all competitions and was named the Northern Premier League’s Player of the Season.

As the coronavirus health crisis worsened the club continued to offer a helping hand to some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in its local community as its Broadhurst Park ground, closed to the public following the lockdown, was used as a base for a group of volunteers to distribute food parcels to dozens of households across North Manchester experiencing serious health problems or financial difficulties as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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