SALFORD CITY are having to deal with an injury crisis on the eve of the new National League North season.
The Ammies are preparing to play at step two of the non-league ladder for the first time in the club’s 76-year history after winning back-to-back promotions. But the Moor Lane outfit have seen their pre-season campaign disrupted by a series of injuries.
Summer signings Michael Nottingham (hamstring), Brad Barnes (broken toe), Sam Walker (thigh) and Mike Phenix (ankle) were already out, along with John Johnston (broken collarbone), but Steve Howson and Josh Hine then came off with knee problems during their final friendly at Connah’s Quay on Saturday.
So joint-managers Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley are set to have only three of their seven new signings available for Saturday’s opener at home to Gloucester City – Simon Grand, Craig King and Matt Warburton.
“In terms of the friendlies, it’s probably been the toughest pre-season we’ve had as managers, but I think it’s better like that,” Johnson told Beyond the Big Two.
“We beat Irlam 4-0 but that’s not going to mean much to us, we’re not going to play teams like Irlam or Rylands (3-0) in the league this season. But with Fleetwood’s first team (1-4), United’s Under-21s (1-5), Connah’s Quay (1-1), who have played in the Europa League, and Hampton & Richmond Borough (0-1), who’ve been promoted to National League South, we were playing sides who tested us. They were all pretty close games – up to a point – so we got a lot out of them, but the injuries have put a bit of a dampener on things.
“We’ve never had anything like it during a season, let alone pre-season. You expect it in February/March, not the end of July/early August. On Sunday it looked like we were going to start the season with 12 players but two or three have come through it this week so there’s a bit of light at the end of the tunnel with that.”
Captain Chris Lynch took up an opportunity to play in Australia this summer while the likes of Gary Stopforth (Stockport County), Gareth Seddon (Ramsbottom United) and Danny Webber (retired) moved on.
And despite being newly promoted, Salford still have one of the biggest budgets in the league thanks to the continued backing of the Class of ’92, the ex-United stars who half-own the club, so Johnson is confident his squad can cope with their injury problems.
“Every single one of them are top players,” he added. “There are no lads here to make up the numbers, they all want to start, so we’re happy with the players we’ve got, we’re just lacking a bit of competition at the minute with the amount of lads in the physio room.
“We’re confident we can still put a very strong squad out on Saturday so there’ll be no excuses from us, no matter what happens. The lads understand what’s expected of them.”
Salford City squad for 2016/17
Goalkeeper: Jay Lynch.
Defenders: Steve Howson, Billy Priestley, Steve O’Halloran, Michael Nottingham, Simon Grand.
Midfilders: Richie Allen, Scott Burton, Luke Clark, John Johnston, Brad Barnes, Sam Walker, Craig King.
Forwards: Josh Hine, Jordan Hulme, James Poole, Sam Livesey, Mike Phenix, Matt Warburton.