The ‘Devilution’ was the self-imposed tagline for the much talked about Salford Red Devils ahead of the 2014 season. With a fanfare and media frenzy usually reserved for better supported clubs such as Wigan, Leeds, and St Helens, it was thanks to enigmatic owner Dr Marwan Koukash that all eyes were on the only premier sports team in this highly populated city.
Not afraid in making his voice heard, Koukash called out the people of Salford and beyond to repay not only his vision but also his big money spending spree that saw the club bring in big name players such as Harrison Hansen, Adrian Morley, Rangi Chase and Junior Sa’u.
If pressure makes diamonds then it is only now that Salford has reaped the rewards of the pre-season pressure. A season that at one stage appeared to have turned into a catastrophic campaign has now – thanks in turn to Iestyn Harris – turned into one of genuine excitement and hope thanks to a combination of on-field improvement and off-field stability.
The appointment of Harris as head coach – replacing the vastly experienced Brian Noble in April – was for some an underwhelming and curious appointment. Harris, who coached Crusaders before joining Wigan as assistant coach to Shaun Wane, was deemed by many as too inexperienced to deal with the pressure and expectations of a club that required a leader of men to be able to satisfy such a ruthless, but passionate owner.
Since the arrival of Harris, Salford have made notable improvements week by week. It is unfortunate that the league table doesn’t reflect the crunching tackles made by a pack that rarely gives an inch or the sheer excitement felt by the Red Devils faithful when Junior Sa’u unleashes another brilliant performance. You may read this and think I have sat and penned this whilst wearing a Salford shirt: far from it. As a season ticket holder I have attended every home match this season and have witnessed a change in both work ethic and team morale. Changes haven’t solely come on the pitch either; the off-field product is finally starting to resemble one of a well balanced professional outfit. The appointment of Martin Vickers has at long last given the supporters a person with whom they can communicate with.
The Devils last week released the 2015 season ticket package with an easy to understand payment plan, a plan that is welcomed considering the ongoing struggle for many in this economic climate. What is important and vital is the way in which the club is perceived, and I have no doubt in my mind that this club could be the sporting icon of this ever evolving city, but this can only be achieved by heading into the community to make both the players, staff and club merchandise accessible. Negativity is an unfortunate mindset of many Salfordians, an apathy that has been built up over several decades of lowly league positions and uninspired C.E.O’s.
One thing is for certain, the people of Salford both young and old must find a place in their lives for the ‘Original Red Devils’. 2015 will welcome quality signings such as Michael Dobson and Ben Jones Bishop, with both superstars set to link up with the current crop of talented stars such as Niall Evalds, Lama Tasi, Kevin Locke and Theo Fages.
Irrespective of this seasons final competition standing, it is to you the people of Salford and Greater Manchester that I say this: get on board now, because come 2015 Salford are ready to bring the good times back.