The sun was shining brightly for Salford City on the Peninsula Stadium, the latest sports ground in the country to hold a Football League member.
Yet this is no normal club. Salford City has been far from ordinary since the class of 92’s takeover in 2014. How many other of their footballing rivals have achieved four promotions in five seasons? How many have been promoted from the National League at the first attempt?
Both are an extreme rarity, yet this is Salford. For manager Graham Alexander, a shot at League One glory looks optimistic and the recent evidence with Tranmere Rovers shows it’s highly likely.
‘Look at Tranmere in their recent seasons, Lincoln another, although they had a year in-between. Bournemouth also, one season next to bottom in League Two then five or six seasons later in the Premier League. They prove it can be done, but no one has got out the National League at the first attempt until we did’.
Where the Ammies are concerned, when one league achievement is ticked off, the expectation for another is even higher. After dropping down from League One with Scunthorpe to the National League with Salford twelve months ago, Alexander does not seem phased with the challenge that lies ahead, or more importantly, the criticism that comes to his sides way.
‘I’m not out to prove people wrong, I’d rather prove people right. For myself, the owners, the players and supporters, I’m here to do that for them’.
On the tribalism show by their opposition last season. ‘I think we noticed it early on. We drew with Leyton Orient at home then lost back to back games at Gateshead and Sutton, where the elation shown against us was surprising. It opened my eyes up a lot’.
There was also criticism when the newly acclaimed league club, who could barely attract 100 spectators before Neville and Co came in, found themselves on Sky Sports for the opening game of the season against Stevenage.
The question surrounding the constant animosity against the Ammies is a puzzling one. The club’s financial muscle is the strongest argument, although the commitment and desire shown by the ex-Man United players rival the likes of Andy Holt at Accrington Stanley. He is acclaimed to be one of the best football custodians in the EFL, so too are the owners of Salford City.
Club strikers Adam Rooney, 31 and newest signing Luke Armstrong, 23, represent the keen ambition at the Peninsula, with eyes only for the top of the League Two tree next May.
Rooney is loving life in a red shirt saying, ‘It’s brilliant, so many players come here because of the clubs ambition. Our aim is to be competing at the top of the table come to the end of the season. Winning promotion at Wembley is always a day to remember and we hope for more great memories’.
‘Towards the end of last season, we saw more kids come with their dads and grandads. We sign autographs for the youngsters, Irish fans who speak to me say they’ll definately be back again’.
Armstrong, fresh from his move from Championship side Middlesbrough, echoes his senior striker’s views.
‘It’s a really ambitious club with the intention for moving up the leagues going from strength to strength, trying to push on every time, going as high as possible and that’s great for a young player’.
Listening to Rooney and Armstrong, it’s no wonder so many players are keen to board the Salford train. Where the journey will end will most likely be a better position to where it is now.