Friday, August 08, 2014

Salford City v the class of 92 - another new ground - but does it count?

Went to see a football match in a rugby stadium last night. Except it wasn't much of a match. It was the Class of 92 All Stars - Giggs, Butt, Scholes and the Nevilles - turning out with some friends against Salford City, the club they've recently acquired.

Salford beat the old fellahs pretty comfortably, 5-1, but Giggs scored a Perlo penalty which was very entertaining.

The spectacle was spoiled by a few idiots running on the pitch during the match (not just Robbie Savage either). It had a feeling of young United fans day out. There was pretty much a full house in the stadium, used by Salford Reds and Sale Sharks rugby clubs, and the traffic and parking was a bit of a joke.

There was a defiant and jubilant atmosphere in the lounge afterwards where the stars did a Q&A. United fans are pretty optimistic about the future - they've put the whole David Moyes episode behind them and think things are going to start getting much better under Van Gaal.
The Salford City experiment is an intriguing one. Chatting to one of the directors last night it became clear this is no whim. Gary Neville in particular is a driven and ambitious businessman - he has all kinds of plans for the future in all kinds of different businesses and this is being done properly. Part of the mission, they explained last night, was to get local lads playing a decent standard of football and getting this club into a higher league.

Greater Manchester is pretty well provided for with football clubs. Each borough has a first class team that the community should support - Wigan, Bolton, Bury, Rochdale and Oldham. Tameside has a few non-league teams and Stockport has a club which is temporarily in the doldrums. Salford has always been the exception, but it is the one borough most closely associated with United's hardcore support, even more so than the bulk of Trafford, which has Altrincham.

Plenty of people thought the fund raiser last night was the first move of the club from Moor Lane in Kersal to the brand new AJ Bell stadium. I wouldn't bet on it. There is more development potential at the present ground and they'll have been charged an arm and a leg to play in someone else's asset. Why do you think FC United wanted their own place and why have Stockport County got into such a mess?

I don't imagine it's going to be a cakewalk either - achieving Championship standard in 15 years. New players will think they're going to get big money (they won't), fans will take a long time to get behind the club. Salford is a proud place with it's own identity, it's got a feeling like it's Manchester's East End (even if it's west, I know). But as we'll see from the BBC fly on the wall documentary that's being made about the club, there will be twists, turns and heartbreak.

So, does it count as a new ground? I'm claiming it. It's not going on my 92 as it wasn't any kind of league game, but it was a football match in a stadium. Number 139.

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