Month: February 2019

My Love is Like a Red, Red Rossiter

For my reviews of AugustSeptemberOctoberNovember, December, and January, click their respective links.

EFL Trophy, and competing against third tier sides

Let’s begin with a negative – losing last night at home to Portsmouth 3-0 in the semi-final, with a place at Wembley the prize on offer. I made a brief radio appearance (10 minutes or so into the clip), full in the knowledge from reading local news sources that Pompey boss Kenny Jackett would break with the pattern he’d established in previous rounds of the competition, and name what was essentially the visitors’ strongest available lineup, and was even able to leave the likes of Jamal Lowe on the subs’ bench for the first half.

There were some parallels to the FA Cup tie against Luton Town to how the game eventually panned out – the hosts were on top for large expanses of time, didn’t get the crucial opener (not for lack of trying), and a shrewd tactical tweak changed the course of proceedings. Yes, one or two decisions were a little contentious, but Bury didn’t really have an answer to the Hampshire outfit’s higher press, and there’s no shame in that. The scoreline was on the flattering side, but I think Ryan Lowe and his players will have learned a lot from their experiences pitting their wits across two different cups against six League One sides, winning and losing half of them, and more impressively, scoring 13 in the process.

You can also see as a fan particular areas where the current squad could be improved if they gain promotion back at the first time of asking. There’s little reason to suggest at this moment in time that the manager will make big changes in the summer tactically or personnel-wise, and I’m certain that between him and Director of Sport Lee Dykes, they’ll have identified well in advance of the window re-opening a cluster of targets to bring through the doors to augment an already talented group, as well as offering some of the most promising U18s deals (which I’ll get on to later in this post). As soon as the first team’s division is confirmed for 2019/2020, I’ll put together my own ‘wishlist’ of realistic signings, and how they could specifically improve a system that’s unlikely to drastically alter.

The immediate efficacy of Jordan Rossiter

Understandably, there were question marks over his loan capture from giants Glasgow Rangers, owing totally to injury concerns, rather than his undoubted ability. He didn’t start against Crawley Town on a half-frozen pitch, but did make his bow at the opening of the second period, and has barely put a foot wrong since. Captain Neil Danns has had to be largely content watching on from the sidelines during February, and it’s not hard to see why in the two videos below:

In a regular XI where previously seven of the 10 outfielders were unquestionably attack-minded, the addition of Rossiter into the mix probably takes that figure down to a much more conservative six-and-a-half. One of the most basic tenets of being an effective professional footballer is to always seek the ball, even in tight situations. As the clips more than ably demonstrate, he does just that, which can be a decisive factor in breaking the opposition’s high press onto the defensive trio.

He covers the gaps in deep areas, recycles the ball to teammates, plays smart passes that can look deceptively simple, very rarely wastes possession, intercepts with gusto, and despite his injury record, he relishes putting in the tackles. I did have some concerns that the introduction of a player in that role might have slowed down the high-octane style Lowe has employed, but I don’t think that’s been the case at all.

A running total of five games is a small sample size, but his completed passes average stands at 84%, and was as high as 90% at the weekend, attempting 70 in total just by himself. At St. James Park, he seemed omnipresent, breaking up promising Grecian attack after attack on no fewer than 15 occasions, as is abundantly clear above.

Additionally, he’s been named man of the match for the past three games in a row. Not only is that remarkable because of being new to the club and his position, it also makes him stand out even more during a season where the Shakers have been praised far and wide for their attacking endeavour, which has at times not left sufficient room for column inches or credit for the likes of Adam Thompson, Will Aimson, or anyone else tasked primarily with defensive duties. I have seen some criticism of the back three as a whole, some of which is valid, but some of it goes over the top, and pointing to the goals conceded column doesn’t tell the whole story.

After the long-awaited derby day triumph against Paul Scholes’ Oldham Athletic™, he received glowing praise from his temporary boss, with Lowe describing the deal to bring him south of border for six months as:

"The best bit of business I've ever done, or ever likely to!"

A cynic might suggest he’s only had three transfer windows in temporary and subsequently permanent charge to make such a claim, but if you’ve seen (m)any of his interviews, you’d understand he’s usually very reluctant to heap too much adulation onto one player, let alone come out with a statement like that. The addition of ‘ever likely to’ at what is still the very early stages of his managerial career is actually the most telling part of that sentence, and underlines the great value he can bring during his short spell.

He has endeared himself to supporters in such a ridiculously short space of time – the winning combination of maximum effort plus real ability will never not do that, but it’s certainly made me, and plenty of others, believe that he will be the key player from now until the end of 2018/2019.

The versatility of Byron Moore & Callum McFadzean

Has anyone in the current squad played in as many different areas as Byron Moore over the past seven months? I solely regarded him as an out-and-out winger in a four or five-man midfield upon his arrival, but it soon became apparent that Lowe had other plans for the 30 year-old, especially as the usual shape of the side doesn’t even accommodate that position. A cursory glance on Wyscout illustrates he’s played in every outfield role for a decent chunk of time, with the sole exception of centre back!

Up until the Portsmouth match, he had looked quite adept in the left wing-back area, but I’m unsure the combinations down the left with Danny Mayor and Callum McFadzean weren’t a little too cavalier, and at certain intervals, the first two would try to operate in a very small space in that channel. Expecting absolute consistency from any individual in the fourth tier, especially one that has had so many jobs to do, is unrealistic. His wide skillset has meant, however, that his manager has been able to call on a core squad of 20 in the second phase of the season, assisted by an unusually empty treatment room, and very few disciplinary issues of any kind on the field.

Whilst not quite on the same Swiss Army knife level as his teammate, McFadzean, by his admission better going forward than the other way, has been deployed as the left-sided centre back on numerous occasions, usually in an effort to push everyone else even further up the pitch when chasing a game. It seemed to have the right effect last night for most of the first half. However, it did then get exploited by a resurgent Pompey with Jamal Lowe’s introduction, with all three of their goals coming from that area. With Scott Wharton cup-tied and possibly still out with a knock, he was probably preferred to Chris Stokes due to his greater pace, possibly at the cost of a little more experience and solidity.

Nevertheless, both Moore and McFadzean were largely unheralded when they signed in the close season, and yet have turned out to be invaluable to the team, improving as the campaign has unfolded.


Nicky Maynard, the poacher

Unlucky not to add to his tally of 17 goals in all competitions last night, he came up against an inspired Craig MacGillvray between the Portsmouth sticks with an arcing effort that seemed destined to nestle into the bottom far corner. His otherwise fruitful month was characterised by four efforts that could only be labelled as a ‘poacher’s’ – just about getting enough on the ball to poke home against Crawley Town; an inadvertent one-two with Exeter City’s Dean Moxey for a truly scruffy strike; bundling the ball over the line for his first against the Latics, and then capitalising on some woeful defending for his second within the six-yard area.

Even if that was the case, it would still speak volumes about his positioning to peel off his marker, and setting his body correctly in anticipation of a pass or inadvertent opportunity. Ugly goals they might have been of late, but the aesthetics matter not, and he’s certainly demonstrated he’s capable of the spectacular, too.


Another unbeaten month in the league & 12 games left…

Once more, Ben Mayhew’s xG timelines demonstrate the different ways Bury have remained unbeaten in the four league games contested during February:

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L2 End of Feb.PNG

The table is starting to take shape with just a quarter of the campaign left. Long-time leaders Lincoln City drew 1-1 last night with Exeter City, in a result that probably suits Bury more than a decisive outcome either way. I’m not going to go into much depth here about how I think things will pan out for all the runners and riders – I’ll save that for a separate post a little into March.

The Lancashire outfit will need to bounce back from their disappointment quickly, with three matches in the space of a week, beginning this Saturday with the visit of Macclesfield Town to BL9. Under Sol Campbell, they have risen a place but are still in the relegation zone, taking 20 points from a possible 45 during his tenure. Winless in five, they have nevertheless been very competitive in every game, and have only suffered defeat by a margin of more than once in that period – away at Mansfield Town, which is no disgrace.

That fixture is swiftly followed by a journey down to the Jonny-Rocks Stadium to face Cheltenham Town. On a four-match winning run in Gloucestershire, they have taken vital, maximum points from the teams around them as a consequence. Although they were soundly beaten 4-1 in the reverse fixture, the scoreline was harsh on Mike Duff’s men, who looked especially dangerous down both flanks when floating crosses in to Luke Varney. It’s at this juncture where teams in or around the bottom six often start picking up ‘unexpected’ scalps, and nothing can be taken for granted.

On the 9th of March, the outspoken Dino Maamria will welcome the Shakers to his corner of Hertfordshire. Stevenage are nothing if not wildly inconsistent, and it’s still not out of the question for them to put some form together to trouble the top seven. The obvious qualities Queens Park Rangers loanee Ilias Chair possesses will need to be somehow kept in check; Lincoln didn’t manage to do that, and were very nearly three points worse off for that one failure in a recent clash.

Ilias Chair has certainly made the rest of the division sit up and take notice in the month he’s been at the Lamex Stadium, to put it mildly…

Cambridge United are badly struggling for goals once more, having only notched on a single occasion in their last five outings at the time of writing. A more than respectable January (drubbing by Milton Keynes Dons aside) gave way to a decidedly barren February, and they were extremely fortunate to best Port Vale for their solitary win. That said, Colin Calderwood should look to how his predecessor Joe Dunne disrupted Bury back in November by employing a high press and a mid-block in defence, and emulate that as best as he can to obtain something from the match.

Michael Jolley’s Grimsby Town are on an upward curve since the beginning of December, and like Stevenage, are an outside bet to gatecrash the play-off positions. Admittedly, their January results were poor on the face of it, but most sides would count even one win in four against the top teams as commendable, which came over MK at Blundell Park, despite being a man lighter for more than half the game. Unbeaten in February, they will be a much tougher prospect than they appeared to be back in the nascent part of the season.

Similarly, Swindon Town are experiencing a renaissance of sorts under Richie Wellens, who’s making more out of the technical players at his disposal. If anyone currently lower than ninth is going to be in the reckoning come May, they would be my pick. For the most part, their run-in games are against fellow mid-table sides who will potentially have little to play for by then. Triumphs over MK and Forest Green Rovers in the past month demonstrate that they have the capability in one-off games to compete with the ‘elite’ of the fourth tier, and are the most technically comparable side to Bury in terms of style and mentality. It should be an intriguing game to round off March, and the complexion will be much clearer by the end of it.


FA Youth Cup

There is at least one Bury side still in a cup competition (actually two, but I’ll get to that in the section below!). Ryan Kidd’s youngsters have a mouth-watering clash at Gigg Lane, hosting Liverpool U18s in the quarter-final stage. Should they manage to find a way through one of the best academies in the world, they’ll be on home soil once more to Watford or Leicester City in a single leg, which is the first change in format for 40 years.  The two ties have already been played in the ‘other’ half of the draw, and Bury now stand alone as the only Category 3 and lower tier representatives in the competition.

The magnitude of next Wednesday evening’s occasion shouldn’t be underestimated, and I’ll be talking to two people who have kept close tabs on the Reds’ fortunes under new boss Barry Lewtas this season for this blog.

Few will be expecting a shock home win, of course, and as someone who takes a very keen interest in youth football, it’s always tempting to overstate some of the current crop’s potential, even though I try to remain as objective as possible. That said, they are at the late stage for good reason; Callum Hulme and Joe Adams have been offered (and accepted) pro contracts, and I suspect at least four of the other second year scholars will receive similar terms, if that hasn’t taken place already away from the public eye.

Below them, there is now a reliable stream of quality coming through, which is testament to the work Kidd, Mark Litherland, Graham Hastings, and others have put in over the last half-decade. Put another way, there’s good reason Femi Seriki was mentioned unprompted by Lowe before last night’s match, where he suggested that the versatile 15 year-old right-sided forward could be in line for his senior debut before the season is over. There was also a reason why he was on the bench earlier on in the course of the EFL Trophy…

It’s difficult to avoid language that makes the boys sound like commodities to be pinched off the club for a pittance, but such is the pervasiveness of EPPP, it’s an onerous task to do so, and even harder to keep them from the watchful gazes of scouts at teams with larger resources. That’s why it’s important to cherish the current group aiming for glory next week. I expect them to line up in a positive 4-3-3 to try to go beyond the midfield diamond that’s a staple of the Reds’ lineups in 2018/2019. They can’t afford to be boxed in to their own third of the pitch, but should hopefully have a sizeable backing in the stands to aid their cause.

Coming to a League Two match soon? Scouted by many clubs higher in the pyramid, Femi Seriki is out to impress…

Two women’s sides challenging for trophies

Lying in second place but with only a single promotion spot on offer, Scott Johnson’s senior women’s side face table-toppers Blackpool away this Sunday, having beaten the Seasiders 10 days ago at Carrington. Even a draw would still be advantageous, as they are currently seven points behind with three games in hand. Victories in the other seven fixtures would ensure promotion to the fifth tier of the female pyramid, and whilst that is a tall order, the four other confirmed matches for March are against opposition they’ve already either beaten comfortably, or who are struggling at the other end of NW Division One North. The three leading scorers in the white and royal blue are having their own tussle for supremacy – captain and taliswoman (if it isn’t a word already, I’ve coined it now!) Lucy Golding leads the way with 14 to her name despite playing a deeper role, but Jordon Bailey (13) and Caitlin Clancy (11) are both hot on her heels, having notched match-winning braces in the last two matches.

The reserve side lead the way in their smaller pool, and thanks to some walkovers and clubs withdrawing, they only have one league match left to contest. A win over Stanwix Juniors would ensure them of at least second, but much like the senior outfit, they need top spot for promotion. Colin Platt’s charges would still be reliant on Sunday’s opponents slipping up elsewhere, as their goal difference is vastly inferior to the Carlisle natives. Later on in the month, they have the Lancashire County Plate cup final against higher tier opposition in the form of Nelson on neutral ground in Leyland. If you’re in the area on the morning of the 17th of March, they’d certainly appreciate you coming down to watch them lift some silverware!



My Thoughts on ‘My Club, My Community’ – The First But Most Important Step for a Brighter Future

In an increasingly urbanised locality, the town of Bury has in the past few years regenerated its centre, which has in no small part encouraged new residents to become part of the community, especially from Manchester’s overspill. However, it still has unique facets; an accent distinctly different from other satellite towns on its doorstep, famous exports known well beyond the borough boundaries, and moreover, a football club that has been through more than its fair share of strife throughout the 134 years since its founding.

Understandably, new owner Steve Dale’s takeover back in December was, and continues to be, met and held in cautious optimism. Supporters far older than I, writing as I celebrate my 33rd birthday, have seen silver-tongued figures come and go like the waxing and waning of the moon making promises they either couldn’t keep or worse, had little intention of keeping. I’m not for a moment lumping him in with those, but it does go a great deal of the way to explaining a deep scrutiny of anyone who arrives at the club in the future that doesn’t back up their words with actions.

The statement from the chairman today, which I encourage you to read before continuing with the rest of this article, is pitched at the right angle. There’s nothing contained within it that I feel overreaches what people at the club can realistically achieve.

The relationship I’ve had personally with the club has gone through several different phases; first, between the ages of eight and 12, I witnessed a meteoric rise on the pitch, an era not repeated in either the decades preceding or following it, which has been done justice in fellow fan and scribe James Bentley’s weighty, nostalgic tome.

The downward spiral almost immediately following the mid-90s is also well-documented, and of course led to periods where the club’s future was in serious doubt, including being in administration. Getting teased about it at school by a friend that happened to be an Accrington Stanley fan lent a bizarrely ironic twist to a situation completely out of my hands, and it still rankles me to do this day to see financial instability used a stick by some to beat followers of other teams with. It was also a period where it felt like the seeds were being sown at many other sides in England; the savviest amongst them were starting to realise the paramount importance of forging stronger links with their towns and cities whilst coinciding with a booming economy, and not necessarily just at elite level.

That’s not to say that Bury didn’t do anything; far from it. For my GCSE work experience, there was only place I wanted to spend my two weeks: whatever I could at Gigg Lane. As part of that, Football in the Community, as it was known then, would go into schools to do various talks and play short matches during P.E. lessons, although the overarching subject range was fairly narrow by contemporary standards. Even so, it felt good to be even the smallest cog in the machine I loved for a brief moment in my life.

Fast forward a few years and I’m in quite a bad place at university; without the money to regularly attend games despite only living in Rusholme, it was also when the first team were at their poorest on the pitch, barely surviving the dreaded drop to non-league in successive campaigns. Before the advent of social media, I was quite restricted in that position how and when I could interact with the club.

11 years ago, I had to make the decision to follow my parents down south to Bedfordshire. Suffering from both anxiety and depression, the era under Alan Knill brought some comfort; his interviews often gave me hope that a perpetual struggle wasn’t going to be on the cards. He left just before promotion was (finally) achieved in 2011, and since then, the first team has yo-yo’ed between the bottom two tiers.

Though at times criticised fiercely for various reasons, the club’s outlets on Twitter and Facebook in more recent times have slowly but surely improved beyond recognition with the current media team, and in turn have helped to build bridges between a club and fanbase that had been seemingly been growing apart on the power of their own inertia. CEO Karl Evans’ presence, receptiveness, and responsiveness on social media were one of the few positive constants of an otherwise shambolic 2017/2018; although not directly linked to that, my depression came back with a vengeance at the turn of last year and almost wiped out my longstanding, long distance affection for everything Bury F.C., even though I was writing about some aspect of it twice a week.

Thankfully through counselling, it started to ease off again. One of the main aims of my writing has always been to promote what the club does. For example, it wasn’t that long before interviewing current women’s captain Lucy Golding that I wondered to myself ‘why don’t Bury have a women’s team?’, only to find out through a lot of digging that they did.

The point of providing a potted life history of sorts, and how it has intertwined with the club, is to demonstrate that through events not restricted to, but mainly orchestrated in the past few months have made me feel part of it again, even though I live well over 100 miles away. I have seen the warmth and openness that fellow exiles have been treated with; I’m not saying that these qualities weren’t present before, but I think there has been a marked difference between the two parties since the new ownership.

Things are going fantastically on the field for almost every category under the banner of the club – the men’s team are two points off top spot and one game from only a second appearance at Wembley in history; the women’s senior team, after their superb win over leaders Blackpool last Sunday, also have a real chance of promotion, and will soon make Gigg Lane their new home and have been brought fully under the structure of the club, which I maintain is the best combination of news for quite some time in BL9. The U18s have made waves by making the furthest foray into the FA Youth Cup since 1966, and face the might of Liverpool in a fortnight for a place in the semi-finals. The female reserves under Colin Platt’s leadership also have an outside chance to reach the division above.

Going full circle, the statement is very timely. The iron has been struck whilst it’s scorchingly hot in many respects. It’s impossible to divorce completely success on the field with success and good sentiment off it. The tireless work of the Trust arm of the club has never stopped, but it is finally now getting the publicity that the staff there deserve.

Dale’s ambition from the outset has been to bind the club and town together. His words on the website today represent the first important step in achieving that aim; increased prominence and coverage of the women’s teams, disabled (Ability Counts) outfits, underage teams of all genders, and walking football will go a long way to plugging some of the current gaps.

The last two paragraphs are the most telling, and they relate back to a feeling I’ve held for a long time (and not I alone, I might add) that Bury simply haven’t penetrated the consciousness of the borough to nearly the fullest extent yet. I’m excited to see what happens in the future.

What can I do from my vantage point, as the writer of this blog? I want to continue promoting all aspects of the club wherever possible, and reserve the right to constructively criticise when necessary. I’ll continue to do tweets about stats that include all the available information like the one below:

I want to talk to more people involved in various departments of the club, as well as fellow supporters. It’s to that end that I’ll be launching a podcast in the summer to take things to another level, and to discuss things in a slightly different format than this blog allows. I’m not in the foreseeable likely to be able to go to every game; that’s why I want to make the most of when I do, and to watch from afar when I can’t, and hopefully produce some good content.

I’m very pleased about the direction Bury are heading in. As a fourth generation fan, I’d like my three-year old son to be the fifth if he develops an interest in football.  The announcement today makes that just little bit more likely, and that’s something that could be repeated across the town. The future generations are out there that will support the club in one way or another, I’m certain of it.

Scouting Report: Jordan Rossiter – Let’s Leave the Injury Jokes Aside, and Talk About His Ability

2018/2019 stats (for Glasgow Rangers in all competitions): 181 minutes, 2 starts, 3 sub appearances; 0 goals, 0 assists.

By now, you’ll have seen the superbly put together video of the ‘worst kept secret’ of the winter transfer deadline day. Just like Ryan Lowe said during his interview yesterday, I would never have expected the likes of Jordan Rossiter at the club, although it becomes a little easier to understand why when you look at his career trajectory in the past five years, with two hugely contributory factors weighing him down in my view.

Firstly, and most obviously, it’s his injury record. Assuming his page on Transfermarkt is reasonably accurate, to have so many lengthy spells on the sidelines at such a young age can only have had a massive impact on him, but it also says a lot about his character and mental toughness to have fought his way back to fitness so many times. Unfortunately, having so many knockbacks will inevitably start to attract ire, derision, and this can then take the form of ‘banter’ about him spending more time in Fairfield General Hospital than he will on the Gigg Lane turf. You just have to accept that some people will resort to that, given how much focus professional footballers are under, particularly ones with Rossiter’s profile.

A local Liverpool lad, he entered the academy at just six, and rose through each age bracket with glowing references, and made his debut at 15 in the now-defunct NextGen Series, a continental cup competition designed principally for U19 players… which brings me to the second issue. A strong showing as a substitute in that game against Inter Milan was sufficient for Reds legend Robbie Fowler to draw comparisons between him and Steven Gerrard:

I’m sure it was meant as only the highest praise, but that is an extremely heavy mantle to have to take on whilst still an adolescent. Of course, it’s far from a unique situation to him, but I’ve always found it a lazy, often damaging way of describing a player, which both sets fans up to have unrealistic expectations, and the label can become internalised by the individual him/herself, making it that much more difficult to enjoy their football and progress.

One thing that’s rarely been questioned is Rossiter’s actual ability, as that tweet attests to. In compiling this Scouting Report, there is a bevy of evidence to support the claims that have always been made about him, but it is unavoidably scattered over a large expanse of time.

Capped up to England U20s level, he’s been used exclusively at club and international levels as either a defensive or central midfielder. His strong left foot, which he’s nearly as adept with as his right, has meant often being chosen to be the left of a midfield duo or trio in order to utilise this facet of his game more extensively. His career passing accuracy to date is just a shade lower than 90%, with around a third of his total being played forward, and his impressive array and range has helped to unlock defences from deep areas on the pitch, in not too dissimilar a way to former Celtic prospect Eoghan O’Connell’s recent exploits for the Shakers.

Whilst not the quickest, which has doubtlessly been exacerbated by persistent calf and hamstring problems, he does cover a lot of ground in every phase, which will be a crucial aspect under Ryan Lowe’s system without the ball. Equally as handy is his ability to really get stuck in, and he’s just as apt to recover possession in the opposition half as he is his own. This could be of great help in reducing the number of instances Bury get countered upon, especially when coupled with how well he retains the ball.

In my review of January, I identified that as perhaps the weakest part of the current tactics. Rossiter is not a silver bullet for all that’s given up in defence for the sake of attack, but he does offer a skillset that’s hard to replicate, and is testament to the coaching he received at Melwood and more recently at the Rangers Training Centre; strong in the tackle, decent in the air, a natural with both feet, quite positive when passing, likes a shot from range, and most importantly in a sense, he loves to drive forwards, which will be key to how well he meshes into the XI when called upon. With Neil Danns on international duty with Guyana in March to try to earn qualification to the Gold Cup, there is a place up for grabs in his absence, if indeed he hasn’t already established himself by then.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard remains one of Rossiter’s biggest admirers and proponents, and will surely feature the 21 year-old heavily in his plans for 2019/2020 if he can prove his fitness with a much-needed run of consistent matches

It remains to be seen whether he’ll start tomorrow as Crawley Town make the journey north from West Sussex, but I think he’ll definitely feature at some point. There’s little chance that he’s been brought here at the expense of possible alternatives in the SPFL and the third tier of England to sit on the bench, and much of the credit must go to Lowe’s friendship with Gerrard to help persuade him and the rest of the Glasgow Rangers setup to send a second player from Ibrox to BL9 this campaign. Jamie Barjonas didn’t feature as much as he or his parent club would have liked, but in truth, Rossiter is a different prospect from the outset from his teammate, and that’s not meant to in any way diminish Barjonas, who will now spend the remainder of the campaign at Raith Rovers in a similar pursuit of regular minutes.

To give you an illustration of just how at odds 2018/2019 is the years immediately preceding it, Sporting Director Lee Dykes, together with Lowe, has ensured that the squad has been reduced in size, two of the leading lights in the U18s have signed pro terms, and none of the ‘core’ senior contingent have been sold at an important juncture. Only Scott Wharton and Rossiter have arrived at Carrington, and they both eptiomise quality over quantity in positions that needed strengthening to maintain the tilt for automatic promotion. It’s equally plausible that the latter is ‘above’ the Shakers’ relatively low standing, as I’ve seen suggested both within and without the club, but as good as he is and could prove to be, I don’t feel as though the collective success is all hinging on him being a success in his time there. He has retained a positive outlook in the face of adversity on several occasions, and that will help him no end in fitting into the squad, no matter how much he does or doesn’t end up playing.