It wasn’t until the BBC documentary The Class of ’92, that I learned about Salford City Football Club. As an American transplanted in Salford, England, I had lived in the area for three years before finding out anything about them. However, once I saw an episode of the documentary and learned about the connection the club have to Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and the Neville brothers, I had to get to a game.
Currently, Salford City play in the Evo-Stik League Northern Premier Division, the seventh level of the English football league system. In comparison to the English Premier League, Salford City are six leagues below the top-flight. For those unaware, Salford is in Greater Manchester and the club’s Moor Lane is less than a 30 minute drive from either Manchester United’s Old Trafford or Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.
Only four miles away from my house in Salford, the Moor Lane ground would be missed if you weren’t looking for it. Across the street from the Kersal Moors and stuck in between housing estates, Moor Lane is rather unassuming. A grey concrete wall runs the length of the ground, separating it from the street and any would-be passersby. Those that dare to peak over the wall would see a football ground with character, but calling it a stadium would be a stretch. At one end of the ground, just beyond the goal, sits a small car park where stray shots routinely strike the back windows of cars.
Across from the gate on Moor Lane is the main stand, which backs up against a street of houses. The main stand is old and brown, with some of the old rooms in the back blocked off by cones. Although there are no security guards stopping kids from running around the back, kicking footballs. For the most part, the stand is made up of concrete ledges for fans to sit or stand on. And luckily, the stand has a proper room, preventing fans from getting wet. The dugouts match the stands and recalls a bygone era. They are proper dugouts, no comfortable modern chair back seats like you see in the Premier League.
Newer portable cabins have been installed in recent time, giving supporters a chance to relax inside with a pint during match day. Strolling around the ground, I walked into the humble club shop. A man looking every bit in his 70s ran it, offering shirts, hats and old programs from around the country. Although I never caught his name, he welcomed everyone into his little piece of Salford, making small talk and asking where spectators were from as he detected various accents. With the popularity of the ‘Class of ’92‘, people from all over were out for the game. A group of fans from Carlisle had made the over 100 mile journey to see the match. Irish fans had also made the trip over from Dublin, and sipped pints of Foster’s while standing in the cold February wind.
Opposite the parking lot end sat an embankment with plenty of space for kids to kick around a football. During the match, a pick-up football match broke out with fans of both Salford City and the day’s opponent Ilkeston.
As for the match itself, it was highly entertaining, especially for semi-professional football. Although the player I had been most excited to see went off early due to injury. With David Beckham good looks, footballer and model Gareth Seddon is one of the highest profile players in non-league football.
Seddon tallied 31 goals in Salford’s promotion winning season of 2014/15. A decade ago, the striker was forced to quit playing professionally at the age of 25 due to illness that doctors couldn’t pinpoint originally. Seddon later made a comeback partnering Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy when both played at Fleetwood. However, a part-time soccer career has been Seddon’s life for much of his career.
Despite only seeing the 35-year-old striker play 32 minutes, Seddon was head and shoulders above the competition. The striker dominated in the air, winning the ball when called into action, and putting teammates in on goal with his flick-ons.
Ilkeston didn’t offer much on the day, despite beating Salford City just a week prior. Second half goals from Danny Webber and Jordan Hulme gave Salford all three points as they stalk a second consecutive promotion.
With just under 900 fans turning out for the match at £7 ($10) on match day, Salford City are one of the most high-profile teams in non-league football. With ambitious owners and a growing fanbase, Salford City are profiting from their new found celebrity.
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