SINGAPORE - It is one thing to take over and succeed with a football club with strong foundations already in place. It is another to build a non-league team from scratch and achieve the improbable.
This is exactly what Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim has done with Salford City, which he co-owns with Manchester United's Class of '92, as the English club earned promotion to the National Football League on Saturday (May 12) after beating AFC Fylde 3-0 in the National League play-off final at Wembley.
Graham Alexander's side took the lead through Emmanuel Dieseruvwe and Carl Piergianni's second-half header was followed by Ibou Touray's decisive third.
Lim, 66, is not done yet as he eyes the English Premier League as a long-term target.
He told The Straits Times on Sunday: "To see Salford City in the National Football League is a dream come true. We achieved four promotions in five years and we are three promotions away from the EPL. In life, you must have patience and belief."
Lim was joined by his co-owners and United greats David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Phil Neville and Gary Neville in the stands as their club made history by reaching League Two for the first time since they were formed in 1940.
The Ammies had finished third among 24 teams during the regular season and, with only league winners Leyton Orient earning automatic promotion, Salford had to scrape through the play-offs with a penalty shoot-out win over Eastleigh, before seeing off Fylde to secure promotion.
Since taking over in 2014, Lim has been the largest single shareholder. He now has 40 per cent and the former Red Devils - including Paul Scholes - own 10 per cent each.
A large part of Salford's success is down to the new owners' financial support - the club reportedly received more than £2.4 million (S$4.2 million) in interest-free loans - that enabled them to sign key players like striker Adam Rooney, who joined from top Scottish club Aberdeen for a reported £300,000, a huge fee in non-league football.
Gary told ST the budget for next season is unlikely to veer much from this season's, adding: "Four promotions in five years. We said we would do it in eight, and we thought that was quite aggressive.
"It is tough, but we have done it and we are so proud and delighted. Five years ago, we had 180 fans, now we have got a few thousand here, so it is amazing.
"The National League is harder to get out of in the sense that League Two has three automatic promotion slots and one via play-off, so we are definitely going for it."