Salford City: Class of 92 are Still Out Of Their League

By Simon StoneBBC Sport
Anthony Johnson (left) and Bernard Morley
Co-managers Anthony Johnson (left) and Bernard Morley celebrate Salford City's FA Cup first round win against Notts County

First, a clarification.

In Thursday night's Salford City documentary, co-manager Bernard Morley is accused by then fiancee Jemma of placing her at number four on his list of priorities.

His two children are fair enough. But football - and fellow joint boss at non-league Salford City Anthony Johnson?

"She is not number four," he laughs.

"But it is true from the sense if you look at my call log it is Jonno, Jonno, Jonno, Jonno. There may be a Babes in there every 10 calls.

"She understands that. In any case, my nan is not in there, so maybe it should be number five!"

Morley, 32, is joking. And as he got married to Jemma this summer - once the season had finished of course - it is fair to assume she doesn't see the status of their relationship in quite the same stark terms as she outlines in the first of the two-part "Still Out Of Their League", which will be shown on BBC1 on Thursday at 21:00 BST.

Salford City are owned by Manchester United's famed Class of 92 - Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers, Gary and Phil.

Gary Neville (left), Paul Scholes (hands on head) and Nicky Butt (right)
Salford City co-owners Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt go through the emotions watching the club in FA Cup action

It is the second fly-on-the-wall documentary about the club and as it covers the 2015-16 season, when all five have professional footballing commitments they have to fulfil, more time is spent with the volunteers who keep the club moving.

Babs and her kitchen, falling foul of the health inspectors. Chairwoman Karen Baird finding rival clubs are wanting twice as much money for their players because Salford and their famous owners are trying to sign them.

And Morley and Johnson, singing (Deacon Blue's 'Dignity' in the car going to games) and swearing (at their players during a particularly tough run of results) their way through a season where promotion to National League North is the aim, and one that includes a historic journey to the second round of the FA Cup.

Your thoughts on the documentary?

Johnson: "It is quite an honest depiction. It doesn't show you micro-managing the squad and there are some great bits where I cringe and am pulling the carpet up with my toe-nails but it is who we are. If there was no camera in the car we would put music on full blast, wind the windows down and sing our heads off."

What is it like having five international footballers as the bosses?

Johnson: "We had already won two promotions before we came. We are the experts at this level of football. They made us managers and allowed us to pick who we wanted, whether they liked them or not. But it is always in the back of your mind. You always thinking 'I wonder what they think'."

Paul Scholes
Paul Scholes (centre) in the dressing room after Salford City's FA Cup win over Notts County

What about the players?

Johnson: "We have had players tell us they struggle knowing the Class of 92 are watching. In pressure situations, they know they are not just being judged by 1,500 people in the ground and on TV in the FA Cup games. They are also being judged by bosses who have won everything you can win in football. But that is why we accepted the offer. It might be the best time of their lives. They should embrace it."

Have you changed a decision because of them?

Johnson: "No. I don't think Gary would ever say someone shouldn't be playing."

Morley: "Scholesy might do. But he would always say it is his opinion. Generally they don't get involved and they don't try to run our team. We respect the owners but we don't get intimidated by them. We have been managing eight years. We have probably worked with more players than them. As much as Gary has been a manager and Ryan has been an assistant I don't think they have been doing it long enough to appreciate how hard it can be at times."

Managerial double act

Johnson: "I wouldn't manage on my own. There are people who started managing at the same time as us who are now working in factories. I have three kids and a young family. There have been times that were so tough I thought, this might not be for me. But because there are two of us we can talk. It gets you through."

Morley: "He winds me up at times. I have had to apologise a few times because I have had a bad day. We compliment each other. It doesn't make us perfect but it makes us solid. Neither of us could walk away from Salford and say we could have done it without the other. I started work at 16 and didn't really have anything going for me. I thought I would turn 50 and not be able to look back on anything special I had done. Now I can take my son to parents' evening and the teachers who said I wouldn't do anything in life know I am involved with something that could be quite special. I hope it is to the day I die with Anthony."

What has been achieved so far

The Class of 92 confirmed their intended takeover of Salford City on 27 March, 2014.

In the season immediately prior to the plan being launched, Salford finished 16th in the Northern Premier League First Division North, their eighth level of English football, with an average attendance of 117 for their 21 home league games.

Last season, they reached the FA Cup second round for the first time in their history and were promoted to National League North, the sixth level of English football, the highest status they have ever achieved.

Their average attendance was 642 for their 23 home league games. For the play-off final win against Workington they had a crowd of 1,967 at their Moor Lane ground.

On Tuesday, they drew at AFC Fylde to go third in National League North.

And, according to Gary Neville, the club has big plans for the future.

He said: "We want to get a ground that is between 3-5,000 capacity, that has far better facilities that are able to accommodate young people, families and fans. I think we will fulfil that in the next 6-8 months and make this a ground that people can be proud of."

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