Class of 92: Out of Our League – Review
By Karl Hornsey
Hot on the heels of the acclaimed BBC documentary, this book covers the dramatic twists and turns of Salford City’s 2015/16 campaign, as told by those involved behind the scenes, including the five co-owners known as the Class of 92.
Any football fan worth their salt cannot fail to recognise the former Manchester United players who have taken over the running of Salford City, and the book features in-depth interviews with Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, and Gary and Phil Neville.
I have to own up at this point to a vested interest in this as a lifelong United fan, and one who was lucky to have witnessed those players’ parts in a hugely successful period in my club’s history. However, despite my club allegiance, where this account works best is in the stories and experiences of others at Salford City, as they progress from the lower echelons of non-league football to move tantalisingly close to their initial aim of joining the ranks of the Football League.
“An element of repetition”
Joint managers Bernard Morley and Anthony Johnson can testify to a life beyond the fantasy world of football, of careers outside of the sport that show what really matters and places football in its own bubble, detached from everyday reality. Both are hard, fascinating, no-nonsense characters who make no apologies for some of their behaviour on the touchline, and one can’t help but root for them, knowing what the club and the game means to them.
Others at Salford City, such as experienced players Gareth Seddon and Danny Webber also come out if it well, adding an experienced perspective to the quest for promotion, but there are elements that don’t work so well on the written page as they did in the documentary. Almost verbatim accounts of what went on in the dressing room prior to, during and after matches just don’t come across as effectively without seeing the people in involved and how a thorough dressing-down affects them.
Likewise, with all five of the Class of 92 telling their accounts of the same or similar incidents and matches, there is an element of repetition that is unnecessary. When all of them think and speak in much the same vein, one account would often suffice.
“Heartwarming and inspiring”
Even without tying my colours to the mast, the Class are much more interesting when discussing their own upbringings, introduction to football and to United, and their motivations for putting something back at a lower level in a community that means so much to them.
There are also some basic errors that give the book a rushed-together feel – referring to United winning the Champions League in 2007 instead of 2008, the misspelling of former striker Mark Robins’ name, and within the space of a few pages stating that Scholes came from a place either five miles south of Oldham, or 10 miles depending on which page you are on.
Despite these niggles, there is no doubt this is still well worth a read for anyone interested in non-league football, and the scenario of world-famous footballers showing such a genuine love and interest in their local area should prove both heartwarming and inspiring to others.
‘Class of 92: Out of Our League’, BBC Books, Ebury Publishing