Events moved swiftly yesterday and by the evening, former Bury captain Chris Lucketti was named as the club’s 40th manager in their history. It has in a way felt like a long time since Lee Clark was relieved of his duties three weeks ago and the former Scunthorpe United assistant will have his work cut out from the beginning to lift the Shakers from bottom spot in League One.
A no-nonsense centre-back in his playing days, he is remembered extremely fondly wherever he played (with the possible exception of his one-game appearance at Rochdale when he was just starting out!) and was at Gigg Lane for six years after being brought in by Mike Walsh. I started attending matches not long after his arrival and he almost immediately became a crowd favourite and someone whose signature I always sought during pre-match warm-up routines as a boy. His eventual partnership with Paul Butler was the bedrock on which the astonishing second successive promotion was won in 1996/1997 and for many observers, it will be difficult for any duo or trio in white shirts to ever emulate just how effective they were as a unit.
How relevant his time on the pitch will be in his first stint as the main man in the dugout is anyone’s guess but he will able to call upon several years of experience coaching in the third tier at both Glanford Park and Fleetwood Town and his rapport with Graham Alexander, which started when they were both in the dressing room at Preston North End, was obvious to see. He also briefly played at the highest level for Sheffield United and nobly avoided a horrible conflict of interest when on loan at Southampton in his twilight years by refusing to feature for the Saints in a contest between the two sides that could’ve seen the Hampshire outfit relegated had they not won. In a coincidental twist of fate, he left his last club Huddersfield Town after a certain Lee Clark had frozen him out for an entire season…
Being a leader of men from an early stage normally translates well into coaching. By the time he retired, he had already obtained his UEFA ‘A’ Licence but was ultimately unsuccessful in a swifter return to south Lancashire than proved to be the case as the reins for the U18s were handed to Richie Barker instead. His long-held desire has been to take the step up and for a second time, he missed out for a vacancy when Clark was appointed.
He doesn’t really have a managerial history on which you can draw certain conclusions about his tactical philosophy, playing style or how much he emphasises youth (although you could argue that even by applying for an underage group position seven years ago displays at some awareness of its importance to Bury’s ‘financial ‘model’). He had a two-match caretaker spell for the Cod Army in 2016 when Alexander was fired, winning one and losing one.
All that really matters in the very short-term is reversing the downward spiral for which the blame lies squarely on Clark and chairman Stewart Day’s shoulders. The latter has, with Lucketti’s appointment, tried to redress the balance wrought by his own mistakes. He must now allow the third permanent manager appointed during his tenure to get on with the task at hand.
At last, it appears that more than lip service has been given to a longer-term vision (at least where Lucketti is concerned). He will be able to dine out on the fans’ backing for longer than almost anyone else could at the helm. It is in some ways a brave move by the board and they should be applauded for that and I don’t perceive it as a massive gamble. Whilst you’d expect him (hopefully with the addition of some scouts) to identify several targets to rectify Bury’s woes, he also needs to be mindful that the churn of the past four years must now end. The club cannot afford for it to continue and it is disenfranchising for the individuals involved and the fanbase at large.
If his players can eventually exemplify on the pitch what he did on the hallowed turf for every side he featured in, most of the gap that has begun to widen between the ‘business’ and the supporters will be bridged. With the current talent at his disposal, a mid-table finish is not outside the realm of possibility. Healthy skeptics (like me) and optimists alike must now unite behind a true club legend because the sailing will not be smooth… but it can be a success. Time will tell.
(The caption is a dig at Neil Warnock in his second season in charge of Bury after being relegated in the first and is a paraphrase from a fanzine of the day!)