When ex-Macclesfield Town legend Phil Power and ex-Salford City legend Barry Massay took over as co-managers of the Ammies they were left with just three players from last season – and very little time to sort a squad from over forty trialists who were determined to pull on the tangerine shirt in the coming season.
With the big kick off beginning next Saturday, away at Harrogate Railway*, it was only yesterday that the final team got its first run out – impressing in the 2-0 defeat of Trafford who were promoted to the higher Evo-Stik Premier League last season.
"It's looking good" said Barry after the match "My ambition is always to win things and if we win the league in the first season I won't be shocked. So hopefully the play-offs, and hopefully win it…"
Barry, who played as an old-style, bustling, fan pleasing centre forward for the Ammies, won three trophies in his first two years as a manager (eat yer heart out Pellegrini) with Hindsford in the Manchester Premier League. He's also Salford through and through, running the ace Yum Yum's cafe on Littleton Road, a few hundred yards down the hill from Moor Lane.
Indeed, for the first time in a few seasons, the Ammies have got a Salford core running right through the squad. Co-manager Phil Power was brought up near Salford Precinct and currently works for Salford City Council in children's homes, while around eleven players have roots in the city.
"There's definitely more of a Salford core" says Barry "It gives us that fighting spirit – and we're also getting that from the `foreign' players we've brought in; embedding them in to being Salford. It's all coming on nicely."
Alongside Salford players like Aaron Swift, Nathan Bond and the returning Wes Bancroft (top scorer in the pre-season friendlies) are speedy Spanish forward Fernandez Oriol, skilful Yorkshire/Spaniard Eder Ruiz and crafty French winger Nelson Mota, with fans already dubbing the team `El Salford'.
In pre-season there's been some great creative play but how will this work on the cabbage patch pitches at places like Prescot Cables and Ossett Albion, and against bruiser teams like Warrington Town and Wakefield?
"I think they'll thrive off it" laughs Barry "Gilly [Michael Gill] loves it – he's played Sunday football, so he's been kicked to hell all the time. Some players play better with it…Cookie [Stuart Cooke], plays centre mid and loves getting kicked…They don't mind it, they get up and get on with it…Eder Ruiz, he's another one, a bit of a bulldozer who loves to go through things. There's some good lads and they're gelling together."
When the new management team of Barry Massay and Phil Power was first announced, people wondered how they themselves would gel together. Both applied for the job as Salford City manager separately but were asked to work together as co-managers.
"I applied for the job with Denis Haslam, and Phil applied with one of his mates, and we got down to the last four" Barry recalls "Dave `legend' Russell [Ammies' President] asked me and Phil to go together, and we thought we might as well go for it together. With my knowledge of players at this level and his knowledge of football itself, it's working out brilliantly."
Phil Power's time in the game has been spent at a much higher level - from playing for Northwich Victoria in the FA Trophy final at Wembley, age 17, to playing in the Football League, under Dario Gradi at Crewe and Sammy McIlroy at Macclesfield Town.
Indeed, Phil's cv as a prolific forward reads like a who's who of lower league clubs and legendary mangers. From starting out at Northwich Vics, he went on to play for Witton Albion, then Crewe, scoring two goals in his debut against Burnley. After playing in Malta for a few years, it was on to Chorley where he was spotted by Harry Redknapp, then managing Bournemouth. He was about to sign but, during his farewell match, broke his leg which put him out of the game for two years.
"It was a bit of a body blow, and I ended up playing for Barrow and Stalybridge Celtic when they got promoted to the Conference, and then Sammy McIlroy signed me for Macclesfield" he recalls "It was my most successful time. We won the Conference and the FA Trophy, went into the Football League and were promoted again, while I also got my England semi-pro caps."
From Macclesfield, it was on to Altrincham for three years as player/coach, then, after a few games for Radcliffe Borough and Bacup Borough, Phil retired and got the job with Salford Council.
Meanwhile, FC United of Manchester was setting up and Phil joined as assistant player manager for four years and assistant manager for two years, before leaving, on what he calls `bad terms'
"I ruptured my cruciate and they were being a bit awkward with me" he says "It was obvious I wasn't acting the goat, I had a genuine injury and luckily the PFA paid for reconstruction of my knee. FC must have thought I was pulling the wool over their eyes, and I left on bad terms.
"It was a bit disappointing" he adds "because I thought me and the manager were friends, but obviously working for FC meant more to him than our friendship - and we're not friends any more, to put it bluntly. I hope they lose every game now! I'd had enough of football at that point and I'd been out of it for four or five years. But it's in my blood, so when the opportunity at Salford came along I couldn't resist…"
He applied for the Ammies' job but, because of his work with kids which sometimes involves 24 hour shifts, couldn't guarantee to take training every week, so, "with Barry's connections and my coaching and experience, we got put together and it's working alright at the minute."
Phil is very realistic about the job in hand… "I think there's a lot of work needed" he explains "We were left with three players from last season and we've started with nothing. I spoke to players at a higher level but they were getting double what we can offer them here, and that's the situation we're in.
"Even so, there's been a few players who have surprised us, like Ed Ruiz" he adds "From the minute I saw him I thought there was something about him and have sort of took him under my wing. Ossie [Adabaki] is back and we just need to get him doing it in the right areas; Danny Brown has got an eye for goal, Aaron Walters has stood out, and we've got a few lads in midfield – Aaron Swift has done quite well on the ball…
"There's a lot to work on but we know we're not the finished article" he decides "Once the season starts I can spend more time with the strikers and improve them as players, as well as Salford as a club."
Despite all of his footy travels, Phil retains a spark in his eye when talking of the future…
"Realistically if we can get in the top ten that would be good but we don't know how good this league is going to be" he says "We know that Northwich Victoria and Darlington are going to be threats but after that there's other play off places to play for, and I don't think there's any outstanding teams."
Virtually everything about Salford City is new this season – from the managers, to Chairman Karen Baird and sponsors Champion Insurance Brokers, to improved facilities at the Moor Lane ground, to the new `El Salford' team. All that remains now is to get some new fans through the gates to cheer on the Ammies as a new era begins…
"If we play good football that will bring more fans through the gate" says Barry "We're also going to start doing mascots and more promotion but we've just got to rely on our reputation to bring fans in. Playing good football is the key."
As Trafford found out yesterday, the `good football' has begun…
* Salford City begin the season with an away trip to Harrogate Railway next Saturday 17th August. There's a supporters' coach going from Moor Lane at 11:30am, price £6. To book a place phone Dave Russell on 0161 745 7204
The first home game at Moor Lane is on Tuesday 20th August 7:45 v Clitheroe £7/£4.
Also: Saturday 24th August: Salford City v Northwich Victoria 3pm Moor Lane
Monday 26th August: Radcliffe Borough v Salford City 3pm
Saturday 31st August: Salford City v Cammell Laird 3pm Moor Lane
For further details on all things Salford City see the new website – click here
And also see the Supporters Forum – click here
Photos by Andrew Goudie