I’m going to do this one a little differently by using excerpts from a frankly incredible post-match interview with Bury manager Lee Clark after the latest failure to avoid another defeat in the league, plunging the Shakers into 22nd after last-gasp winners for near neighbours Oldham Athletic and Rochdale…
“You don’t get a lot of luck where we are (in the league). You have to create your own luck.”
Luck is a completely arbitrary concept that is impossible to prove or disprove. There was no misfortune last night; Fleetwood Town were the better side, missed a penalty of their own and had further clear-cut chances to add to their tally of three. Equally, Jermaine Beckford’s missed penalty in injury time wasn’t bad luck. He didn’t slip in his run-up or when striking the ball. He simply got underneath it too much and hit it to hard. As a consequence, the chance went begging for an end to the losing streak.
“In the second half, there was only one team who were going to win it.”
Utterly untrue. Even before the Cod Army’s decisive third goal through the menacing Ash Hunter, it was an even contest and Aidem O’Neill’s excellent headed effort came back the Shakers, it would be egregious to claim that the hosts were ever really under the cosh for any extended period of time and always appeared to be at least on par.
“Not a great night again for us… but we’ve done lots of good things.”
Yes, more chances were at last created. The dual-pronged threat of Mihai Dobre and Chris Maguire (thankfully restored to the lineup), coupled with two strikers in the box to aim for, helped immeasurably and it would be a mischaracterisation to suggest that there was only one strategy to penetrate the back three in red and white. That said, there were still basic errors in defence (and midfield) that keep costing goals and points…
“The shape of the team wasn’t right. We became too easy to play against.”
And whose fault was that? I took one look at the XI when it was announced and struggled to picture in my mind what the shape would be. Deploying Rohan Ince behind a trio of Harry Bunn, Dobre and Maguire and two strikers in Beckford and Michael Smith is as unbalanced as it gets. Clark thought the all-out attack formation would mean that the men in black would dominate the ball but he completely failed to take into account how Uwe Rösler would set his stall out.
The Fleetwood boss did exactly what I thought he would do in my preview (which the coaching staff could’ve read to be clued up in lieu of scouting their opponents). Amari’i Bell and Lewie Coyle bombed on from wing-back at any given opportunity and used their pace to excellent effect. O’Neill and Kyle Dempsey only had Ince to worry about and overwhelmed him in the opening half an hour. The decision to take off Bunn and put Josh Laurent in his place was the belatedly correct one to make, but by that stage, the visitors were trailing 2-0 yet again. The Wigan Athletic loanee’s back-header for the second goal was also demonstrative of excellent awareness and perhaps he’ll grow into the side in his preferred position.
I have often come to the defence of Clark when it comes to changing shape from game to game. It’s true that can make gelling more difficult but whilst he continues to freeze almost every player who can play a role in central midfield comfortably out, these are the consequences. Having only one there last night was tantamount to suicide and, coupled with an extremely rusty looking Joe Skarz on the left and Phil Edwards inexplicably playing at centre back against the speed of Jordi Hiwula-Mayifuila and Devante Cole, it was just nonsensical overall.
“We do need more from certain players as well who we’ve brought through the doors to give us an attacking impetus.”
I can only think he means Bunn, having frozen out Nicky Ajose. The former Huddersfield Town inside forward has mostly flattered to deceive and became the fall guy last night for Clark’s naïvety. I’d like to see him in a role without the ‘shackles’ of defensive responsbilities, but that means having a much more solid central midfield behind him.
“Michael Smith has been excellent since he signed (and without a pre-season behind him).”
It’s hard to disagree with that assessment on the limited evidence thus far. Smith demonstrated some good touches (which usually goes against the archetypal target man that springs to mind for most fans) and has forged an embryonic understanding with Beckford. If he recovers in time for Saturday, expect to see him line up alongside the captain for some time to come.
“It was a ridiculous decision (from Tom Aldred) to give the penalty away.”
It was. It was similar to Adam Thompson’s rash challenge in the Wigan game in how blatant a penalty it was. Thankfully, Hiwula-Mayifuila missed on that occasion but the lead-up to it had already demonstrated how Bell was giving Jordan Williams the runaround. Aldred later redeemed himself with a goal-saving tackle, but it will be interesting to see whether he retains his place for Saturday’s bottom four clash with Plymouth Argyle.
“Everyone has to take responsibility (for the current situation).”
In a way, he’s correct… but not once during that interview or any previous one that I can recall has he shouldered any of the ‘blame’ for it himself. Contrast this with AFC Wimbledon’s Neal Ardley in his take on their failure to overcome a woeful 10-man Gillingham outfit and, keeping in mind the level of expectations at Kingsmeadow are much lower than at Gigg Lane, his reaction is much more humble. Few supporters will expect Clark to fall on his sword for the situation he has largely created of his accord but you very rarely hear the personal pronoun ‘I’ anywhere close to the word ‘responsibility’, which is galling.
“(Beckford’s goal) was terrific. Four goals in seven games is better than a one-in-two ratio.”
It was indeed. Very few players in Bury colours in my lifetime have been capable of executing an overhead kick that results in a goal and it’s a shame that such a strike will be forgotten about in no time at all. I have seen some fans heavily criticising him for his displays but I think he has been mostly been on a hiding to nothing apart from last night and the opening game of the season; he simply hasn’t had the support from his teammates and his propensity to get involved with opponents off-the-ball doesn’t help. That said, his efforts so far indicate that there could be plenty more to come from him if the supply lines are (kept) open.
“You see the real men. You see the ones who are sticking their chests out and ready to fight… the dressing room is full of good characters.”
It’s hard to know what to believe anymore. This is the same person who so publicly tried to offload eight players on or close to the summer transfer window deadline and only ‘succeeded’ with two (not including Chris Sang at Southport as that is obviously more of a developmental opportunity at 18 years of age to experience first-team football on a regular basis). Does he mean who he now includes in matchday squads are good characters? You have a situation where members of the roster not chosen are sat in the stands or at home, stating things at odds with the united front Clark is trying to portray. I have gone on record to say that I wouldn’t have kept Andrew Tutte (or Neil Danns to a lesser extent) but whilst they and others are fit and contracted/registered to the club, they have to be considered. If results were in line with the lofty expectations both he and chairman Stewart Day had set, the current rift would be easier to accept… but it’s not the case.
“You (Mikael McKenzie, Bury Times journalist) might feel I’m under pressure because you’ve asked the question and I thought your article in the programme was nonsense as well, so… not a problem. I speak to the owner every day. We know what the job in hand is… but if you want us to go down the ‘de Boer route’, you keep pushing for that.”
I don’t know what Mikael wrote but as he’s not employed by the club, he can ask what he likes. It is up to the manager or whoever else is the subject of his questions to answer (or not) as they see fit. For the record, he asked if Clark was feeling under pressure as a result of last night’s defeat leaving Bury in the relegation zone and the above text in bold is the manager’s verbatim reaction. It was an uncalled for response and tells you everything you need to comprehend about the pressure and his current conduct, which I think in this case is actually unacceptable and to me, it represents the final straw.
Clark has to look in the mirror for the reasons for the current malaise and if he has the decency he thinks he does, he should resign his position as manager of Bury Football Club now. It is one thing to alienate players he brought to Carrington just months ago; it is quite another to launch a thinly-veiled rebuke to a journalist who asked a simple, unloaded question. I will always think him for galvanising a similarly disparate collective back in February to ensure third tier status was retained. However, he no longer has my support in any capacity.