It is a little too soon to declare a book of the year, but this intriguing tale of failure and success in the city of Salford merits consideration for such an accolade and must surely be one of the most significant titles to appear this year.

This thanks to a combination of extensive research, checking and double-checking of facts and its well-written account not just of what happened but why. And all of it illustrated in colour and black and white.

Above all else, it spells out the consequences of insular thinking and a stubborn refusal to accept that a larger neighbour – be it a city, a country or a competing business – has chosen the right way of doing things, possibly the only sensible way of doing those things, but to plough on regardless in the warped belief that it is more honorable to err than conform.

Salford and Manchester sit either side of the River Irwell a bit like the Danube separates the cities of Pest and Buda, except that while the Hungarians succeeded in merging those communities in 1873 to create Budapest, Manchesterford exists only in fiction as the location of Victoria Wood’s wonderful Acorn Antiques. Salford and Manchester sit so close together that visitors may not recognise when they have crossed from one to the other, and as the authors explain, Salford – which waited until 1926 to be granted city status – lacks a centre; when its citizens talked of shopping in town, they meant Manchester.

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