SALFORD CITY FC - THE BIG KICK OFF
Salford City's new manager, Darren Sheridan, says nothing less than 100% will do for his new team…
We're sat in the director's hospitality hut at Moor Lane and the first question to Darren Sheridan just kind of slips out. So Darren, you played for Barnsley in the Premier League – what's the difference between that and the Evo-Stik North First Division…Is it light years?
Darren shakes his head and laughs, "Oh yeah…it's scary"
He composes himself and adds "The thing is that you get to play football against the Uniteds and the Liverpools, they let you play, but the difference is that when there's a chance it's a goal. We played United at Old Trafford and played really well, honestly. We had a lot of the ball but they beat us 7-0 and everything they hit went in. It was `chance-goal chance-goal'. That's the difference between the levels. Andy Cole scored four…
"But we got our own back" he adds "We played them two weeks later in the FA Cup and beat them. But I was buzzing, just to get the chance to play in Premier League."
How do you top that? By managing and playing for Salford City, of course. And instead of yer Uniteds and Liverpools who let you play, it's yer Harrogate Railways and yer Wakefields…
"We'll play football, we'll want to play football but if it's going to be a battle I want the team to dig in and battle; so they need a bit of both if they want to play for me" Darren explains "There are going to be teams that just want to kick you, and I want my lads to stand up to them and, er, kick them back."
Darren Sheridan is certainly no stranger to this level of football. As a youngster he was released by Leeds United and gave up the game for a few years before being re-born as a footballer, age 22, with semi pro Winsford. He played there for four years before a Barnsley scout spotted him, signed him up and he joined the team that would ultimately get promotion to the Premier League for the 1997-98 season.
From Barnsley it was on to Wigan Athletic in 1999, where he played 58 games, before joining Oldham and brother John Sheridan, of Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday fame, who was playing for, and managing, the Latics.
After a spell in Scotland with Clyde and St Johnstone, Darren came back to England, joining Barrow age 38 as a player and then co-manager, with great success.
"We got promoted from the Blue Square North and stayed in the Conference for four years on a tight budget" he recalls "We also got to the FA Cup third round twice, against Sunderland and Middlesborough, and won the FA Trophy final at Wembley, so I had a good stint."
He left Barrow last February for reasons that have remained private with both club and manager… "a bit of politics, a bit of a misunderstanding…" is all Darren will say on the matter. Barrow fans, however, are still eulogising about their hero and still trying to work it all out. Their loss is Salford's gain.
"I'm not there now so I've just got to get on with what I'm doing here and try to be successful" says Darren "I played for Radcliffe Borough for a bit to keep ticking over, and ended last season at Droylsden. They wanted me to sign again but I saw the job here and thought I'd get back into managing.
"I know Darren Quick and Dave Russell from a good few years back" he adds "I'm a local lad from Stretford, live in Urmston, and have been down to a few games. I also work at Salford City College and coach kids from the College at the Sports Village on Littleton Road."
Ask anyone at the club who saw the applicants for the vacant job and they will tell you that Darren Sheridan was the stand out candidate. Ammies fans can only dream of his achievements at Barrow…
"Hopefully with my experience of Barrow and playing in the league I can help Salford come on" he says "Obviously at this standard money is tight, so we know we're in for a tough job but I'll give it a good go.
"I can only put the players out on the pitch" he adds "If they play like I know some of these players can play we'll have a good shout. But this league is very open. I watched Salford play Curzon Ashton last year and Salford were the better team. But Curzon were right up there in the league. On their day anyone can beat each other in this league. You go on a little run and you're up there, and it's just a matter of staying in there."
For this season, Darren is eager not to stoke up expectations, arguing that "a top ten finish would be an achievement", as Salford City adapts to virtually a completely new team on a budget that would barely pay for a few locks of Wayne Rooney's hair weave. Meanwhile, other clubs like Radcliffe Borough are attempting to spend their way to success.
"I believe they've come into some money, so they're going for it this year" he notes "But with Salford it won't be for the want of trying. When I was a player I gave 100% every game, and if these players don't want to do that they can go somewhere else.
"I'll be watching and I'll know who's hiding" he adds "If I can help them by playing I will, although my missus isn't happy that I still want to play. She thinks I should finish now because I keep coming home with aches and pains but I just want to play as long as I can."
It's hard for Salford to get anywhere near Barrow's success, never mind Barnsley's, because of the finances – which is mad when there's a potential 200,000 people in the city to go at…
"It's a big place" Darren acknowledges "That's what gets you down a bit. You'd think that if you play good football and get a bit of success people might come to watch and enjoy it. That's what I'll be trying to do, get more people through the gates. And if we're successful, I'm sure it will spread, and they'll leave the pub for the day and watch Salford."
The enjoyment starts now…
THE BIG KICK OFF…
Salford City FC v Curzon Ashton
Saturday August 18th kick off 3pm
Moor Lane, Kersal M73PZ
More details on all Salford City matches at www.salfordcityfc.co.uk
Photo of Darren Sheridan by Gareth Lyons
This interview also features in the Salford City match day magazine for the game against Curzon Ashton