Salford City make Leicester look like the underachieving clowns they really are, says Barry Collins
It’s the footballing feel-good story of the year, David landing a sweet left-hander on Goliath, the plucky non-league underdog triumphing over adversity to “win promotion AGAINST ALL ODDS”.
Yes, welcome to The Class of 92, the life-affirming miraculous tale of how a non-league club backed by five minted footballers and a Chinese billionaire somehow, somehow managed to claw their way out of the Northern Premier League.
For years to come, us at the grindstone of non-league football will sit in awe and marvel at how a side containing journeymen such as Ireland international Stephen O’Halloran, former Chelsea midfielder Harry Worley and former Manchester United striker Danny Webber, managed to climb so unexpectedly out of the seventh tier of English football.
Our hearts welled with sympathy, as hard-up, nary-a-pot-to-urinate-in Salford are caught broadcasting an iffy Sky Sports feed in their club bar.
And who wasn’t wiping a tear from the corner of their eye as the paupers of non-league football were not only handed the ongoing exposure of a primetime BBC documentary, but the windfall of two live FA Cup ties broadcast on the BBC, so that everyone could share the “MAGICAL MOMENT OF HISTORY” when a squad of former Premier League footballers, backed by a squad of former Premier League footballers, beat the Big Time Charlies from League Two. It brings a lump to my throat just writing these words.
It’s easy to mock, but as anyone who’s worked behind the scenes of a non-league football club will know, it’s damned hard work. It doesn’t matter if you’re Ryan Giggs, assistant manager of Manchester United; Gary Neville, manager of Valencia; or Phil Neville, professional understudy to Gary Neville — everyone must do their five-minute piece to camera and cutaway shots of mobile phone conversations with the chief executive, pretending you know who the hell Skelmersdale United are. It’s relentless.
And should any of the non-league players need bringing down a peg a two, coming over all Billy Big Testicles with their boasts of making sensible plans for their retirement and opening a shop with their girlfriend, at least they’ve got Neville and Scholes to sneer at them. “A cheese shop? Why the hell has he got a cheese shop?”
These sodding footballers, eh, Gary? They don’t know they’re born.