Dom Gall: Kelty Hearts look like Scotland’s Salford City

There's no Class of '92 involvement, thankfully.

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Salford City – the club partially owned by Manchester United’s famous Class of 92 – will be playing in the fourth tier of English football next season after winning promotion through the National League playoffs.

Salford have gained a lot of publicity in recent seasons for essentially buying their success, with none other than David Beckham being their most recent investor. In 2014, Salford announced plans to be a Championship club in 15 years and it’s so far so good for the club as they’ve climbed four leagues in five seasons.

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Salford were brought to the attention of Scottish football fans last summer when they made a shock move for Aberdeen’s Adam Rooney, with rumours suggesting the player saw his wages doubled to drop down to England’s fifth tier.

So, I bet you’re now wondering, who are the Scottish Salford City?

Allow me to introduce you to Kelty Hearts.

Kelty have been working hard on building a strong foundation in recent years. They’ve got a great little stadium – the first comparison to Salford – and a big fan base for the Scottish Lowland League.

In 2017 Kelty jumped ship from the Junior Leagues and joined the East of Scotland league – the sixth tier of the Scottish pyramid – with ambitions of joining the SPFL. They timed this move perfectly, as the following season no fewer than 39 Junior clubs made the same move.

The head start allowed Kelty to win the EoS, which they did in first gear with a vastly superior squad against many clubs who don’t even pay players. In their debut Lowland League season they finished third, 18 points off top spot.

During 18/19, Kelty made a big statement with the arrival of Rangers legend Barry Ferguson as manager. I watched Ferguson try his best to relegate Clyde in his last role and firmly believe he’s useless as a gaffer, but it’s undeniable that his name has massively raised the profile of the club and helped attract a higher standard of footballer.

Not content with a third-placed finish, Kelty this week announced the signing of no fewer than four SPFL players ahead of 19/20. With one player from the Championship and three more from League One (three and two tiers higher than they currently sit), Kelty are showing all the signs of spending big to progress and you can’t fault their ambitions.

Nathan Austin, a striker signed from Inverness, was playing in a Premiership playoff semi-final just two days before his unveiling at Kelty.

Another signing, Dylan Easton, has played SPFL football for over five years and proven time and time again he’s too good for this level.

Rumours running through Scottish football suggest Easton was offered an eye-watering sign on bonus and enough per week to make almost anyone quit their job, with further rumours suggesting he rejected full-time football at Dundee United for the move.

These rumours, coupled with the sheer quantity of top-class signings, do make you question the sustainability of their strategy.

With an average attendance of under 400, it’s safe to assume they are reliant on other sources of funding.

One thing is for sure, it will be fascinating to watch how the club develops over the next decade and see, like Salford, if they are able to establish themselves as a decent League club. Kelty must surely be considered early favourites to lift the 19/20 Lowland League trophy and, with many more ex-Junior clubs trying to emulate Kelty’s success, SPFL2 clubs will be looking over their shoulders.

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