- Salford have risen through the league pyramid since their 2014 takeover
- Currently sat mid-table in League Two
- Aim by 2029 is to reach the Championship
- Squad includes Darron Gibson, James Wilson and Adam Rooney
It’s 2014, and Salford City FC have been taken over by five of Manchester United’s Class of ’92: Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes, who all own 10% of the club, alongside Singaporean businessman Peter Lim, who owned the rest, until fellow ex-United star David Beckham bought his own 10% from Lim a year ago. At the time, the club were in the eighth tier of English football, with an aim to reach the Championship within 15 years. They have since been promoted in four of the last five seasons to be sitting in League Two, but how are they getting on with Football League life?
Adapting to League Two
Despite being newly promoted, Salford are doing fairly well. They’re comfortably in upper-mid table, and a late run to the play-offs isn’t entirely out of the question. Even with the team in the second relegation place exempt from going down because of Bury’s expulsion from the Football League, the Ammies are in next to no danger.
Their squad is an interesting one, with a mix of youth and even Premier League experience. There’s ex-Man United, Everton and Sunderland midfielder Darron Gibson, exciting young forward Brandon Thomas-Asante, Gambian international left-back Ibou Touray and experienced striker Adam Rooney, who has Championship experience with Stoke City and Birmingham City and is the team’s top scorer this season, with eight league goals.
Recently, Salford’s form has been mixed, with away results generally better than those at Moor Lane. Their last outing, to lowly Macclesfield Town, brought a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Ash Hunter and Richie Towell, while a solitary Thomas-Asante strike was enough to seal the win away at bottom side Stevenage two weeks prior. With these away results, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Salford would be in great form at home too but successive defeats to Plymouth Argyle and Colchester United show otherwise.
That said, former Man United youngster James Wilson scored twice on his debut against the Pilgrims, so Salford could potentially have a very good player on their hands who, still just 24, has time to recapture the form that saw him score for the Red Devils against Hull City on his Premier League debut back in 2014. He’s the sort of player that could potentially have a decent sell-on value in future, although if Salford carry on rising, he might not need or want to.
There’s a clear plan in place for the club, as there has been since the takeover nearly six years ago. Former Preston and Burnley man Graham Alexander has been manager since 2018, and oversaw their promotion to League Two from the National League as well as their current spell in the division. It seems as if he’s enjoying life in Greater Manchester, alongside his assistant Chris Lucketti who he shared a pitch with for Preston for some time in the 2000s, and goalkeeping coach Carlo Nash, also formerly of Preston, as well as Man City and Stockport.
Historically, Salford have been a pretty small club. Founded just 80 years ago in 1940, they spent their existence in minor regional leagues, winning the Lancashire Amateur Cup and the Manchester Premier Cup a number of times in the 1970s. Successes included reaching the third round of the FA Vase in 2004-05 and the third qualifying round of the FA Cup a season later. They have very much been in uncharted territory for the club in the last few seasons, but they’ve been coping well.
Future looks bright
We’ve seen teams like Yeovil Town and Burton Albion enter the Championship over the past decade, so it’s not out of the question that Salford could do the same even before the target set by the club. They’d likely have more staying power too, with such stability and vision. In an age where so many supporters up and down the country are unhappy with the way their clubs are being run, Salford is a refreshing alternative, and it’s easy to imagine Man United fans disillusioned with the Glazers keeping an eye on their results.
One thing that might go against Salford is the weight of expectation. Despite being newly promoted, they were seldom tipped for relegation by fans and pundits – could their lack of experience end up going against them? Even at this stage in the season, most bookmakers have them at 33/1 to be promoted. This is a team that just as recently as 2015 were in the eighth tier of English football.
It sounds like something out of a Football Manager save, taking a club from the lower leagues and gradually working up towards the highest level. Yet it would be foolish to bet against Salford going all the way. Of course, there may well be setbacks on the way, but they’ve been running themselves well since the Class of ’92 got involved, and Giggs, Scholes and co. will be hoping that their investment continues show similar promise.