Assessment of Every Remaining Bury Player in the Close Season of 2016/2017

With the retained list covered, my attention now turns to the 18 (plus Ryan Lowe) currently remaining players and how they performed in 2016/2017:

williams-43-shirt107-3213480_613x460Ben Williams, 34

2016/2017 Bury stats (all competitions): 2,550 minutes played, 28 starts, 0 sub appearances; 61 goals conceded, 2 clean sheets; 0 goals, 0 assists, 2 hockey passes.

Assessment: One of the more difficult players to truly judge. He arrived on a free transfer from Bradford City having been part of a defensive unit which kept an outstanding 22 clean sheets in the league in 2015/2016. Didn’t make many glaring errors when the going was good before the post-September collapse. His ability to command his area and communicate with an ever-changing defence in front of him was brought into sharp focus and his confidence began to visibly evaporate along with the team’s fortunes. Particularly weak at claiming crosses and often reluctant to stray far from his line, his last game was the opening match of 2017.

With Joe Murphy consigning him to the bench for the remainder of the campaign and also returning next season, there is a big question mark over his future at Gigg Lane. Will such an experienced goalkeeper who, whilst certainly being culpable on several occasions for the eye-watering number of goals conceded, be content to play second fiddle at this stage in his career? Lee Clark seems to prize the art of defending to a greater extent than his predecessor, so it could be that if he chooses to stay and see out the second year of his contract, he is a more reliable custodian should he be called upon.

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Joe Murphy, 35

2016/2017 Bury stats (all competitions): 1,440 minutes played, 16 starts, 0 sub appearances; 15 goals conceded, 9 clean sheets; 0 goals, 2 assists, 0 hockey passes.

Assessment: Initially brought in on loan from Huddersfield Town, the two-time Republic of Ireland international immediately felt like an upgrade on the other three goalkeepers to feature between the sticks. Extremely communicative, good in one-on-one situations (although fewer have arisen since his arrival) and completely unafraid to come off his line – in fact, he almost plays as a ‘sweeper keeper’ in order to ensure that the gap between him and the defence is minimised when necessary. Distribution from kicking out of his hands is particularly impressive and has led directly to two goals at the other end. Only one clanger dropped against Rochdale from a free kick, you would expect such occurrences from even the elite and on the groundswell of positive contributions, cannot really be held against him. Accrued nine clean sheets from just 16 matches in a struggling side, the confidence he instills in the management, teammates and fans alike should not be treated lightly and he is an excellent base to build and improve the spine of the team from.

Craig Jones, 30

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2016/2017 Bury stats (all competitions): 1,076 minutes played, 14 starts, 1 sub appearance; 0 goals, 0 assists, 1 hockey pass.

Principal Role: Attacking Full Back

Exile’s ‘Best’ role: Attacking Full Back

jones1617

Assessment: He had his gametime severely restricted in an injury-hit campaign. Jones has developed positionally in his five years at Bury from an out-and-out winger to a dependable right back who loves to support the man in front of him both up (and crucially) down the flank. Excellent at tracking back and frequently winning aerial battles many players with the same height rarely do, his effort and defensive qualities are why every manager since Kevin Blackwell have been glowing in their praise of him and doubtlessly why Clark offered him a one-year extension on his current deal. I maintain that either attacking full back or wing back roles because of his lack of output when deployed upfield – he doesn’t have the ability to beat his man despite possessing no shortage of speed, his crossing is not accurate enough to be relied upon from a creative sense and isn’t much of a goal threat (just nine goals in that timeframe is testament to that). If he can steer clear of severe injuries, he will be an asset to the club’s tilt at the op six. That’s a big ‘if’.

Paul Caddis, 29

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2016/2017 Bury stats (all competitions): 1,145 minutes played, 13 starts, 0 sub appearances; 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 hockey passes.

Principal Role: Central Midfielder

Exile’s ‘Best’ role: Full Back

Caddis1617

Assessment: The first in what is likely to be a long line of signings Clark will make as Bury manager who he has worked with before, Caddis came into the club with the distinct disadvantage of not having played any competitive football for almost half a year at Birmingham City. I saw his debut away at Charlton in the black and neon green shirt and it was clear he still had the talent, with a mixture of tough tackling, calm passing and leadership. What was also self-evident was that he was far from match fit and it would take around a dozen games to rectify. Nominally operated as the most defensive-minded of the midfield three, he is nevertheless unlikely to have the athleticism for a sustained box-to-box role in 2017/2018. Could be asked to provide backup when the strategy needs to be changed or fall back to his preferred right back role, although he would be far from assured of a place there either.

Antony Kay, 34

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2016/2017 Bury stats (all competitions): 4,260 minutes played, 47 starts, 0 sub appearances; 1 goal, 1 assist, 3 hockey passes.

Principal Role: Ball-playing Centre Back

Exile’s ‘Best’ role: Limited Centre Back

Kay1617

Assessment: Like Williams, he was severely criticised for his perceived role in the defensive shambles spanning from October to Christmas. Made captain on his arrival, some fans were expecting him to be like Player of the Season from 2015/2016 Peter Clarke (who has since repeated that feat at Oldham Athletic). His playing style is completely different, however. Deployed as a defensive midfielder by Huddersfield Town and MK Dons before slowing moving ‘backwards’ into central defence, his ability on the ball was principally why he was brought in but it could sometimes be found wanting on more than just the odd occasion. Not threatening enough at the other end from set pieces but the poor quality in general can go at least part of the way to explaining that.

Constant rotation through injury of defensive colleagues disrupted his rhythm and was made a scapegoat for the wider issues but still responsible at least a handful of times for goals scored by the opposition. The eventual return of Nathan Cameron, coupled with the presence of Leon Barnett and doubtlessly at least one new face at the heart of the defence (possibly Cameron Burgess to provide left-sided balance) will put his starting position in jeopardy.

Nathan Cameron, 25

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2016/2017 Bury stats (all competitions): 391 minutes played, 4 starts, 1 sub appearance; 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 hockey passes.

Principal Role: Ball-playing Centre Back (with emphasis on covering)

Exile’s ‘Best’ role: Ball-playing Centre Back (with emphasis on covering)

Cameron1617

Assessment: Refreshingly frank about his “nightmare season” and doubts over whether he could return, his promising start to the campaign was cut short and with it, a lot of the solidity and assurance that he provides Bury’s defence. One of the more elegant centre backs on the ball, he combines that skill with an all-action mentality that endears him to Shakers faithful, covering gaps in the backline with his quickness and anticipation. A large threat in the opposition penalty area too, his aerial prowess and finishing are all reasons why he has been scouted by clubs from the second tier before. They might think twice about it now after a second season plagued by serious injury. Like Jones, he needs to remain in and around the XI consistently to regain his confidence because what he gives to the team in other areas isn’t in question.

Leon Barnett, 31

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2016/2017 Bury stats (all competitions): 2,274 minutes played, 26 starts, 0 sub appearances; 1 goal, 1 assist, 0 hockey passes.

Principal Role: Centre Back (with emphasis on covering)

Exile’s ‘Best’ role: Centre Back (with emphasis on covering)

Barnett1617

Assessment: Thrust into the action too quickly after Cameron’s injury before the Oldham match in August, his rustiness (and misfortune) was plain to see. Contributed well from an attacking point of view in the first 3-3 thriller with Walsall. Second spell in the team was once again borne from emergency and two hapless performances in a week away to AFC Wimbledon had some fans branding him one of the worst signings the club had ever made. A more prolonged spell on the sidelines ended in February, when he quietly and (mostly) calmly slotted in to a back five as the right-sided centre half, who was tasked with covering for Taylor Moore’s oft-fruitless forays up the flank. It was in this role that he excelled at times. Much more comfortable on the ‘front’ foot than the back; has an air of panic when faced with a direct winger who enjoys cutting inside. His place in the side is under huge threat with the almost certain reversion to a flat four, especially given his right-footed preference. Might have to be content with being Cameron’s understudy for 2017/2018.

Greg Leigh, 22

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2016/2017 Bury stats (all competitions): 4,562 minutes played, 51 starts, 0 sub appearances; 1 goal, 1 assist, 3 hockey passes.

Principal Role: Attacking Full Back

Exile’s ‘Best’ role: Attacking Full Back

Leigh1617

Assessment: Signed on as the one and only player who could play a left back role in the entire squad last summer, Leigh’s early outings were not particularly brilliant. Often caught out positionally (partly in my view playing to Flitcroft’s instructions in that case as he had a penchant for having the full backs overlap) and not helped by Mayor’s continued reluctance to track back and support his inexperienced teammate. Form improved considerably after Christmas and perhaps with the added pressure of Sylvain Deslandes as cover, it spurred him on to new heights. He is probably almost as equally adept as a wing back save for not being able to cross accurately at this point in time. Only 22, has plenty of time to refine the weaker aspects of his game. Having made 51 from a possible 52 matches in 2016/2017, he will need more permanent competition to continue to get the best from him and also afford him the occasional breather. Attacking instincts may be curtailed slightly next season, so he might need to adapt in that aspect, too.

Zeli Ismail, 23

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2016/2017 Bury stats (all competitions): 1,374 minutes played, 15 starts, 4 sub appearances; 4 goals, 3 assists, 3 hockey passes.

Principal Role: Winger

Exile’s ‘Best’ role: Inside Forward

Ismail1617

Assessment: Hugely promising start to his Shakers career curtailed by what ultimately proved to be a season-ending injury in the original FA Cup game against AFC Wimbledon. Helped to provide much-needed balance on the flanks but his playing style is markedly different from Mayor’s; emphasises low, drilled crosses much more than this compatriot, as well as running in behind the opposition’s backline when receiving a pass in the half-space. Curiously, he has a tendency to dribble on his left foot, which can assist him when cutting inside against especially one-sided defenders. His consistency wavered slightly when without Pope, there was a less obvious ‘target’ in the middle to aim for and is similarly reluctant to help out his full back on the counter or under sustained pressure. With a full pre-season behind him, he is likely to regain his spot in the XI but will face competition from both Jack Mackreth (should he stay) and at least two promising youth players, neither of which were factors when he was one of the first names on the team-sheet in the early part of the season.

Jack Mackreth, 25

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2016/2017 Bury stats (all competitions): 155 minutes played, 1 start, 2 sub appearances; 0 goals, 1 assist, 0 hockey passes.

Principal Role: Winger

Exile’s ‘Best’ role: Defensive Winger

Mackreth1617

Assessment: Difficult to draw too many definitive conclusions from such limited viewing. Mackreth’s signing by Chris Brass was certainly a surprise but once the shape was changed to wing-backs, it sounded the death knell for his continued inclusion, at least for last season. He did manage an assist on his debut against Sheffield United but that was the only one of the three games he started. Should he still be in Clark’s plans (and he was recalled early from his loan deal at previous club Macclesfield Town). Tendency to track back could see him be a more prominent figure in games where Bury are underdogs to win or play against teams mostly set up for counter-attacks. Again, caution must be advised on this assessment but I hope to see more of him if he remains a Bury player.

Neil Danns, 34

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2016/2017 Bury stats (all competitions): 1,303 minutes played, 16 starts, 5 sub appearances; 2 goals, 1 assist, 0 hockey passes.

Principal Role: Box-to-Box Midfielder

Exile’s ‘Best’ role: Box-to-Box Midfielder

Danns1617

Assessment: Initial games, especially his competitive debut for Bury, had this blogger hopeful that the long search for a ‘true’ box-to-box midfielder was over. More than any other outfield player however, he disappointed, particularly given his pedigree. A victim of erratic role changes (exacerbated by injuries), he was woefully inadequate at right back and you could tell that teams were targetting him, which is never a good sign. Blackpool appear to have got the best from him as he continues his loan spell at Bloomfield Road with the Tangerines in the play-off semis. Future at Gigg Lane despite change of management since he commenced his stint in the fourth tier brings little assurance to his future, even though the shape is likely to be favourable.

Andrew Tutte, 26

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2016/2017 Bury stats (all competitions): 1,212 minutes played, 14 starts, 7 sub appearances; 1 goal, 1 assist, 0 hockey passes.

Principal Role: Central Midfielder

Exile’s ‘Best’ role: Central Midfielder

Tutte1617

Assessment: Still the most ‘balanced’ central midfielder on the books, Tutte’s season, like so many others, never really got going thanks in chief to several sustained injury spells. I maintain that he is better facing away from his own goal than towards it and has most of the key ingredients required for his role – no lack of effort and endeavour, tough and mostly clean when attempting to win the ball, plays simple passes well and can be capable of the spectacular when shooting from distance. However, he has not improved enough in his time at the club to be anything but a squad player. That said, his chances to demonstrate anything to the contrary have been stifled because of two sustained years without long runs in the XI. If the coaching team can work extensively on drills with him to work on his defensive qualities on the counter and creativity going forwards, he could still prove himself to be capable. Like with Jones, there are a few variables that hinge on sustained match fitness.

Scott Burgess, 20

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2016/2017 Bury stats (all competitions): 1,079 minutes played, 14 starts, 3 sub appearances; 2 goals, 2 assists, 1 hockey pass.

Principal Role: Central Midfielder

Exile’s ‘Best’ role: Attacking Midfielder

SBurgess1617

Assessment: Leapt at the chance afforded to him by Brass and came in from the cold with his involvement in the first team under Flitcroft almost non-existent for whatever reason. Can fulfill a number of roles competently, including wide midfield but likes to drift inside from that starting position. Both goals he scored demonstrated excellent technique; a good dribbler and not short of skill, his shortcomings are mostly physical but he showed against Bolton Wanderers that he can mix it up at times, too. Stiff competition likely to count against him on the right flank and his gametime was definitely less pronounced under Clark. Still only 20, the coming campaign will be crucial to his development as a player.

Callum Styles, 17

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2016/2017 Bury stats (all competitions): 972 minutes played, 12 starts, 1 sub appearance; 0 goals, 3 assists, 1 hockey pass.

Principal Role: Central Midfielder

Exile’s ‘Best’ role: Roaming Playmaker

Styles1617

Assessment: It is very rare at Bury to see a 16 year-old hold his own against seasoned opposition. It is even rarer that the same player can also cause excitement amongst the Shakers fans with almost every touch of the ball. Styles is far from the finished article: he needs to build his strength, tune his positioning and become more disciplined. Yet, with attentive coaching and personal resolve, he could one day play in the Premier League. Brass put his faith in him by introducing the precocious talent when older teammates were on a losing streak of 12 in the league. Only really bullied off the ball in the match against Scunthorpe United, his vision and deft passing help to make up for a lack of raw speed. Doesn’t hide away from challenges and operates well even in crowded areas of the pitch. With the forthcoming change of shape, he will need to find a way of remaining at the forefront of Clark’s mind. Interest from other clubs remains very high but with his first professional contract safely signed several months ago, only an offer the club couldn’t refuse is likely to prevent him from at least remaining on the books for another campaign.

Danny Mayor, 26

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2016/2017 Bury stats (all competitions): 1,963 minutes played, 21 starts, 4 sub appearances; 3 goals, 6 assists, 1 hockey pass.

Principal Role: Inside Forward

Exile’s ‘Best’ role: Inside Forward

Mayor1617

Assessment: Historic over-reliance on him to create something ended with Ismail’s arrival and the visible burden was lifted from his shoulders. Early displays were positive and reminders of his abundant talent when he can concentrate on being as high up the pitch and as direct as possible. The number of assists he made also increased during 2016/2017, but along with his fellow winger, his year was cut short by an injury which he has only just started to recover from. An attacking 4-4-2 will play to his strengths if the left back (Leigh or otherwise) can be relied upon to cover for Mayor’s half-hearted and/or poorly timed challenges when possession is lost. A crucial season awaits.

Tom Pope, 31

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2016/2017 Bury stats (all competitions): 2,793 minutes played, 35 starts, 5 sub appearances; 7 goals, 9 assists, 4 hockey passes.

Principal Role: Target Man

Exile’s ‘Best’ role: Target Man

Pope1617

Assessment: With his rib break against Peterborough United in the televised encounter, Bury’s early form similarly crumbled. Pope can only really fulfill one role well at this stage in his career and as long as he has sufficient aid, he is one of the best in the lower leagues at doing so, as evidenced by the bulk of his goals tally being before the injury. Flitcroft never found an answer to his absence and it could be argued his entire strategy was built with the former Port Vale favourite in mind. Didn’t look as effective on his return when the management, playing personnel and shape had almost completely changed. Extremely unlikely to be first choice alongside James Vaughan regardless of whether the latter stays, a return to Burslem could be on the cards.

James Vaughan, 28

Port Vale v Bury - Sky Bet League One - Vale Park

2016/2017 Bury stats (all competitions): 3,315 minutes played, 39 starts, 1 sub appearance; 24 goals, 2 assists, 1 hockey pass.

Principal Role: Advanced Forward

Exile’s ‘Best’ role: Advanced Forward

Vaughan1617

Assessment: Hard to throw enough superlatives at Vaughan given how his season panned out. The most ‘complete’ striker in my 23 years of watching Bury play but was greeted with no shortage of skepticism on his arrival, owing to his extremely storied injury history. His ability was immediately apparent on his scoring debut and he was always most potent with Pope alongside him to occupy the physical attention of the opposition defenders. Adept with his left foot, he is capable of fulfilling a number of roles, given his astonishingly high work rate, above average physicality, hold-up play and the range of shots he tries. Understandably on-committal when interviewed about his future when receiving the never-in-doubt Player of the Season award, it would almost certainly take a record transfer fee received by the club for him to be allowed to leave.

George Miller, 18

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2016/2017 Bury stats (all competitions): 1,140 minutes played, 5 starts, 26 sub appearances; 8 goals, 0 assists, 0 hockey passes.

Principal Role: Shadow Striker

Exile’s ‘Best’ role: Shadow Striker

GMiller1617

Assessment: With a goals-per-minute ratio startlingly similar to Vaughan’s, Bury have another raw talent on their hands. Thrown on with nothing to lose against Northampton, he popped up with a well-taken header and hasn’t looked back since. Extensive work is required on his first touch but his actual dribbling skills are at least competent. His gait belies his speed and seems most at home when running from deep, harrying opposition defenders into mistakes. Could equally work as a poacher, the perennial sub is likely to remain just that in 2017/2018 but his goals record won’t have been ignored by other clubs either. He has all the mental ingredients a striker needs in the modern game: he just needs the physical side to catch up in the coming months.

Ryan Lowe, 38

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2016/2017 Bury stats (all competitions): 533 minutes played, 7 starts, 5 sub appearances; 1 goal, 1 assist, 1 hockey pass.

Principal Role: Advanced Forward

Exile’s ‘Best’ role: Defensive Forward

Lowe1617

Assessment: The very popular striker was brought back for a third time to Gigg Lane in January but principally to be a coach. He has always held ambitions of becoming a manager (and has stated on local radio that he wants to be Bury’s at some future point in time). On the pitch, his reading of the flow of a match and game management ranked amongst the best in the third tier. Crucial winner against Charlton demonstrated he still had a clinical edge. Didn’t complete 90 minutes in any of his seven starts, which goes a little way to explaining his tally (as does the missed penalty against Chesterfield). Intelligent movement helped to create space for his strike partner and found a new niche as an attacking midfielder in the last two fixtures. Understandably, his age was beginning to show in other ways on the pitch but with this player registration still held, he could yet be called upon in the event of an injury crisis in attack.

U18s Promoted for 2017/2018

Tsun Dai, 17

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The only second year scholar to be offered a professional contract this season with the club, Dai will likely have to bide his time to see meaningful first team action. Signed from Reading’s academy last summer, he has gone on to fill a number of roles for the youth team from an anchor man in front of the back four to a winger with instructions to run directly at the opposition. Versatility, dead ball ability and passing range are three big factors as to why he could play his part in 2017/2018. His main downside at present is dwelling on the ball in possession when it could be recycled earlier, but that is something that comes with experience. Time will tell if Clark uses him or decides he would benefit more from a loan spell further down the football pyramid to test his mettle.

Current U18s to Watch

Will Ferry, 16

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Probably the first of the five who will feature for Clark in his first full season in charge. Capped at youth level by the Republic of Ireland, the talented youngster has already been the subject of interest elsewhere and made the bench for the final game against Southend United for the senior side. Like Dai, his versatility is one of his biggest assets with spells in the U18s across the frontline, on both flanks and in more central midfield areas. Left-footed but comfortable using either, he enjoys cutting in from the right (which is in perfect symmetry to Mayor). Another whose talent shines bright and much like Styles, wants to be the focal point when starting attacking moves.

Callum Hulme, 16

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Released by neighbours Manchester City, Hulme can play anywhere down the left side. Bury were very quick to pounce for his signature and make a fanfare of it. Like Ferry, he has also been on the first team bench and it will be interesting to see if that pattern is repeated next season.

Rob Harker, 17

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Prolific goalscorer at U18 level, he made a brief appearance against Bradford in the EFL Trophy. Bad injury put paid to any further first team forays and also significantly impacted the success of the youth team. Not short of pace or power and with an obvious eye for goal, if he can regain form, he might sneak his way into Clark’s plans.

Dougie Nyaupembe, 17

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The Zimbabwean defender has come on leaps and bounds since being a late capture by Ryan Kidd for the U18s at the start of the season. Relishes getting forward and has an excellent work rate, he can perform well at either full back or wing back. The only caveat is that there are now three players ahead of him in the queue.

Joe Adams, 16

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Compared in favourable terms with the way he plays to Mayor, Adams can play on either flank and has been a key component already for the U18s. Electric pace and good dribbling skills need to be allied with knowing when to release the ball, but once again, the talent is there.

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A more comprehensive tactical article covering where and how Bury as a collective on the pitch need to improve next season will be published later this week, including the two new signings (at the time of writing!).

 

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