LONDON — Richard and Pat McBride have been with the Bucs through thick and thin for 34 years, since a vacation to Florida led them to their favorite NFL team.
“And there’s been an awful lot of thin,” said Pat, 66, with a smile.
The Bucs fans in the United Kingdom, and there are many of them, suffer through the Bucs losing season just like those in America. But here in England, the talk is about the Glazer family’s soccer team and its struggles.
The Glazers took control of Manchester United in 2005, inheriting one of the most recognizable brands in all of sports. But many die-hard fans bemoan the club’s decline under the family’s ownership.
Man U won a record 13 English Premier League titles under legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson, but hasn’t won another since he retired in 2013. So you Bucs fans who haven’t seen Tampa Bay make the postseason since 2007, there are fans here who feel your pain.
“It is a sad tale of a fallen giant,” said lifelong fan, Ade Jebb, a 44-year-old from Preston. “I see parallels with the Dolphins and Redskins in the NFL. Once great teams treading water.”
The anger from many in the Manchester United fan base grew louder since Ferguson and highly successful former CEO David Sill left.
And now Manchester United is mired in mediocrity, off to its worst start in 30 years, sitting 12th in the 20-team Premier League standings and closer to the bottom than the top. The bottom three teams at the end of the season get demoted to England’s No. 2 league.
News media is calling for the firing of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the club’s fifth manager since Ferguson’s departure. The scrutiny surrounding CEO and vice chairman Ed Woodward, the executive hired by the Glazers to run the team, is reaching an all-time high.
Fans feel disconnected with ownership. They want more communication, feeling their concerns aren’t heard. The club’s stadium at Old Trafford is in disrepair. Big-money contracts haven’t worked and player development has suffered.
Since the team went public in 2012 and stocks began being sold on the New York Stock Exchange, fans believe pleasing shareholders has taken priority over winning titles. The club signed numerous sponsorships and partnerships to build the Man U brand but isn’t clearing up its debt. And the on-field struggles prompt fans to question Woodward’s credentials to make soccer decisions.
“The parallels between the Bucs after winning their last Super Bowl and United winning their last title are scary,” said Rajveer Garcha, a 31-year-old Londoner who attended his first Man U game at age 5 and had season tickets from 2008 to 2013. “Continual changing of head coaches and organizational structure, believing a splashy marquee big signing will change the franchise where in fact it’s a period of steady decline as the strategy of the organization and the lack of investment has allowed both franchises to crumble.”
The #GlazerOut movement, which represents some of the most infuriated fans. has re-emerged on social media. At the club’s most recent game, a road contest the Man U fans chanted, “We want Glazers out.”
When the Bucs played as the home team in Tottenham in North London Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, there were no anti-Glazer protesters. Still, at Manchester United’s Oct. 20 home game against rival Liverpool on Sunday a #GlazerOut protest is planned. Protesters will march from the Toll Gate Pub to Old Trafford, hoping that the negative attention will force sponsors to pull out.
Phil Jones, a Manchester United season ticket holder for 40 years, is also the president of the Bucs UK fan group. He attended Sunday’s game with about 300 other club members.
“We had so much success with Alex Ferguson,” Jones said. "We were so spoiled. I just feel sorry for the Glazer family. They don’t deserve the amount of stick they’ve gotten. They’re a good family and they’ve supported their coaches 100 percent. They’ll turn it around.
“I’ll be quite honest,” he added. “Manchester U. fans are good at one thing and that’s complaining. I just can’t see where they’re coming from. We’ve broken transfer records time after time to get top quality players. The Glazer family put the best person in control of the club that they deem at the time. If it doesn’t work out, it’s not their fault. They gave them money to spend and got the top players and it didn’t work out.
"But that’s on them and the coach. It’s not on the Glazer family. I think the Glazer family knows the business of sport, and give them time, they will turn it around.”
British Bucs fans like McBride, who has attended 70 Bucs games with her husband over the years, don’t necessarily understand the frustration.
“I think in some ways soccer here is very parochial and fans in the local community follow the team that’s here and they don’t necessarily want things to change,” she said. “Sometimes things change for the better. Some things don’t. The Glazers have been tremendous to us in Bucs UK. And they are separate in terms of sport. We look at it that way. It’s just different. It’s different being a Bucs fan from being a Man U fan.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard