The magic of the FA Cup spread to Salford City last weekend, in doing so it caught the attention of Manchester United fans who enjoyed watching members of the Class of ’92 celebrate their pet hobby’s success.
In a remarkable blurring of the lines, Salford were painted as tiny minnows enjoying a rare treat. Their billionaire owner Peter Lim, or the five former Manchester United players that have ploughed resources into the club, obviously played no part.
The whole adventure has been turned into some idyllic affair. It’s good to highlight the pros of non-league football in a time when vast numbers of supporters from top flight clubs feel disenfranchised. But if people want a genuine experience they should travel a little further to places like Stockport County. Salford City is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
If we rewind a little it’s clear to see the hypocrisy of the Manchester United fans that celebrated with their heroes this weekend. The club has got there using money that isn’t self-generated, breaking the league’s wage structure, with foreign investment that could get bored and leave at any time. That description isn’t one this writer has just aimed at Salford, it’s what United fans applied to Manchester City following their takeover from Sheikh Mansour and the subsequent rise up the league.
It’s been seen as a diabolical act, one that is ruining football. How dare Manchester City invest to better themselves and catch the more successful sides. However, it’s been a thing of beauty watching the Class of ’92 dipping their hands into their pockets to prop up Salford City.
It’s perfectly acceptable – normal, even – to expect them to throw cash at the non-league league problem and progress through the tiers. As United fans are pointing out: You need to invest to better the club. But it’s only okay if Manchester City aren’t the ones doing the bettering.
“Foreign owners will not be mindful of tradition or club values.” That was another gem thrown at Man City fans. There’s yet to be any evidence supporting the statement regarding City’s owners and a whole stack that instantly disproves it. The new owners at the Etihad have dealt with all matters that could offend with excellent diplomacy and delicacy.
In all honesty fair play to the majority owned by Peter Lim (worth £2b) Salford City What? Oh, so that can only be used against #MCFC?
— Mike Devlin (@BlueWolf1894) November 6, 2015
There’s no need to bring in outsiders from elsewhere if removing tradition is your thing. The Class of ’92, lads from down the road managed to change the badge and the club’s colours. It’s was outrage when Cardiff City fans experienced the same treatment, it’s part of the romance when the Manchester United connection does it without consultation.
It’s inevitable Salford City will continue to climb the leagues. The same thing happened with AFC Wimbledon. When semi-professional outfits are ran like full-time clubs it’s just a matter of time until they become fully fledged pros. There’s no issue with this. Ambition is a good thing and to aim high you have be better than what’s above you.
Salford City are beginning to see the reward for their endeavours. The problem is their ambition has been given human form and idolised in the guise of Gary and Phil Neville, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. The same people that revere Salford’s efforts chastise other clubs when they dare dream big, and then achieve using similar means.
So the next time you feel like taking a shot at Manchester City for daring to invest in a youth academy or improve the Etihad, remember the Class of ’92 enhanced Moor Lane, set-up a scouting network, another youth team, and altered the infrastructure of how the club was run. This wasn’t with Salford’s money – it was given to them.
Unless Manchester United fans in support of the Salford City project think the Class of ’92 aren’t “doing it the proper way,” it safe to assume we’re all finally in agreement. There is only one way to play catch-up, and it requires outside investment and internal reshaping.