GRAHAM ALEXANDER says winning is everything for Salford City at Wembley tomorrow.
The Ammies take on AFC Fylde under the arch with both clubs chasing a Football League place for the first time in club history.
Powered by significant investment from the Class of 92 – that has divided opinion – Salford have shot up the Pyramid and could be the first side to ever break into League Two with back-to-back promotions.
Boss Alexander has won promotion at Wembley as a player with Burnley and a manager at Fleetwood so knows that it’s only an occasion for the victors.
Can he enjoy the build-up and the occasion when it finally arrives?
“Relish is a good word!” Alexander said. “We know Fylde are an excellent team. They had a great season last season as well, they’ve risen up through the divisions similar to us. We’ve beaten each other this season away from home so we know the quality Fylde have and I’m sure they know the quality we have. It’s going to be a good game, a tough one and even fought.
“But ultimately we want to win. That’s what we’re there for. We’re not there for the day out, we’re not there to wave at our families, we’re there to win a game of football. That’s what we’re focusing on.
“It’s really important we concentrate on what’s important and focus on the things that will win us the game.”
Midfielder Lois Maynard was in Tranmere’s midfield when they lost the National League promotion final to Forest Green Rovers two years’ ago.
Reaching the Football League would achieve a dream for the 30-year-old, who has done the hard yards at clubs like Flixton and Winsford United before moving up with FC Halifax and Tranmere.
“I’ve gone the long way round, I’ll tell you that!” Maynard said. “It’s definitely a proud moment to have this opportunity to win a game of football that puts us into the Football League.”
Salford booked their place with a penalty shoot-out victory over Eastleigh on Sunday following a 1-1 draw.
“Credit to Eastleigh,” Maynard said. “They were very organised, they had good chances so we had to dig really deep – everyone had to dig really deep and we’ve had to do that throughout the season during different games be it home or away.
“The manager has instilled that sort of character into us from early on when he walked through the door. That was just an example of what we’re about.”
Alexander has regularly spoken about that trait in his side. There was a stage where their season threatened to unravel but a run of 11 wins hauled them back into a title race that they eventually lost out to Leyton Orient.
The upturn in form coincided with a change of system to a back three which perhaps shows how teams must evolve during a long campaign.
“We have and we’re not the only ones to have done that and changed things here and there,” Alexander said. “I think that’s the beauty of English football. It’s not a uniformed style of playing. There are so many different variations.
“You have to win games over the course of ten months so you can’t just prepare to beat a certain type of team. You have to overcome so many challenges.
“There are intelligent managers out there who will change systems before games, during games, at half-time. You’ve got to be prepared for that as much as possible but you can’t take away your focus on your own game. I don’t think that does you any favours.
“So we concentrate a lot on what we’re going to do, how we’re going to approach the game but we do that from day one.
“We mess them about mentally in training sometimes because you’ve got to be ready to adapt throughout a game. Adapt to something negative happening, something positive, a delay – anything can go on in football, which we’ve all seen, but you’ve got to be ready to perform straightaway and overcome that.
“I think the players have shown that over the course of the season that they’ve done that really well. They’ve got open minds but they’ve got determined minds to be successful. It’s going to take everything to win that game on Saturday. Every element that we can bring to the table we have to do. It’s not going to be one particular thing that wins the game on Saturday, it’s going to be a number of things that have to come together. That’s why we’ve got a squad of players with different abilities to form as good a team as possible.”