“The aim is to win the league every season” – Former Rhyl boss Greg Strong gives a glimpse of what it is like to work under Salford City’s Class of 92

Working for Salford City isn’t like working for other football clubs.

For a start they are run by arguably the most successful group of footballers this country has ever seen.

They’re joined by another big financial backer, they’ve climbed through the leagues in recent years and the rise of the club is like nothing English football has seen.

Their mantra is win, always win and win at all costs.

Head of recruitment Greg Strong is one of a number of people who work in the engine room of this unique football club and have become accustomed to working in a high pressure environment.

As Strong admits, working for the Ammies is different to working for any other club, but he wouldn’t change any of it.

“It is quite rare now in the world for people to say what they want to achieve, people are scared of failure,” he explained.

“People don’t seem to want to say what they want to achieve because they are scared of failure.

“Walking in to this environment, the owners have been brought up in a way that everything is about winning.

“They are not shy or scared of saying it and that is what it is like here.

“The talk is, lets go and win the league. If we don’t and we finish in the play offs, we sit down and have a discussion and see what we can do better.

“There is no doubt that every season at this football club is about winning the league.”

Strong has been in the role since November 2018 and prior to that he held the same role with former team mate Derek Adams at Plymouth Argyle.

He came into it on the back of a 334 game career and six years in the hot seat as manager as one of Wales’ biggest clubs, Rhyl.

It was a six year spell that came after Rhyl’s last Welsh Premier League success and it included big games, a relegation on a technicality and a season that saw his side go unbeaten.

As Strong explains, he learned so much during his six years in the dugout.

“We had won the league with a good side and I had always been in football since 15 when I was offered a pro contact,” explained Storng.

“I had my licences and had coached in Bolton’s academy, and the club offered me the job after we had won the league.

“We had a big budget that needed to be cut when I took over and I probably learned so much in those first two years.

“It was a crash course in management.

“Nigel Atkins rang me up at one point and I said to him, I’m not sure I can even do this.

“We had lost all out top players, George Horan and Greg Stones for example to the Chester revolution and I told him I didn’t think I could do it.

“He said you’ll learn more now than you will on any coaching course, so stick at it.

“And I’m glad I did, it was tough but we had quite a successful spell there.”

During his time at Belle Vue, Rhyl had been on the verge of qualifying for Europe, but due to issues off the pitch the club were denied a domestic licence by the FAW.

This meant they were demoted to the Cymru Alliance, the second tier of Welsh football.

Strong was forced to cut the budget and just as they were looking like bouncing back at the first time of asking, he was told the club wouldn’t be applying for promotion.

“I was told half way through the season, and that was very disappointing,” said Strong.

“So we cut the budget again and then we went unbeaten. I think we were the last side in Wales to go unbeaten in a season.

“We had some great memories there, playing Bangor and Prestatyn in front of 1,500 people.

“Those games were blood and thunder, fan segregation and they really were great games.

“In the end it ran its natural course and it came to an end.”

In the years that followed Strong’s departure in 2015, things went from bad to worse for the seaside club.

They dropped down the league, were relegated back to the second tier and then after the club suffered financial difficulty it was dissolved in April last year.

A phoenix club, CPD Y Rhyl 1879 was created and when football resumes after the pandemic they will begin at the bottom of the footballing pyramid.

But their old manager has backed them to return to their former glories.

“I was proud of my team there, were fought hard,” added Strong.

“They seemed to go down hill after I left, and I am not at all saying that was down to me.

“They have some great people at the club who wear their heart on their sleeve.

“People who have even put their own finances in to help the club and it is sad to see what has happened.

“But if some of those people are still involved I am sure they will be back where they should be soon.”

After parting ways with the Welsh Premier League club, Strong was left without a club for the first time since his career began at Wigan Athletic in 1992.

A few weeks after leaving the club he was called by former team mate Adams, who asked Strong to join the staff at Plymouth.

He went in as head of recruitment and loved it from the off, enjoying success at Home Park with his former team mate.

“I had two young children so said I couldn’t move there, so I became head of recruitment and I loved it down there,” explained Strong.

“I’ve not done it before and it is a huge club with not a lot of competition down there, they have the chance to be huge.

“We had some really successful times, we lost in the play off final then earned automatic promotion.

“They we finished just outside the League One play offs, which with our budget was unbelievable.

“Then the following season I accepted the job at Salford.”

Strong was the sole man in recruitment at Plymouth, but at Salford he was part of a team of five scouting players and opposition.

And he has given an insight into what life is like behind the curtain of a scouting operation.

“So we have someone looking at opposition, someone on data and we look at players according to key performance information, KPI,” said Strong.

“A player will be flagged up on our system if they tick our boxes and we will go out and watch them, and it is all about being ahead of the pack.

“It is about finding good young players and good young players with a re-sale value.”

The role couldn’t be further away from being a manager, but it is one Strong loves and he admits these days he gets his buzz from finding top players and securing deals.

“I thought I’d miss the buzz but I don’t at all, because the final two or three years at Rhyl was more than the 90 minutes, it was everything that went with it,” admitted Strong.

“It was only when you came out of it you realised how much it consumed your life.

“Now I get the buzz from watching a player who performs as I expected them to and the chase with the agent, the meetings and getting a deal done.

“I still get that same buzz from that rather than standing on the sidelines.”

In recent months the former Rhyl manager has been on our TV screens, as part of the Class of 92 documentary that has charted Salford’s rise to the Football League.

In the documentary it is plain to see what one of Strong’s bosses, Gary Neville, thinks of agents when trying to tie up a deal.

Agents have bad names in football, but as Strong explains, there are bad apples in all industries and also very good ones.

He added: “You get hard working and good agents, like any industry you get some bad ones.

“But most are there for their clients, not for themselves.

“I have good relationships with a lot of them, then with others you have to bite your lip and get your head down, because you want to secure the player.

“Agents won’t change, they will forever make money and there will forever be good and bad agents.

“It is just about getting on with it.”

Elsewhere in the documentary, it is obvious that Gary Neville is the driving force behind the success that Salford have had.

The others players play a part but he is the leader in the board room, and Strong has revealed that it is a demanding environment.

But he would rather that than an attitude of settling for consolidating in mid table.

He added: “There will never be a conversation about consolidating in the league, it is about how do we get better and how do we win the league.

“It is pressure but I’d take that every day of the week than being mediocre.

“Gary is a demanding boss, but even if we had Lionel Messi he would want to know how we could get better, and I like that.

“It is a winning mentality, about not settling for anything less.

“It is contagious at times and they are ambitious and you can’t argue with what they say after what they have done in football.”

Strong’s role now is based in stands and in meeting rooms analyzing opponents, finding players and doing what he can to find that extra few per cent.

And that is the way he wants it. The former Rhyl man doesn’t see his future back in the dugout.

“I don’t see a future as a manager, I am happy where I am,” added Strong.

“I have had offers and I don’t mean to be big headed saying this, because I don’t mean it like that at all, but the level I would want to go in at, I wouldn’t get the opportunity now because I’ve been away from it for too long.

“I have had offers but I’ve no desire to go in at that level, and I don’t mean that to sound big headed at all.

“That doesn’t light my fire at the moment, what I am doing now does.”

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