Since arriving in early November, Richie Wellens has endured a mixed start to life as Salford City boss.
Wellens took charge of his first Ammies game on November 7, winning 2-0 in the FA Cup 2nd round. His first league game saw Salford fall victim to the same result, losing to Bolton Wanderers in SkyBet League Two. It is early doors for Wellens and his Salford career, but what can Salford City fans expect from their new manager?
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Wellens began his managerial career on a caretaker basis whilst at then League One side Oldham Athletic. Wellens was working under experienced manager John Sheridan, but Sheridan’s departure in September 2017 left Wellens in charge on an interim basis. After a five-match unbeaten run, Wellens was appointed permanent manager in October 2017.
Oldham Athletic fan and football writer Andrew Haines spoke to Salford Now, and provided more insight as to how the Oldham team played under Wellens’ stewardship: “It was certainly much more attacking. I think clean sheets were few and far between, which was a problem for us as well, because we had some problems in the goalkeeping position.
“I’d say Wellens is an attacking manager. He wants to see his players control the ball, and entertain the fans, but that was at the expense of clean sheets because there weren’t many [games] where we kept a clean sheet that season.”
The attacking identity that Wellens was building at Oldham carried over to his next club, Swindon Town. Vic Morgan, member of the Swindon Town Official Supporters Club described further how Wellens likes his sides to play: “If you’d have asked any Swindon Town fan up until around three weeks ago what you can expect [from Wellens] it would be incredibly hard-working pressing football team that likes to get in other teams faces and produce very good football. [Salford] can expect a hard-working team, and I think he demands that of his players.
“Like Salford they were beaten in their first league match under Wellens and like Swindon they lost their first league match under him, ironically against Carlisle rather heavily 4-0 at home, and from then you saw a rapid improvement and he does demand the best out of his players and he demands the best out of himself as well.”
On what Salford fans can expect from Wellens, Haines replied: “Entertainment, I think. He’s got players [at Salford] that he can make into an exciting side.
“In an attacking sense he’ll play exciting football. He likes to play an exciting brand of football and that is something positive for Salford fans.”
Encouraging news for Ammies fans then perhaps, with Salford currently lying 11th in the league table. Promotion is being tipped for the Ammies, with Wellens achieving the very same feat last season with Swindon Town. It was this success that contributed to the good relationship between Wellens and the fans, adding salt to the wound of the news of Wellens’ departure.
Morgan added: “There’s also a great deal of bitterness, you must understand Swindon fans because they had this manager who, I think I said to him in the interview, invested a lot of time and they cared for him. They thought he was a great manager; he had done a great job for their club therefore they invested in him.
“The basic thing is, he wants to go to a club where there is a good chance of success, with the backing Salford have got, with the money that they’ve got behind them, he feels that’s the right place to be.”
Wellens’ ambition is clear for all to see, aligning with the impressive vision of the Salford City owners. After Wellens left Swindon, he took part in an interview with the supporter’s club, hosted by Morgan. In the interview, Wellens spoke of off the pitch frustrations regarding transfers being a contributing factor to his departure from Swindon.
This was also mirrored at his time at Oldham according to Haines: “He is one you want batting on your side and since he has left, I haven’t spoken to him personally, but he seems quite bitter about the way things went at Oldham and perhaps the way things went off the pitch and perhaps he has good reason to be.
“He’s probably quite a passionate manager that doesn’t hide his feelings all the time and like I say that’s good to have when he’s batting on your side but if you’re playing against him it’s not ideal.”
The discontent Wellens is said to have had at Oldham and his frustration with transfers at Swindon seems less likely to occur at Salford, with the resources the club possesses and the relationship Wellens will already have with the Salford owners having had a short stint as a player for the Ammies back in 2016 and his time at Manchester United early in his playing career.
Fans of both Oldham and Swindon believe that Wellens has the ability to lead Salford forward – Haines gave this reply when asked whether Wellens could succeed at the Peninsula: “Yes, if I had to sum it up in one word. Salford have got the money behind them haven’t they and once you’ve got that it’s about picking the right person to lead you, obviously Wellens has proven at Swindon when he’s got backing, to back him they bought [Eoin] Doyle after doing well on loan, ultimately they ended up selling him and for that period when he got backed by Swindon he got them promoted.
“I think he’s got the ability definitely to, if he’s got the backing and things are going well and steady off of the pitch, I think he can take Salford places.”
Morgan added to this sentiment: “He’ll carry on like a professional, I don’t think it will phase him at all. I think he’s aware there’s a lot of pressure on him, I don’t think you go to Salford and expect an easy ride.
“So he knows there’s pressure on him, I think he admitted that in the interview that he could be out very quickly if he doesn’t produce the results, it’s that simple, it’s a results business and if he can’t produce what he did at Swindon quite quickly then he knows there is pressure. But he’ll deal with that, there’s no question”.
Salford face Bradford at the Peninsula on Saturday, with the Ammies looking to find their first league win since Halloween against Wellens’ former employers Oldham Athletic. The next game does not determine how successful Richie Wellens will be at Salford City, but at a club as ambitious as the Ammies, wins will need to start coming consistently in the league.
Will Richie Wellens be the man to take Salford City to the next level? Only time will tell.