2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 18 – Saturday 11 January 2020: Salford City v Northampton Town

Matchday programme cover

A New Year and 71 days since my last game. I’d had quite a dip in mood due to a number of issues that were going on in my personal life.

I think I am a strong person, I’m 57 years old, I have been employed all my life since leaving school in 1981, I have had a mostly comfortable life financially, strangely I find myself in a similar financial position now that I did when I was 21, but that’s a whole other story. I have lots of close friends and a wonderful family, I have been healthy all my life, with the exception of sporting injuries, I was still playing football up to the lockdown.

So why would I suddenly go from being primarily happy to become so sad that I was contemplating suicide at Newark Railway station in the space of six months? That was four years ago, and I had a complete breakdown and was under the care of a psychiatrist and diagnosed as suffering from severe depression and started on a course of anti-depressants. Shortly afterwards I had a further severe dip in mood and took myself to Leeds General Infirmary as I was feeling a danger to my welfare. I never made it to the hospital, instead I walked for miles along the canal and railway line, for some reason I have a fascination with trains when I am feeling suicidal, contemplating which would be the best way to go – instantly being hit by a train, or slowly drowning. I’d heard that drowning was a calming experience once the panic was over. Also it would affect very few people, possibly the person that found me. If I got hit by a train, I knew it would pretty certain to be over, but what about the trauma it would cause the driver? So I walked and walked from Leeds City Centre to Shipley Railway station, around 18 or 19 miles, and then caught the train home to Guiseley. I’d left the house around 6am, returned home at around 3.30 pm, my ex-wife got in at around 4:30 pm. Do you know, not once did she try to contact me at any time from waking to find me not in the house to returning home at 4.30pm.

I’ve analysed a lot in the past ten years and fortunately haven’t dipped as low as that again for a long time. But at the back end of 2019 something had caused me to go into a funk, and not the James Brown type of funk either. However, the New Year was a fresh start, so I began my football journey again with added verve.

Salford City were the team I had chosen to restart my journey. A fairly new team to the higher echelons of football pyramid, with 2019/20 being their first in the Football League. They are probably best known for their takeover in 2014 by some of the ‘Class of ‘92’ from Manchester United – Ryan Giggs, the Neville Brothers – Phil and Gary, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt, with David Beckham taking a stake in the club in January 2019. The Club also featured in a BBC documentary series, Class of 92: Out of their League which ran for two series. However, an abiding memory of one of the Class of ‘92 is Dennis Wise getting Nicky Butt sent off by pinching the hairs on his legs. I still find it funny to this day!

Following the takeover Salford had a meteoric rise to League Two, which saw them climb from playing in the Northern Premier League Division One North in 2014/15 to the Football League in just five years. Moor Lane has been their home ground since 1978 and is unrecognisable from those days having been substantially redeveloped and is now known as the Peninsular Stadium. Northampton Town were the visitors for my first game of 2020.

Goal-mouth action

Like my visit to York, the weather was not at its best and there were some sustained periods of torrential rain during the game. So to a brief summary of the match. The Ammies went ahead after twenty minutes when Jack Baldwin, on-loan from Sunderland, headed home Craig Conway’s corner to put Salford one-up. The lead though lasted just nine minutes, when The Cobblers levelled. Salford failed to clear the ball properly and Northampton swept the play from left to right via Nicky Adams to Sam Hoskins, who arrowed a great shot into the corner – it had a touch of the Carlos Alberto about it (circa 1970 World Cup Final – the fourth Brazil goal). Half-time, all square 1-1.

Northampton started the second-half brightly and had a couple of decent chances with Vadaine Oliver hitting the side netting, before Andy Williams went round Salford ‘keeper Kyle Letheren but was forced wide and was unable to get a shot in. Williams though made up for that just after the hour mark. The Cobblers broke from half-way and after Salford couldn’t clear the cross, the rebound dropped to Williams who volleyed it home much to the delight of the travelling Northampton fans behind the goal. Salford battled for an equaliser and created a good chance after some patient build-up with Thomas-Assante slicing the chance wide from the left edge of the six-yard box. Substitute Hunter then nearly made a name for himself as his cross caused chaos in the Town box, with ‘keeper Cornell grateful to cling on to the loose ball. He then had another effort as his curling cross was just kept out by Cornell as fellow substitute Adam Rooney just failed to get a touch that would have surely brought an equaliser. However, The Cobblers held on for a 2-1 win and three points in their promotion push.


Saturday 11 January 2020

Sky Bet League Two

Salford City 1 (Baldwin 20’) Northampton Town 2 (Hoskins 29’, Williams 63’)

Venue: Peninsular Stadium

Attendance: 2,919

Salford City: Letheren, Wiseman (Pond 86’), Hughes, Burgess, Touray, Jervis, Baldwin, Towell, Conway (Hunter 70’), Thomas-Assante, Armstrong (Rooney 70’).

Unused Substitutes: Neal, Hogan, Lloyd-McGoldrick, Doyle.

Northampton Town: Cornell, Goode, Wharton, Turnbull, Hoskins, Lines, Watson, Adams (Harriman 87’), Anderson (Warburton 77’), Williams (Roberts 90+4), Oliver

Unused Substitutes: Hall-Johnson, Pollock, Martin, Arnold.


Steve Blighton

Steven Bell interview: Wednesday 04 September 2019

Football Book Reviews caught up with Steven Bell the author of From Triumph to Tragedy: The Chapecoense Story (Pitch Publishing) to talk about his recently published book.

Football Book Reviews (FBR): Your day job is as an engineer, but what is your football background and how did that lead to you writing ‘From Triumph to Tragedy’?

Steven Bell (SB): My background – well firstly as a poor amateur player! But a huge football fan who grew up in the 90s and became besotted with Sir Alex Ferguson’s Class of 92. It was then Euro ’96 which swung me towards supporting England really rather than a club side at that stage if I’m honest. That subsequently  led me to becoming obsessed with the World Cup in particular and the whole colour, fans, passion and spectacle of the tournament.

My first real World Cup experience was watching Brazil win it in 1994, and when they were hosts in 2014, I knew I just had to go. Going there I made a lot of contacts and started following Brazilian football. The group I was with stayed in Rio for six weeks, next to the old training ground of Flamengo and I sort of adopted them as my Brazilian team and began following their results. When I was back in the UK the first result I looked at was one that was a huge upset, when Flamengo, the biggest team in Brazil, were beaten by a team I’d never heard of called Chapecoense. That was at the back end of 2014, and after doing a bit of digging discovered that they were a team that over the last few years had come from nothing – non league, on the verge of going out of business – to the top division in Brazil. It connected with me as a fantastic sporting story, with a couple of individuals, like the goalkeeper Danilo and star striker Bruno Rangel, with incredible individual journeys, overcoming poverty and making it to the top at the back end of their careers.

Fast forward two years to November 2016, and I woke up to an alert on my phone from all the news outlets that the team had been involved in a tragic plane crash on their way to what would have been their biggest match in the club’s history. I got hooked on the story from there and decided to research it for the book.

FBR: So, does the book trace that story from 2014?

SB: It actually goes back to my love and passion for both Brazilian football and the World Cup with Brazil winning it in 1994 and how that team inspired change in tactics and culture towards football in the country. It was an influence on Chapecoense and their style of play, they didn’t mind being the underdog, they didn’t mind that other clubs had better individual players – Chape could defend and dig in, scrapping and battling to get results.

So, in terms of this book, the story of Chapecoense starts in earnest in 2006, when they were a non league team, pretty much part-time, basically a team and a club falling to pieces. However, the local businessmen didn’t want to be part of a city without a football team, so they got together and put in place a financial package which rescued the club from oblivion. In addition, they brought in a decent manager and created a sound infrastructure, and gradually the team went from strength to strength, which saw them eight years later make it to Brazil’s top division, Serie A, before tragedy struck when travelling to play the First-leg of the 2016 Copa Sudamericana Final against Atletico Nacional.

FBR: The book obviously takes the reader through to the tragic events of the 26 November 2016, but presume the story doesn’t stop there?

SB: In the timeline of the book, the crash is probably about three quarters of the way through and then there is a section on the how, why, and aftermath for the club, players, families, community and indeed Brazilian football as a whole. The book actually concludes with a reflection on the 2018 World Cup, which finished around the same time as I was completing the manuscript for From Triumph to Tragedy. As someone who has followed Brazilian football it was interesting to note the reaction to the teams defeat to Belgium in the Quarter-Finals, it was more reflective and a realisation that there is more to life than football, which I believe is a result of the Chapecoense disaster.

FBR: This seems then to be a significant change to the reaction in the wake of the 2014 World Cup Semi-Final mauling 7-1 by Germany.

SB: It’s funny you should mention that game, as I was watching it in Rio and it was a day I remember, with torrential rain all day. At the whistle, there were tears and tantrums, it felt like a national tragedy and was a surreal place to be on that day. For many Brazilians it felt like the world had come to an end. Compare that to four years later, when they valiantly lost to Belgium, when Brazil were the better team in the match, the reaction was completely different, and I genuinely believe that was influenced by the Chapecoense tragedy.

FBR: It is interesting that you talk about a change in fan perception and culture of football in Brazil arising from the crash. Does this book also show a different side and a change to Brazilian football in other ways, as many older football fans and perhaps historically, Brazil have been considered to have essentially one style of football?

SB: It is very much why I started the book at the point of the 1994 World Cup in the USA. Carlos Alberto Gomes Parreira was the Brazilian manager at the time and the style of play he brought in was very unpopular with the media and fans in Brazil who were used to free-flowing football. However, he didn’t have the players to continue that tradition, and he recognised that, so his squad were taught a more pragmatic style that was being used and working for European teams. Italy had been particularly successful with that approach over the previous decade or so, with the irony that Brazil beat the Italians at their own game in the ’94 Final on penalties. It did teach the Brazilian country nationwide that there was another way to play, what Pele had described as, the beautiful game.

FBR: With the recent events at Bury and Bolton Wanderers, does this book have a story to tell for those clubs and their fans at all?

SB: I think it does. Chapecoense were one meeting away from going out of business. Other clubs down the years have proved that there is life after the most trying circumstances. It’s funny what difference a decade can make. Chape in 2006 were on their knees and yet ten years later were taking part in the finals of an international tournament they could only have dreamed of previously. Who knows what lies ahead for Bury and Bolton ten years from now.

FBR: Finally, do you still follow the game closely in Brazil?

SB: Writing this book has been a big part of my life and I’ll always have that interest in the game in Brazil. As I said earlier I was caught up in the furore of the Class of ’92, so I will always say Manchester United were my first team, but having moved to Huddersfield, the Terriers are a passionate club – I live within walking distance of the ground – I can’t help but be caught up in the club. They aren’t doing very well at the minute, and the title of my book, From Triumph to Tragedy, could equally apply to Huddersfield Town at the minute! However, I’m sure they will soon be on the up.

FBR: Steven, many thanks for your time and good luck with what sounds like a fascinating story.


Saturday 28 September 2019 – Steven will be talking about From Triumph to Tragedy prior to the Huddersfield Town v Millwall fixture in the White Rose Club Lounge in the main stand at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Saturday 05 October 2019 – Book signing at Huddersfield Waterstones (11:00 – 15:00)