A struggling Midlands football club was today given the full backing of the Home Secretary after its manager sent out a rallying cry to save it from the brink of extinction.
Redditch United fan Jacqui Smith, who is also MP for the town, is urging supporters to get behind their team after it entered merger talks with bitter local rivals, Bromsgrove Rovers, earlier this month.
Ms Smith, who lives opposite the Valley Stadium where the team plays, is an Aston Villa season ticket holder, but also goes to watch Redditch United with her husband, Richard, and two sons, Michael and James, whenever she gets the opportunity.
Now she has joined Reds manager Gary Whild in giving the town a wake-up call to save their club from financial ruin.
Ms Smith said: “Redditch United have been trying hard in the last couple of years to attract support from the town.
“Now, in the face of merger talks with Bromsgrove, the manager has put out a call for fans to turn out for the club – I for one will be going again to lend my suppor”
Redditch United manager Gary Whild, who is also a club director, approached Bromsgrove Rovers two weeks ago to see if the two clubs could merge.
But talks stalled at the first hurdle when the FA advised them they would need to form a new club with a new name, effectively spelling the end for both teams.
But Mr Whild has far from given up on the club and is meeting with fans on Thursday.
Mr Whild said: “Redditch United is carrying the town’s name around the country but at the moment we seem to be the poor relation.
“For some reason there seems to be a stigma of negativity around the club.
“If you look at the population of Redditch it is about 90,000, but we are only getting gates of 100-200 at the moment.
“An increase of up to 500 people would make a massive difference.”
The club’s cashflow problems were made worse this season when their main sponsors, Thai company Kool Sport, failed to pay the first installment of a £40,000 kit deal.
Andy Mitchell, founder of The Redditch United Supporters Trust, said: “It would be a travesty if Redditch no longer had it’s own football club. We need to decide if we really have the budget to survive at this level or if we need to drop down a few leagues.”