For most players, being involved in one top-of-the-table push a season would surely be enough to satisfy even the most competitive of appetites.

So how about being involved in two?

That is the scenario that Salford City’s Nick Haughton has found himself in this season.

The 22-year-old was all smiles after his late strike against Worcester
The 22-year-old was all smiles after his late strike against Worcester

On loan at Moor Lane from League One Fleetwood Town, the central midfielder was a part of Uwe Rosler’s squad chasing promotion to the Championship, before dropping down a couple of leagues to help Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley in their hunt for a third successive promotion with the Ammies.

An ambitious young man, Urmston-born Haughton came through the Bolton Wanderers academy before his release saw him move to Curzon Ashton.

A former England Schools player, the midfielder moved around the North West before impressing on trial at Fleetwood, who he signed for in 2014.

He had gone on to make 22 appearances for the Cod Army before arriving at Salford on loan and the player is the first to admit he had set his hopes high when he joined.

Haughton said: “I expected big things so I kind of expected a promotion push and I’m glad I’m involved in one.”

At just 22-years-old, Haughton is still learning the ropes of first team football, but his managers are confident he has the technical ability to succeed.

“You would go as far as saying technically he’s probably the best in non-league,” exclaimed co-manager Johnson.

“I’ve not seen a better footballer who can do what he can do.”

Morley, the other half of the managerial duo, said: “He’s unplayable at times, given the space he’ll hurt you.”

High praise from men who have seen ex-Premier League players grace the non-league circuit, including former West Brom forward Lee Hughes and Salford’s own former man Danny Webber, who notched up 39 top flight appearances.

However, it is not just Haughton’s technical ability that has impressed his managers.

“The important thing when a lad comes in on loan is how quickly they sort of integrate into the group,” said Johnson.

“He’s one of the boys already – he enjoys it, he sits with all the lads on the coach and enjoys the fun and games.”

And Haughton was quick to dish out as much praise on his managers for their support during his time at the club.

“Bernard and Jonno have been class with me, they’ve made me feel welcome since the moment I arrived,” Haughton said.

“They are always talking to me and helping me improve my game, I feel I have improved since I’ve come here and I think that’s down to the managers.”

Development is often the aim when a young player goes on loan, and both manager and player realise there is a lot to learn for the 22-year-old.

Haughton said: “I’ve improved in the ugly side of football in my time here, the defending etcetera.

“It’s what I’ve needed to push on at Fleetwood.”

Meanwhile Johnson also feels Haughton’s time in non-league will help him flourish higher up the tiers in English football.

“It’s not the same as in League One, League Two, when sides will sit back and let you have the ball,” explained Johnson.

“He’s learning how to work when we haven’t got the ball, things like that.”

Despite being used as a substitute for much of the season, Haughton has played a key role in their promotion push, none more so than with a late winner against Worcester to the delight of the Salford fans, who have created their own chant for Nick, to the tune of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ hit ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’.

“I’ve not really scored a more important goal in my career, it was a great feeling” admitted Haughton.

“I’d like to say thank you to all the Salford fans, they’ve been absolute class since I’ve come here, always encouraging the players and backing us.

“I’m happy with my song they’ve made up as well!”

The chant, which can be heard from the Moor Lane terraces, goes: “Oh Nicky Haughton, you make us feel alright. Oh Nicky Haughton, you play like dynamite. Oh Nicky Haughton, get that boy on the ball.”

Looking forward, Haughton is not sure where his future lies, but his manager is expecting great things from him, provided he gets the game time.

The 22-year-old admitted: “I want to get promotion with Salford this season and see where things go from there.”

As for manager Johnson, he said: “We all hope he plays at the highest level he can, that be league one or in the championship or whether that be the conference with us next season if we win promotion.

“If I was to give him some advice, he needs to be playing regular football, just for his own development.”

For Haughton, the future, wherever that may be, looks bright and perhaps another promotion fight is just around the corner.

By Russell Edge

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