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The Non-League Football Paper

The NLP says… Behind the scenes with Salford City

By Alex Narey, editor

Is there a club in Non-League football that divides opinion as much as Salford City?

In fact, maybe I should correct myself there because I’m not even sure there is much of a division when it comes to people’s views on the north west club and how they are ploughing their way through the pyramid on a relentless march towards the Football League.

Some have no issue with a football club having ambition along with the financial clout to attain it, but there appears many more who believe the Ammies are ruining the game at the lower level and we’ll all be better off once they are up in League Two.

Only a few weeks ago in this very column, I suggested it was ‘admirable’ that the club was charging only £10 for adults to go and watch National League games.

It was an opinion that generated a fair bit of discussion on Twitter, all of which was constructive and polite, about the club’s sustainability despite the joint ownership of the ‘Class of 92’ and majority investor Peter Lim.

It boiled down to the burning issue of ‘what happens when Gary Neville gets bored or when Lim takes his money elsewhere?’.

In all honesty, the only answer I could come back with time and again was that I believed the owners would be backing the project and in it for the long haul. But that was only my opinion, and let’s face it that counts for very little…

So we felt it was only right to contact the club. We didn’t want to conduct a 15-minute phone interview where the chairman, Karen Baird, would tell us little more than what a press release would.

We wanted to go up there and speak to the people at the heart of the club, and so approached the club’s press officer who put it to Neville about the questions we wanted to ask. In an email reply with a message from Neville himself, there were five words that jumped out: They can ask us anything!

And so it was that two weeks ago our senior writer, Matt Badcock, headed north for a two-day visit at the club. During his stay there, he met and conducted in-depth interviews with Baird, sporting director Chris Casper, manager Graham Alexander, Jamie Russell – the head of the academy, Andrew Gordon (a fan who is now in charge of the club’s foundation that aims to engage with the local community) and Yvonne Harrison, who oversees the whole ‘Project 92’ which includes the development of UA92 – the university that focuses on personal development as much as academic attainment. Of course, at the heart of the discussion was Neville himself, who dodged no questions as he affirmed his desire to stick with the club through thick and thin.

In this week’s issue, we’ll feature extensive coverage of the interviews. I myself have enjoyed the Class of 92 documentary but feel it serves as little more than a reality TV programme that, while entertaining and enlightening in some aspects, paints a somewhat patronising picture of life in Non-League football.

Love them or hate them, we urge you to have a read. What we produce might not change your opinion; that’s not really our intention. We want to put some answers on the table that weren’t there before so people know more about Salford as a football club than simply a rich man’s plaything, which I believe many see it as.

 

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