How will Salford City spend their summer?
Background photo: CR Gutman
Salford City have been a team in the headlines in recent years. Manchester United legends Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Gary and Phil Neville each invested 10% in the club with Singaporean investor Peter Lim financing the remaining 60% in 2014. Since then, the group has poured their money and expertise into the squad, leading to a rapid rise from the depths of non-league football. In January, David Beckham joined his former teammates, acquiring a 10% share from Lim. In May, victory in the National League playoff final at Wembley over AFC Fylde that placed them in the Football League for the first time in their 79-year history. Now, the club faces its most important summer since its inception in 1940 as it prepares for the 2019/20 League Two campaign.
While it is difficult to judge how they will do next season, the gap between League Two and the National League has shrunk significantly in recent years. Many promoted sides go on to challenge for promotion to League One in their first campaign. Tranmere Rovers won promotion out of League Two at the first attempt this season via the playoffs. Lincoln City sealed the League Two title in their second year back in the Football League.
One advantage for Salford is the financial commitment from Lim and the Class of 92. Most teams coming into League Two make some changes but leave the core intact for continuity's sake. Salford may tear up the rulebook in this regard. To this point, constant investment has fueled their climb. Why stop now?
The owners have shown they are not afraid to change things, player or managerial wise, even after a promotion season. Former managerial duo Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley led them into the National League 12 months ago but were ruthlessly relieved of their duties. The move paid off for Salford. New boss Graham Alexander lifted them into the Football League at the first time of asking. GNev, Giggsy, et al have redefined naked ambition.
The club has made some early moves to acquire players with recent football league experience. Four players have come in. Richie Towell was released from Brighton after two seasons on loan at Rotherham United. On the other side, six players whose contracts have come to an end haven't received new offers. That group includes mainstays Anthony Dudley and Jack Redshaw.
Towell played a key role in the Miller's promotion out of League One this season. The move for an overqualified player is consistent with Salford signing strikers Adam Rooney from Aberdeen and Danny Lloyd from Peterborough United a year ago. Rooney finished the season as Salford's top scorer with 21 league goals. Lloyd added another three after assuming a midfield role. Don't be shocked to see another prolific scorer from League One or even the Championship added to the books.
The Ammies already have a squad who can compete at the top of League Two. Several players will rank among the division's best. The ownership group don't believe in subtlety or restraint, however. They intend to bring 11 howitzers to every League Two knife fight.
The bookmakers noticed, lining them up among the favourites to win the league along with the three relegated League One sides Bradford City, Plymouth Argyle and Scunthorpe United. All four are rated at 10/1. Salford won't be bothered by the fact their money and ambition effectively paints a target on their backs.
With two extra promotion places available at this level, the Ammies stand a better chance to achieve yet another promotion. They are dreaming big and, so far, there hasn't been a rude awakening.