With the League Two season starting on Saturday, Salford Now spoke to Ammies striker Ian Henderson, with focus on the upcoming 2021-22 campaign.
Salford City begin their season against Leyton Orient at the Peninsula Stadium on Saturday, August 7 in a bid to go one better than their 8th placed finish last season which saw the Ammies miss out on the League Two play-offs.
The previous season, affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, was taxing both physically and mentally for players.
Henderson said: “I think if you look at it up and down the country, we had to cram a fixture list into a nine-and-a-half month, ten month period instead of a longer period, so there were a lot of times where we played Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday.
“We’re only humans as professional athletes. So yes, it does take it out of you, but we’ve had a great bit of time off to recover, recoup and now start to lay the foundations of solid fitness towards enabling us to have a long and fruitful season ahead of ourselves”.
Henderson spoke optimistically ahead of the new campaign, showing no signs of any hangover from last season’s disappointment.
He said: “As a squad and a football club we’re super excited for the season ahead, we’ve had a real strong pre-season, it’s been fun, enjoyable, but a lot of hard work has gone in. A methodical pre-season in terms of building us up, and the now the whole squad is at full capacity in terms of ready for the season to start and hit the ground running”.
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The Ammies have made additions to the squad this summer, with the signings of several experienced players at this level including the likes of Conor McAleny, Tom King and Matty Lund.
The new recruits have slotted in well, with a lot of the group having some connection to most players.
Henderson said: “Football’s very much a small industry, we’re all interconnected somehow, so all of the boys that have come in would have either known players or players that would have known them previously to coming in and they’ve slotted in really well. First and foremost, they’re all great characters and they’re also going to add a great deal of quality to the squad”.
A player Henderson knows particularly well is Lund, with the pair playing together at Rochdale for four years.
Henderson said: “Matty (Lund) played with myself and Ash Eastham, there’s always going to be some element of an affinity with one and other.
“We got promoted together, had a hugely successful time together, but ‘Lundy’ as a football player is exceptional, in terms of what he does defensively and offensively, a real good passer of the ball, he moves with the ball over distance, he can then chip in with a fair few goals too, a wise head on himself as well”.
The ambition of Salford’s owners is no secret, but promotion from League Two has proven elusive since making it into the football league in 2018-19. The Ammies came close to reaching the play-offs last time out, with Henderson speaking of the team’s desire to improve on that finish.
He said: “Yeah, we narrowly missed out on those play-offs, but we as a team and as a squad need to take full responsibility for narrowly missing out, this season we want to rectify and improve on last year and ultimately the only way we can do that is to to finish in the top six to give ourselves the opportunity that the football club’s striving for”.
Henderson scored 18 goals in all competitions for the Ammies last season, a figure he wants to improve on in the next campaign.
He said: “I think there were a couple of dubious goals taken off of me last year!
“But you know I always set myself personal targets and I divulge those once the season is completed next year in 2022 so I keep those really, really close to my chest, of course you want to do better than you did the previous season”.
With fans set to be returning to the stands on Saturday, for the first time in 18 months, Henderson stressed the importance of the fans’ presence.
He said: “The last 18 months the grounds have been desolate and just to have people back in spectating, supporting, and cheering and all what comes with it, that’s the element that was lost I believe, no fault of its own, we went through a global pandemic where we had to be sensitive of all what was going on, so, you know the fans being back in the stadium is going to be exceptional, not just for the players but for the local community too”.