Salford City set for BBC return – and joint-manager Anthony Johnson is dreading it

Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley
Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley (BBC)

SALFORD CITY return to BBC on Thursday night and joint-manager Anthony Johnson admits he’ll be watching from behind his couch.

‘Jonno’ has already seen the latest instalment of the fly-on-the-wall documentary which follows the non-league club, who have been transformed seen being taken over by five members of United’s Class of ’92. But this time the Ammies’ boss knows millions of others will be watching at the same time.

“It’s like when you listen to your voice back,” he told Beyond the Big Two. “It was the same when I watched it. Even though you’re not doing anything massively wrong you just cringe and think ‘why am I doing that?’

“But it’s a top programme, it’s funny, and it’s not just about football. It’s about the volunteers, the supporters and obviously the owners, with them being who they are.”

Salford were taken over by Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers – Gary and Phil – in 2014 and they swiftly changed the team’s colours and badge. Manager Phil Power lasted until January 2015, when Scholes and Phil Neville took charge of Salford’s win over Kendal before handing the reins that evening to Johnson and Bernard Morley. They soon realised it would be a whole lot different to what they’d been used to at  Ramsbottom United.

“The day we took over, Phil and Scholesy managed that day and introduced us to the lads afterwards,” said Johnson, who’s a lorry driver by day. “We walked in and there were 10 cameras, plus one of those big microphones that look like a brush about six inches away from me. We thought ‘bloody hell, what have we let ourselves in for?’

“We were miked up all the time but within two weeks we forgot they were there. You get that used to it you just operate as normal. None of it’s staged, they don’t tell you to say anything, it’s just as it is. There’s a scene in the new series where me and Bernard are singing in the car, but that’s what we’re like, we’d do that if there were no cameras. I do that in my wagon.”

The first two-part series, which followed Salford’s charge to the Evo-Stik North title in 2014/15, was due to be aired towards the end of last year and with the Ammies reaching the FA Cup first round for the first time in their 76-year history, it threw up a golden opportunity.

Salford were handed a plum draw at home to League Two side Notts County. It had ‘giant-killing’ written all over it so the BBC chose it as one of their live games, in the prime-time slot on a Friday night. So ‘Class of 92: Out of Their League’ was shown on Bonfire Night, with the Cup game given  top-quality coverage the following night.

Oh, and the Ammies only went and delivered the upset everyone was hoping for. The BBC’s best script-writers couldn’t have written it any better. A second series was commissioned, called ‘Class of ’92: Still Out of Their League’, and the BBC cameras must be a lucky charm as Salford won promotion again last term.

With the Ammies still riding high – they were joint-top of the National League North until Darlington won on Wednesday – it’s another case of good timing. It’s even shown right after the players finish training on Thursday night. They have agreed to watch the first episode together but Johnson has declined his invitation.

He added: “I kill the lads, they’re all on a WhatsApp group and I abuse them on it, so I’ve told them ‘there’s absolutely no chance I’m sitting with you lot watching me talk rubbish in front of 3.5 million people!’ It’s not happening, but it’s all good fun.

“Whether people like me or not, and I’m not bothered either way, it’s an honest depiction of our personalities. It doesn’t show you getting lads up for a game, micro-managing the training sessions or being a tactical genius. Where’s the fun in that?!

“It shows you ranting and raving, and making yourself look an idiot at every opportunity because that’s what people want to see.

“The worst bit is in the second episode, I think. It was Ilkeston away (in February). They played a load of 18-year-olds and we got beat.

“I started shouting something like ‘I’ve got massive balls me…and you lot haven’t! I was watching it on my couch and I’m not joking you, by the time that scene ended I was on the floor. I’d slid off my couch! It was awful, but it’s funny TV.

“The last series showed a lot of intensity on how it was, it probably looked very pressurised. This one’s the same sort of thing but there’s a bit more fun in this one, in my opinion.”

See for yourself on Thursday night. The first of two episodes will be shown at 9pm on BBC1.