There’s a wind of change blowing through the Dirty Old Town of Pogues lore. Salford City, part-owned by five stars who defined the Ferguson era at Old Trafford, are rebuilding their stadium and aiming for a back-to-back promotion to the National League. Easter Monday sees a vital clash with local rivals Curzon Ashton. Tony Dawber meets Salford club secretary Andy Giblin.
Across the twisting River Irwell from The Cliff where Best and Beckham trained, a new force is rising in Greater Manchester, spearheaded by the famed Class of ’92.
Currently chasing promotion from the sixth-tier National League North, ambitious Salford City are transforming their once modest Moor Lane ground into a contemporary 5,000-capacity stadium, illustrating the club’s rapid ascent up the non-league pyramid.
‘The changes have been incredible – there’s no other way to describe it,’ says Salford secretary Andy Giblin.
‘The ground has changed dramatically since the start of the season and will be unrecognisable by the time the 2017-18 season gets underway.’
Better known for staging rugby league, speedway and horse racing, Commonwealth Games venue Salford made football news when a five-star consortium from Manchester United’s Ferguson era bought up City in 2014.
The involvement of Salford boy Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers, each ten per-cent shareholders, has given rise to a BBC TV documentary about Fergie’s former charges running a football club who finished mid-table above Ramsbottom United and Clitheroe in the North West Counties League when Beckham and co were winning the Treble in 1999.
Formed in 1940 as bombs rained down on the nearby docks, Salford worked their way through local football in the post-war years, moving to Moor Lane in 1979.
Known as Salford Amateurs, they wore distinctive tangerine shirts and bore a logo featuring club nickname ‘The Ammies’.
Then came the Class of ’92. Switching to the red-and-white of their United days, the incoming consortium first caused unease among long-standing fans.
‘We’re doing our best to ensure the spirit survives,’ explains club secretary Giblin. ‘All of the committee who ran the club prior to the takeover are still involved behind the scenes and many of the supporters who followed us home and away continue to do so.’
The Ammies nickname remains. Meanwhile, the faithful have been won over by the achievements of 2015-16, the FA Cup win at home to Notts County live on TV and promotion from the Northern Premier to the lower tier of the National League.
‘The standard of football is much higher at this level but we’ve adapted well and have always been in contention around the top end of the table,’ says Giblin.
‘Obviously league games against the likes of Stockport, Halifax and Altrincham seemed wholly out of reach just a few years ago, so it’s been exciting to lock horns with them.’
This Easter Monday, victory in the showdown against local adversaries Curzon Ashton will help secure a spot in the play-offs for the fifth-flight National League. Salford’s target is the Football League by 2020.
‘On our day we can match anybody in this division – big wins against current top two AFC Fylde and Kidderminster have proved that,’ says Giblin.
A bumper holiday crowd is expected, with two new stands already open at Moor Lane. During the summer, the old main stand will be demolished as a 5,108-capacity venue takes shape, with a social club and offices.
‘Moor Lane has always been a friendly place to watch football,’ concludes Giblin. ‘We’re trying to make sure it stays that way despite the tenfold increase in attendances over the past three years.’
Salford City v Curzon Ashton, National League North. Easter Monday, April 17, 3pm. Moor Lane, Salford, M7 3PZ. Admission £7, £3 reductions.
Half-hourly bus X43/hourly bus X41 run to Moor Lane/Bury New Road from central Deansgate/Barton Arcade, stop NB, journey time 15min. Turn right at bus stop into Moor Lane then head for ground 400 metres ahead on the left.