I doubt anyone reading this has failed to learn at least one snippet about Salford in the last six years. Let’s have a look at where exactly they have emerged from.
The Club itself is 80 years old, but realistically they rebranded in 2014, thanks to businessman Peter Lim and a collective of former footballers better known as ‘The Class of ’92’. I am not overly interested in the money side of their success, we can all talk about big fish in small ponds, and quite frankly it’s disrespectful to non-league football to suggest they simply bought promotions.
The first big nod to a footballing dynasty is their current manager, Graham Alexander no less. Yes, the former Preston boss, famed for a military approach to pre-season which saw his Deepdale pitch turned into a campsite for the PNE seniors. Alexander comes with quite the CV and since 2018 has overhauled ‘The Lions’ (or ‘Ammies’ if you prefer) to build a team worthy of their League Two debut back in August.
Moor Lane holds a little over 5,000 and is usually around half full; Salford being in the shadow of so many Mancunian clubs. The small, but fiercely loyal, ‘Lions’ fans are a hardy bunch, many pre-date the current incarnation of their club and would happily demonstrate their allegiance starting before their club ‘got cool’.
Sitting comfortably in League Two mid-table, and certainly not out of the race for the play-offs, it has already been a season to remember up in Morrissey’s backyard. With a mixture of hungry non-league talent, and well-selected pros from as lofty leagues as the top flight, Alexander is augmenting a squad capable of a late push for a second successive Wembley visit.
You will recognise half the teamsheet most weeks, Gibraltar international and Barnsley/Rochdale, veteran Scott Wiseman, former Blackburn and Scotland trickster Craig Conway and journeyman striker, and often mistaken for the brother of Wayne, Adam Rooney form an experienced core of a squad not lacking in league-proven players. This window almost saw ex-Wolves and Ipswich star Christophe Berra, and the one famed for being ‘on fire’ Sunderland’s Will Grigg both heavily linked with moves to Salford,. As it ended up, Millwall’s Tom Elliot did sign, as did Premier League-winning former Manchester United product Darron Gibson. These captures represented impressive moves for a League Two team.
Youngsters on-loan from Manchester United, and Luton among others also make a part of the squad, led by Captain Liam Hogan, who has been with the club since 2017. Hogan has spent most of his career in non-league including a spell at Tranmere under then newly appointed boss Gary Brabin.
Recently, a pair of draws versus Crawley and Port Vale, followed a resounding 4-0 victory away at Cambridge, but January proved a tricky road, resembling a drive across Woodhead pass. Having beaten Oldham away 4-1 on the last 2019 fixture, a hangover on New Year’s Day saw a loss away at Grimsby, followed by a home defeat to Walsall, and another to Northampton. These sandwiched an EFL Trophy win over Port Vale but a brace of league wins, away at Forest Green and a home draw to Oldham, steadied the ship once more – with another win in the EFL trophy over Accrington in-between.
Only time will tell just how successful the League’s newest members can ultimately be but their first foray has certainly caught the eye of many already – even if it doesn’t finish at the home of football come May.