"We can't do any more to keep this football club in the league" says Salford City chairman, Darren Quick, watching the fans depart almost happy after the close, single goal defeat by FC Halifax.
Darren has gone to the ultimate extreme of any chairman to keep City in the Unibond Division One North by sacking three managers before the season was even half way through, and signing almost a complete new squad of players. As the side got rooted to the bottom of the league, with only one win all season, desperate measures were called for…and desperate measures were certainly taken.
"The club has had to have a good look at it" he reflects "and, yes we're on our fourth manager but there's no question that this is now the best side we've had for a long time. This side is not a relegation side, no way…"
It's taken four managers to get to this point…a record?
"Probably" says Darren with absolutely no satisfaction in his voice "Gary Fellows, the manager who started this season, picked up only one point from seven matches, plus there were other issues which led to him leaving. Then we appointed a caretaker who had assisted Gary and he went a six game period without bringing in any fresh faces or winning any games.
"I made a decision to bring in Ash Berry, who came highly recommended to me" Darren adds "but he was Yorkshire based and brought in a lot of Yorkshire based players who probably weren't any better than those we already had here and things didn't improve. We had fixtures against sides that were around us but we lost 6-1 at home to Chorley and 4-0 at home to Garforth.
"We clearly needed better quality players and a manager who could bring those players in and who knew the standard. So we had a committee meeting and another management casualty, and that was an embarrassment to this football club and to me personally. Now we're on our fourth guy."
The fourth manager is Paul Wright but he's been suspended by the FA from all football related duties until 1st March, so Neil Hall, previously of Hyde United and Droylsden, is currently in charge. Meanwhile, players have been brought in from the likes of New Mills, Flixton, FC United, Ashton United and FA Cup giant killers, Droylsden, and only Salford stars John Robinson and Lathan Forrester were recognisable of the 15 players involved against FC Halifax.
"We've brought in decent quality players from Conference North clubs and I believe that this side will soon starting taking points" says Darren "FC Halifax are top of the League, we're bottom of the League and we could have got something out of the game today. We deserved a point and although we didn't get the result we wanted it's an improvement. What pleases me most is that we've not conceded three, four or five goals. Basically they've done a smash and grab job on us."
Darren reckons that Salford City now need 11 wins out of the remaining 21 games to stay up. City still have to play sides around them in the league and also have games in hand.
"This league is tough and there are some sides which are really spending a lot of money to climb the pyramid" he reflects "But days like today, when we've got 500 people here and it's vibrant, this is what we want here every week. This side is capable of winning a dozen games, there no question about that. It's not dead at all…"
Everyone who witnessed the display against FC Halifax would agree. The months of the long knives might well have been worth it…
Words: Stephen Kingston
Photo: Paul Watson