It's just too easy to slag off messrs Butt, Scholes, Giggs and Nevilles...
Like, as early as page 4 of Class of 92: Out of Our League, Gary Neville states "it is that feeling of re-connecting with football in its purest form"...
....Says he who has bestowed Premiership ethics into non-league, buying players from three leagues up to ensure the `fairytale' has a happy ending...
...Says he who's brought in zillionaire Valencia owner, Peter Lim, with fifty per cent of Salford City shares now held offshore in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands...
...Says he, who rumour has it, is about to bring his Hotel Football franchise into Moor Lane to do the catering and corporate hospitality...
...Says he who took the official Salford lion crest off the shirts, changed the colours to red, even took the word `Salford' off the shirts...and made Moor Lane into some weird Old Trafford tourist stop.
`Football in its purest form?' No. Definitely no! It's like non-league football never happened until the Class of 92 `discovered' it and, at first, were disgusted by it...
"Me, Butty, Giggsy and Scholesy came here three years ago for a game and it was almost like watching a team on the park" states Gary Nevillesy in the book "There were 174 people in the ground and that defeat, 3-0 to Curzon Ashton, was a terrible standard..."*
Their `journey back to the heart of the game' is their journey into the operating theatre of dreams to do a transplant. And get the organ grinding to their tune... "We wanted a club that meant something to us, which we could mould in our style, in our way, in how we think" he insists; while brother Phil adds "The only reason we bought Salford City is because we can actually have control and we can develop a football club the way we think it should be done. That's why we went down the football pyramid, because we can actually do what we want to do there..."
Indeed, the words of the Class of 92 throughout the book are a kind of push-me-pull-you of ethics. On one hand insisting that they really don't want to `take away the soul of the club', while on the other, morphing Salford into their own image of what a `real' football club should look like, based on a fistful of offshore and celeb dollars, and their Fergie and The Cliff upbringing back in the day.
Obviously the results are there to be seen. After languishing mid table in the EvoStik First Division North, two promotions and an FA Cup run later, Salford City is on the map and on the up. And no-one can argue with that. But don't say it's `connecting with football in its purest form'. It's not.
The book itself, Class of 92: Out of Our League, charts the process, from Premiership-perceived `almost park football' to one that can compete against your Notts Counties and your Hartlepools. And it is a really, really good read.
While the cover has the authors down as `Nicky Butt, Phil Neville, Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes', it's actually written by Rob Draper, Chief Football Writer for the Daily Mail, and comes with a running date ordered commentary, interspersed by big chunks of quotes from the Class of 92.
The book sticks more or less to a de-schmaltzed format of the BBC documentary - the half time bollockings, the will-they-won't they get promotion, the `Oh why did we bother' blathering from the Class of 92 and the rubber bullet firing, brawling back stories of the managers. Fast forward through that and, slap in the middle is a sixty page chunk titled Salford.
This is a must-read for Salford City tourists where Draper sets out a potted history of the city itself, via Friedrich Engels, Shelagh Delaney, Walter Greenwood, Salford Precinct and the new "elegant waterside flats for the gilded property-owning classes".
There's also a few pages on Ewan MacColl, with Peggy Seeger quoted from the Salford Star talking about his relationship with the city – and how he hated The Pogues' version of Dirty Old Town, which they play at Moor Lane.
It's in this section that club stalwarts who didn't get their face in the BBC doc (probably 'cos they thought it was shite) get to talk calmly about what's been going on.
Here Frank McCauley, who's been at Salford City since they were amateurs, gives an authoritative first hand background of the club and the historic ground. And where club President, Dave Russell, who was instrumental, along with Darren Quick, in getting the Ammies to the EvoStik league and staying there, gets his say.
Dave's most telling quote is when he is recalling the Great Escape season. In February of 2009 Salford were rock bottom of the League, with less than a dozen points but went on an incredible run and had to win at Garforth on the last day of the season to stay up, although Rossendale had to lose. At half time Salford were getting beat 1-0 but won 5-2, with Rossendale losing**...
"That was the best moment for me at the club...and that still ranks as our biggest achievement" says Dave "That was better than the FA Cup run..."
Ryan Giggs nods to that game... "You hear stories like that about Garforth and staying up and it makes you appreciate the people, like Dave, who were there before us" he says "Without them there wouldn't be a club, so we're not going to trample over the heart of the club..."
...And then there was that infamous meeting between fans and Gary Neville, where the colour and crest change were already decided. I'll quote a bit of myself here from the book, which amazingly didn't get cut given the Class of 92 had control...
"It was a lot more than the badge and the change of colour...When we walked into the bar he had a power point presentation showing the new colours and crest. He showed it and we were like, `What the fuck is that?'. There was no consultation or nothing...It was presented as a fait accompli. Had they come to us...had they asked us it might have been different..."
(And before anyone accuses me of being some kind of bitter anti-Class of 92 refugee from the Provisional Tangerine Army, I also add in the book: "If they go up the leagues I'll be really happy, because that's where they should be with a city of this size...etc")
Gary Neville says that the loss of us 10 per cent of the crowd (a massive ten people) was "a major regret and it wasn't easy to take", and then adds that after getting approval from the club's committee he wasn't then going to "another forty for another consultation"...
The rest is future history, with promotions, FA Cup runs, big transfer fees and wages, moving the ground (despite spending `significant amounts of money' on it at the moment to double its capacity), and setting up a youth academy.
For United supporters of a certain age there's loads about the roots of the Class of 92, where they played football as kids, the training regime at The Cliff and Littleton Road, how things have changed; and how Salford City, under their stewardship, is going to instil these `old' virtues into the team's players...
It's all about principles they declare, using Gary Neville's experience handing his Stock Exchange would-be boutique hotel over to the homeless as an example. There's two sides to that story. But what isn't mentioned is Neville's intent on knocking down an historic section of Manchester city centre, including the Abercromby pub where campaigners are currently railed against him.
The other elephant in the room of the book is the absence of any comment from Rhodri Giggs, apart from Ryan recalling "My brother, Rhodri had played there and coached there for a bit..." Now, give or take when Mario Balotelli's brother signed up for Salford, the hugest national story to hit the Ammies was when the press revealed that Ryan was shagging Rhodri's wife while he was playing for and managing the club. And then, lo and behold, Ryan bought that club. It would have been great to get Rhodri's views on this.
Even without this, Out of Our League is an intriguing book that does attempt to lose the hype surrounding the club to give an insight into both the Class of 92 and the plight of players who find themselves in non-league football.
Ex United and Salford City's Danny Webber sums it up most succinctly... "You are a commodity, and when it's time to dispose of you, you're disposable..." Or, as author Rob Draper puts it, "ultimately a player is a human asset listed on a balance sheet..."
Class of 92: Out of Our League is definitely not your usual shallow football/tv tie-in, and deserves a wider readership than those who marvelled at Babs' pies on the tv documentary.
Class of 92: Out of Our League
BBC Books £20 out now
Written by Rob Draper with Nicky Butt, Phil Neville, Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes
Includes photos by ace Salford Star snapper Gareth Lyons
*The score was actually 2-0, Salford hadn't played for a month and it was one of the worst games of the season. The United posse walked out well before the end (see Salford Star match report – click here).
** See match report click here
Review by Stephen Kingston