Salford City will face League One side Portsmouth for the Papa John’s Trophy final on Saturday in what is the first of a double-header Wembley weekend.

The Ammies reached their first ever EFL final over a year ago, however the fixture was delayed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Then managed by Graham Alexander, Salford booked their place at the home of football with a penalty shoot-out win over Newport County after a goalless game in South Wales.

Now, Alexander’s predecessor, Richie Wellens, will be hoping to end his side’s poor run of form when he leads them out against Portsmouth who currently sit sixth in League One.

I spoke to Salford City fans Andy Thurston and Maxwell Margetson to get their thoughts ahead of the game:

Just how important is the Papa John’s Trophy to Salford City?

Andy: “I don’t see it as important to us, we would much rather get promotion especially as no fans are allowed, however It would be class for us to win it now were in the final, keep up our 100% record at Wembley.”

Maxwell: “I think for the club obviously it’s important, any competition to win is massive. I think for the long term vision of the club it’s not one of the biggest priorities, Richie Wellens himself said that League Two and winning that is kind of his biggest ambition.

“I think in terms of the fans that’s obviously what they want as well but for the game itself it’s obviously really important and any silverware is a big deal.”

It’s been a whole year since the semi final, and now there will be no supporters for the final. How disappointing are the circumstances for the game?

Andy: “Massive disappointment, we were going to be involved in a game with over 60k fans in attendance and that’s mental for us. The only blessing for is no Portsmouth fans to get behind their team but if you ask anyone attached to the club it’s a disappointment. But come match day I’ll have the buzz.”

Maxwell: “Obviously we’ve got very fond memories of Wembley, especially with the playoff final win to get us into league two. Any fan would love to be part of the atmosphere and make that trip down to Wembley. It’s a massive shame.”

Salford have suffered a bit of a dip in form recently, are you still confident ahead of the game?

Andy: “I’m always confident we will get the win every game this one’s no exception, we’ve plenty in our squad to challenge Portsmouth especially in a one-off game.”

Maxwell: “Portsmouth are a division above us which does make a big difference and they are performing in league one.

“We’re a team who I think everyone in the fan base is in agreement that we should be in the playoffs. The team aren’t really gelling at the minute, whether it’s the way we play or the new recruits we’ve brought in, somethings just not quite there at the minute.

“I feel like with the poor spell of form, I’m probably not the most optimistic to be honest, but it’s a final and especially with football it’s such an unpredictable sport.”

How could this the result of this game potentially affect the rest of the season?

Andy: “Hopefully the squad finishes the game without injuries or suspensions other than that a nice Wembley win and a trophy under our belts can only help install a wining mentality into the squad to finish the season.”

Maxwell: “I feel like as a fan if we do pull a result, that should be the catalyst to push on from the drab spell we’re having now and hopefully by the end of the season we can be in the position that we want to be (the playoffs).”

The Ammies come into the final as the underdogs, does this suit them and could they use it to their advantage?

Andy: “One hundred per cent, due to league status and size of the clubs, We suit being the underdog but not too sure folk link us to being the underdog anymore with the investment we’ve had into the club.”

Maxwell: “Yes and no. I feel like especially this season because we’ve bought all of these new players in and obviously we do have money from the owners, it’s kind of like every team you play in League Two you’re supposedly the best team because we’re the favourites for promotion.

“And I think that’s been really damaging to Salford itself because I feel like when we play against teams, they almost step their game up a bit and there’s always that extra intent to pull a result against us.

“I think because we’re so used to playing teams that perform really well against us because we’re not the underdog in them games, to be an underdog in one game it’ll be an interesting game.”

How should Richie Wellens’ approach this game? Should he set the side up to go for it, or be more cautious?

Andy: “Richie will set up the team to win no doubts about it. A one-off game at Wembley our defensive record this season has been superb so I’ve no worries on that front.

“With Portsmouth being the favourites, I’d expect them to come at us which will give us space in behind their defence.

“No fans or not, their fans won’t put up with being 2nd best to little old Salford.”

Maxwell: “Wellens on his first interview said he wants to bring an attacking DNA to the side. But I feel that kind of lacks in terms of free-flowing attacking football that he kind of said. Personally, with the quality we do have I think we have to quality to go and show the game to Portsmouth, and I feel like the more you sit back the more you invite the pressure.

“I’d say at the end of the day go for it because I feel like you’ve got nothing to lose. I think for the club, to lose the final I don’t think it would be the end of the world because League Two is the main focus.”

The full interview with Maxwell:

In what is certainly set up to be an intriguing encounter, Salford City against Portsmouth kicks off in the capital at 3pm and will be broadcast live on Sky Sports.

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