Football returning to the 'normal' people

Bob Geldof, in his Boomtown Rats days, said "watch out for the normal people - there's more of us than there's of you".

It's an appropriate line to start a piece on two phoenix clubs - Wimbledon and Newport County.

Wimbledon were ripped out of South London and reinvented as Milton Keynes Dons a little under 10 years ago. Newport died in 1989, an early victim of an overseas owner's failings. And in both cases fans, left with no club, rebuilt their own.

They formed AFC Wimbledon and Newport AFC, resumed life 20,000 leagues under the sea and began what appeared to be an impossible journey back to the Football League.

Well, it's 2011 and guess what? AFC Wimbledon are top of the Conference and Newport, now carrying their old County moniker, are fourth. Both are in the running to play in the Football League next season.

And when the clubs clashed in Newport recently they played out a thriller, finishing 3-3 in front of 3462 fans. I'd love to report MK Dons are drawing smaller crowds, but in fact the club with no right to call themselves Dons are drawing more than twice that to most home matches.

And, lest I be accused of blatant anti-Manchester United-ism, there's another phoenix-style club I should mention.

FC United of Manchester is the ultimate club for the normal people. To quote the website, their corporate structure is a Community Benefit Society and membership is open to all, with everyone an equal co- owner, holding one voting share in the club.

It was formed in 2005 by fans frustrated with the running of Manchester United, and ultimately the takeover by American Malcolm Glazer. The club enjoyed a good FA Cup this season and plan to build a new home at Ten Acres Lane, Newton Heath, where Manchester United were formed.

The club are in the premier league of the Northern League, led by the Shaymen, FC Halifax. Halifax are the club formed after their original body was torched by that arch enemy of football, Inland Revenue Destroyers (IRD) and booted out of the Conference in 2008.

The second division north they won last season, by the way, is led by another phoenix. Chester FC were formed by fans of Chester City last May after that club also became a notch on the IRD bed head.

Yer Arab Sheikhs, Russian oil squillionaires and American tycoons might rule the roost at the top level, but scratch the surface and the grassroots fans still stand shoulder to shoulder.

And come the glorious day, AFC Wimbledon fans will dance in the streets after their lot beat MK Dons. Nothing personal against the current stewards at Milton Keynes, but as I say most weekend: Come on Phoenix!

z On that subject, remember journeyman striker Adi Akinbiyi? Newport manager Dean Holdsworth has signed him until the end of the season . . . Harry Redknapp is interested in Everton's Phil Neville as well as David Beckham, but David Moyes doesn't want a bar of it . . . Celtic boss Neil Lennon tried to get a two-match band overturned this week, and instead saw it upped to six. Lennon was banned for swearing at a fourth official.

zAvram Grant is not impressed with the fact West Ham's bosses are talking about his transfer targets in the press. The signs are not good for Grant, who apparently gets no golden handshake if he leaves with the club in the bottom three.

zArsenal, who are in the hunt for a defender while the transfer window is open, have allowed Thierry Henry to train with them . . . Flamengo have signed Ronaldinho, who Blackburn flirted with . . . Manchester City have lost Mario Balotelli for a month with a knee injury.

zPeterborough boss Gary Johnson has become the 11th managerial casualty since Christmas . . . Fulham have extended the contract of fringe player Kagisho Dikgacoi by a year . . . Liverpool have allegedly offered [PndStlg]10 million for Southampton's Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain, son of Mark.

zAston Villa 10 Arsenal 1 . . . yep, that was how the Gunners were knocked off the top of the Southern League reserve league this week by Villa's kids . . . Lyon have made an offer for Blackburn's Chris Samba . . . Dougie Freedman is the new Crystal Palace boss.

On the move: Bongani Khumalo, SuperSport United-Spurs; Edin Dzeko, Wolfsburg-Man C; James Chester, Man U-Hull; Jim Collins, Villa- Shrewsbury; Luke Moore, West Brom- Swansea; Steve Sidwell, Villa-Fulham, on loan; Danny Philliskirk, Chelsea-Sheffield Utd; Liam Noble, Sunderland-Carlisle; Tamas Kadar, Newcastle-Huddersfield Town.

Weekend fixtures:

England: Saturday, Chelsea v Blackburn, Manchester City v Wolves, Stoke v Bolton, West Brom v Blackpool, Wigan v Fulham, West Ham v Arsenal. Sunday, Birmingham v Aston Villa, Sunderland v Newcastle, Liverpool v Everton, Spurs v Man Utd. Scotland, Hibernian v Celtic, Aberdeen v St Mirren, Dundee United v Hearts, Kilmarnock v St Johnstone, Motherwell v Inverness, Rangers v Hamilton.

Taranaki Daily News