As one member of the ‘Class of 92’ takeover at Salford City, former Manchester United and England star Phil Neville revealed that the true values of his upbringing would remain at the heart of how the Evo-Stik NPL First Division North club would be run.
Neville, who also played for Everton during a trophy laden career, wants to ensure “hard work and integrity” will underpin every action that is taken as he looks to play his part in developing his hometown club into a real force in Non-League football.
“I think it’s important when you are involved at a club, whether it’s as a player or an owner, that there is passion and a belief in what you are doing. Salford has been good to all of us when we were growing up.
The city has values like hard work and integrity and they helped us become successful throughout our careers, they will remain key to everything we do at the club. We want to give something back and that is what we aim to do”
For a man who won 59 England caps during a career that saw him become a Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup winner you may think that the Non-League game may seem to be below him. However Neville admits that watching Salford and Non-League in general has him “engrossed” want is targeting an immediate promotion to the Evo-Stik NPL’s Premier Division.
That promotion could well be within their grasp too with The Ammies currently sitting top of their league, although he feels that their are some very strong challengers in their way. However the promotion race evokes memories of his Premier League past for thirty eight year old, who also acts as a pundit on the BBC’s Match of the Day programme.
“We wanted promotion in our first season, to change the mindset at the club and to invest well, which I think we have done. It is a fantastic division and there are some top sides like Darlington and Spennymoor who have games in hand. We are all engrossed by it and it is a full-time role for us. We are so engrossed it feels like watching Arsenal and Chelsea when you are waiting for results to come in”
If promotion in their first season is the short-term target for Neville and his fellow owners, then the Football League is something that he considers a “dream target”. Although he acknowledges that it won’t go as smoothly as some may expect.
“The dream target is to get Salford City into the Football League but that could be four, five or more years away. We have all been in football for a long time now and we know there will be ups and downs, it doesn’t always go smoothly but we know where we want to go”
There was one very notable success that City can claim in the opening six months since the “Class of 92” takeover and one that saw them take part in one of the shock transfers of the January transfer window.
Libyan born defender Sadiq El Fitouri made the move from Evo-Stik League to Premier League as he moved from City to Neville’s former club Manchester United. The right back made his Under 21 team debut on Monday evening in the 1-1 draw at Sunderland and Neville believes that the move is a “major step forward” for his club, but hoped it would be the first of many.
“Sadiq going to Manchester United was a major step forward. We made a pledge to the club that we would produce young talent. Within six months he has gone from playing for us to playing for Manchester United under 21s, it’s a great story.
Any young lads who are doubting what we are trying to do will look at that and think it could happen to them. If they have an opportunity to progress at a professional club, we won’t stand in their way, we want to develop players and do things the right way”
If doing things the right way continues with the same success, then Neville and his fellow ‘Class of 92’ members could be at the start of an exciting new chapter in their illustrious careers.