If like me you’re a United fan, you’ll have watched the legendary Class of 1992 reign over football for more than 20 years.
I come from a dedicated United family, committed to the point where I was threatened with all my possessions being dumped on the front lawn should I even think about cheering on another team. So it was a thrilling Summer’s day when I was faced with the opportunity of meeting three members of the legendary team.
No, I wasn’t hidden in a bush outside Giggsy’s house or conveniently shopping in Scholes’s local Asda. I was invited to the press launch for the upcoming BBC documentary, Class of 92: Out Of Their League.
The film by Electric Ray’s Nick Mattingly follows Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt during their first season as owners of non-league side Salford City FC. Narrated by Bafta-winning actress Sarah Lancashire, the series captures the humour and drama, both on and off the pitch at Salford City – a club seven tiers down from the Premier League and normally run by local volunteers.
It’s a fascinating watch. We see Gary Neville incredulous that the manager and assistant manager are both on holiday for pre-season games, and discover that the toilets consist of a dilapidated portacabin. The best scene features chairman Karen Baird breaking it to the Sky Sports pundit that there may be a dodgy Sky box on the site.
But it’s not all plain sailing for our heroes as the existing committee members and fans are wary of what they call “premiership arrogance”.
In what must surely count as a 2015 highlight for yours truly, I spoke to Scholes, Giggs and Butt and asked them if they felt their involvement with a non-league team would encourage more people to attend matches instead of concentrating on Premiership games.
“Salford’s attendance has seen a 40 per cent jump,” Giggs told me. “We had 1,000 at one match. I went to a game and the emotion was great. If your team is away, why not go and see a local side.”
Scholes adds: “Salford is a big city without a league club and they deserve one.” Meanwhile, Butt points out that “when you think about how much it costs a family to go to a Premier League match, it’s hard. It is a nice feeling [to see families at Salford]. I take my own kids and they love it.”
Gary Neville is the driving force behind this project but he and Phil could not attend due to the sad loss of their father a week previously.
“Gary has an idea every week,” says Butt. “He’s very bright and clever.”
“One day people will forget Gary Neville was a player, he’s so bright,” adds Giggs.
The new owners have big plans for the club. Last year they sold 50 per cent of their stake to Singapore businessman Peter Lim who had previously been connected to Liverpool FC. This caused concern among the old guard but Scholes is philosophical. “People have looked after the club well but do you want to stay as you are or develop?”
Class of 92: Out Of Their League focuses on an alien world to the ex-Premiership players – dealing with players who have a day job. Giggs says: “We would take players from anywhere but they have jobs and can’t always travel. We’ve had players say no because of the distance.”
The former Man Utd players are determined to use their experience to take the club into the higher leagues, but they are conscious of not meddling too much.
“It’s not the job of the owners to do the training,” says Scholes. “We don’t step on their toes unless they come and ask us for advice.”
For players of a lower league club, the pressure must be on to perform in front of such established stars of football. Salford City FC striker Gareth Seddon puts it like this: “You crap your pants if you make a mistake but we put the pressure on ourselves. There was never a bad comment from them. They made us raise our game.”
“There is a pressure with our profile,” says Butt. “Rumours start about how much we’re spending but it’s not a big deal for us. It’s harder for the players to have to deal with it.”
The future is definitely bright for Salford City FC. According to Giggs: “Our aspirations are to be in the football league and have a 25,000 seater stadium.”
By Chris Park
Class of 92: Out of their League starts on BBC One in early September. For more information on the club, please visit www.pitchero.com/clubs/salfordcityfc