Matchstalk Men walk tall in Wembley


It’s been a great week for sport in Lancashire.

Liverpool reached the Champions League final with an amazing second leg comeback win over Barcelona and Manchester City retained the EPL. Last week Bury clinched promotion to League One.

Stockport County and Chorley finished top and second in the National League North. Chorley beat Spennymoor Town yesterday on penalties to join the Hatters in the National League Premier.

Lancashire’s cricketers won at Lords to advance to the One Day Cup semi final, gaining their sixth win in seven matches. Warrington and St Helens secured big victories to retain their leading positions in the Super League Table.

Match Report: Salford cruise to Football League

Gallery of Salford’s Big Day

Until Saturday, there were already seven league clubs in Greater Manchester; Bolton Wanderers, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Wigan Athletic and the two Manchester clubs themselves.

On Saturday seven became eight, remarkably only four short of Greater London, when Salford City won the National League Play Off against AFC Fylde.

Salford City became Lancashire’s latest Football League team bringing the Red Rose county’s total to 16 depending on which century’s boundaries you use. (We included Liverpool and Everton but not Tranmere, or towns historically in Cheshire such as Crewe and Macclesfield.)

Lancashire derbies with Oldham and Morecambe await them next season. Macclesfield is 28 miles away though a Greater Manchester derby with Bury will have to wait as the Gigg Lane side won that aforementioned promotion.

Salford is famous however for a few things before its football club.

Coronation Street is set in the fictional town of Weatherfield which is based on Salford.

Despite its global popularity on the Irish folk scene, the internationally renowned folk song “Dirty Old Town” is about Salford, notwithstanding the world believing it to be an Irish ballad.

The fans singing it at Wembley below was quite an emotional occasion.

Of course, Salford’s most famous contribution to the planet does not come in music, drama or even sport, but in art.

LS Lowry painted many scenes from Salford in his lifetime.

His distinctive style of painting portrayed Lancastrian urban landscapes but that style portrayed human beings as “matchstalk men”, which was initially a pejorative term applied to his work with high end art critics who dismissed the value of his work. It was soon adopted though by his fans.

Two years after his death in 1976, Brian and Michael reached number one in the UK pop charts with a tribute single to Lowry called “Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs” which talked of his portrayal of Salford as well as the Manchester area Ancoats.

Lowry’s work is now proudly displayed on a permanent basis in The Lowry, a purpose-built art gallery on Salford Quays, named in his honour. The man himself Lowry rejected a knighthood in 1968 as well as four other honours, and consequently holds the record for rejecting honours from the British political establishment.

On Saturday at Wembley, it would be false to portray Salford City as northern industrial underdogs trying to overcome the sneering of big city elites.

Money has been invested into the club and their payroll was somewhat larger than their opponents from Lancashire’s Fylde Coast, AFC Fylde not far from Blackpool. Salford had also finished two places above their opponents. Their ownership group contains the alumni of a once greater Manchester United side, the fact that has shamefully attracted more media attention than too many of the players.

Yesterday it was those players however who took centre stage.

Centre half Carl Piergianni has played as far afield as South Melbourne and was already Salford’s man of the match before he scored the club’s second goal with one of the myriad of headers at both ends he had won.

His partner Lancastrian Nathan Pond was just as solid and Ibou Touray, a Scouser who plays internationally for Gambia was as impressive as they were, even adding Salford’s third goal.

Another Lancastrian Danny Whitehead has a superb battle with Fylde’s Ryan Croasdale who when not marking Whitehead superbly, was always the man on hand to take the pass from a colleague under pressure. At 24, Croasdale could do a great job for a club at a higher level not that Fylde would want to lose such an influence. No Salford player let the red shirt or the red rose down.

But the day belonged to the city of Salford, its history and its citizens and we leave the last words to Brian and Michael.

Not a cloth cap in sight, but Lowry would have been proud of just how tall the Matchstalk Men walked on Wembley’s hallowed turf.

You may sing along


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