Category: Bury

Buryball, Chapter 4: ‘Meat Pie, Sausage Roll, C’mon 1885 Bury, Give Us a Goal!’

“Buryball? Eh?” Confused? Read Chapter 0 for a short precis.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

According to the monthly managerial summary, my start to life in the National League North has been graded as a ‘B-‘, with particular criticism reserved for the ‘less than exciting tactics’ to date. What a load of rubbish – I only gave the board and fans a 10-goal thriller the other week! What more do they want? An average of a goal a game in the league?

Oh.

(1885 Bury score first):

Kettering Town (h) – 0-2

The visitors to Pilsworth Park ‘boasted’ a certain Joe Skarz in their lineup at left-back. The two-time Shaker in real life has seen injuries catch up with him, hence the drop to semi-pro. He was the one laughing however when his opposite number Ross Woodcock was dismissed for unnecessarily pulling back Daniel Nti when already on a yellow. Simeon Oure, carrying a slight knock, was sacrificed for defensive solidity. I needn’t have bothered when a route one free-kick routine left Callum Maycock with the simplest of headers to nod into the far corner approaching the hour mark, leaving me a man light, a goal down, and in a tactical dilemma. Ultimately, I decided for a slightly more positive posture, attacking down Skarz’ flank. Maycock again profited from a dead ball to wipe out the slim positive goal difference I had enjoyed in the league, and whilst defeat wasn’t a disaster under the circumstances, it again made me rue how costly some of the red cards have been this campaign already. Woodcock then bleated about how unfair fining him a day’s wages was, but I was in no mood for clemency.

Leamington (h) <FA Cup Qualifying 3rd Round> –  0-0

The pressure was back on a bit to deliver a result and passage to the fourth and final round of qualifying before the ‘proper’ stage of the FA Cup. James Cook, whose signing has not been popular with fans, was demanding more gametime. I put him to cover in behind the defensive line as a bulwark against balls being launched over the top. Left-winger Fergus McAughtrie had a goal controversially chalked off for offside when he looked dead level, and that was the height of the approach play for almost the entire match, barely even registering a shot afterwards. Leading scorer (a relative term) James Morris also had a strike disallowed, but in truth, the Shakers were fortunate to earn a replay, completely nullified by the opposition.

Leamington (a) <FA Cup Qualifying 3rd Round  – Replay> –  0-0 aet (8-7 pens)

The prize on offer for the victors of the replay is a trip to Chorley in the tier above. It was clear how much both teams wanted it – not a single highlight in the first half. Connor Gudger smashed against the post for Leamington to remind the spectators that there was something resembling a football match on display, although there was little else to stir them. Extra time at least meant being able to make a fourth sub to stem the fatigue creeping in to the part-timers’ bodies, and their task was made a touch easier by a tired tackle by Jack Edwards, reducing the hosts down to 10. There was no choice now but to go for it as a shoot-out would not bring any kind of advantage… but it made no telling difference. Leamington elected to take first, and after two goes each, it was 1-1. After four attempts, it was 2-2, Callum O’Neill saving twice, the Shakers’ takers hitting the post or blasting wide. Sudden death wasn’t looking like separating the teams either, with the scores now up to 7-7 from nine attempts apiece. O’Neill shut out his opposite number, and Harry Bircumshaw finally tucked away the winning penalty!

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Phew!

Gloucester City (a) – 1-0

It was then back to the bread and butter of the league after the euphoria had died down and the dark fruit cider had been imbibed. The games coming thick and fast necessitated a few changes to the starting lineup in an attempt to actually score a goal in normal play. Zack Kotwica missed a gilt-edged chance for the hosts (who actually have to play in a different county because of flooding 12 years ago), but aside from that, it was 1885 Bury who were playing the better football, helped in no small way by Morris’ restoration to the team. Vincent Harper inexplicably chested into his own net from a Woodcock free-kick to give me a precious lead, which I then tried to hold onto by bringing on target man Challis Johnson to partner Morris. It did just that, but still provided very scarce amounts of entertainment for the travelling supporters.

Hereford (a) – 2-4

A trip to another reformed former EFL club was a welcome one… at least until they won and converted a second minute penalty. The Bulls then got another one just four minutes later, but thankfully, Tom Owen-Evans wasn’t able to double his side’s tally. Keiran Thomas then played exactly the sort of ball over the top that I’d tasked Cook with cutting out… but he didn’t, and Brad Ash made it two-zip. Ryan Scholes-Beard, fired up from the half-time rollicking, cut their advantage in half with a volley after a great knockdown by Morris. Owen-Evans turned provider to a completely unmarked Jordan Nicholson 60 seconds later. Centre-back Martin Riley heaped further misery soon afterwards, and Morris’ own striker after good hold-up play by sub Joe Thompson meant very little in the end.

Chorley (a) <FA Cup Qualifying 4th Round> – 0-3

As you’d expect, the Lancashire outfit set their stall out from the beginning, taking the game to the young Shakers. Oliver Crankshaw, who was completely bossing Ify Ofoegbu, exploited some defensive sloppiness to give the Magpies the lead. In truth, both full-backs were having a torrid time, and I used all my substitutions to try to salvage a replay, only for Oure to then limp off… sigh. Crankshaw assisted Chris Holroyd, who had a ‘memorable’ spell on loan at Gigg Lane in 2010/2011, and then blasted in a third for Chorley late on. Technically, the exit made it a side bearing the name of Bury’s worst performance in the famous competition for 128 years.

AFC Telford United (h) – 0-0

Back to the tactical drawing board. I can’t escape the fact that the squad were signed in mind to fit a 4-2-3-1, but the emphasis on controlling possession just wasn’t creating enough chances, nor winning the ball back quickly to relieve pressure on the defence. Hitting the woodwork twice in the first half was only adding to my frustration.

Altrincham (h) – 0-0

A sense of déjà vu crept in, further compounded by a Thompson penalty miss. 22 shots and no goals…

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It’s getting a bit depressing now…

Will the tactical overhaul eventually lead to a glut of goals? Check back later on Friday to find out!

Chapter 5…

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Buryball, Chapter 3: Own Goal Bonanza!

“Buryball? Eh?” Confused? Read Chapter 0 for a short precis.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2

Straight after the Farsley Celtic draw, star man Denilson Carvalho picked up a foot injury, keeping him out of most of September’s fixtures, the first of which was a tasty looking one against…

(1885 Bury score first):

York City (h) – 1-0

The Minstermen were up in third prior to the encounter; Bury and York games had once been testy affairs, especially between the two sets of supporters. Having the new entity in the same division could rekindle the ‘rivalry’ once more, and the reformed Shakers struck first. Harry Bircumshaw had been impressing for the U23s in scratch games, so I decided to give him the nod for the vacant berth behind Morris. He made the decision look extremely wise with quarter of an hour gone, rifling in a cut-back by the overlapping Ify Ofoegbu. Visiting wing-back David Ferguson almost restored parity just a few minutes later – his audacious lob from an acute angle bounced off the crossbar. These passages constituted the only meaningful highlights of the game, taking 1885 Bury to within two points of York and into the expanded play-off positions.

Alfreton Town (a) – 0-1

7th vs 6th at North Street in Derbyshire saw David Lynch (no, not that one) let loose from 30 yards for the Reds before an unmarked Josh Clackstone got the opener just before the stroke of half-time. Amari Morgan-Smith thought he’d doubled the hosts’ lead, only for the linesman to flag for offside. Clackstone and 1885 Bury sub Joe Thompson both spurned golden opportunities to change the complexion of the game deep in the second half.

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What was becoming crystal clear at this juncture was the lack of goals – at both ends; just seven for and six against in the first nine games wasn’t terrible on the face of it, but it did feel as though I was being left in the dust by possible competitors for promotion. I switched up the shape to a 4-2-4, relying on the midfielders to sit deep and spray the ball wide to the flanks.

The draw for the second qualifying round for the FA Cup was made in between the Alfrteon and Guiseley fixtures, pitting my young pups against Cambridgeshire-based Histon, currently plying their trade in the Isthmian League North Division (tier eight). The minimum expectation of the board is to reach the first round proper…

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Guiseley (h) – 0-0

The strategic and tactical adjustments were in full evidence early on at Pilsworth Park. The Oure and Morris combination were getting plenty of shots off but with nothing to show for it. The pattern repeated itself until the final whistle; the shoot on sight policy was beefing up the stat, but not where it mattered.

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18 shots, 2 on target… eesh.

Boston United (a) – 0-0

Fringe full-backs Ross Woodcock and James Yates both saw fit to come to my door prior to the trip down to Lincolnshire to demand more playing time – luckily for me, they don’t operate on the same flank. Unusually, centre-back Alex Honeyball is the best direct free-kick taker in the XI, and tried his damnedest to channel Siniša Mihajlović with a curling effort that whistled just over the bar. Boston didn’t have a single shot in the first half, but went unpunished for their paucity. Morris then hit the inside the post after a clever through ball was played into his path by the brilliantly named vice-captain Scholes-Beard. This seemed to wake the hosts up, and Jordan Thewlis made a hash of two opportunities in quick succession. Morris again hit the upright when connecting with an Oure inswinger. Surely it’s only a matter of time for his luck to change?

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Fresh on the back of Anthony Johnson studying for a higher badge, the chairmanship is up for election…

Histon (a) <FA Cup Qualifying 2nd Round> – 7-3

The onus was very much on me to inspire a dominant, goal-filled performance from the profiligate troupe; Morris appeared to have ended his drought in the 12th minute from a simple square pass by Bircumshaw, only for it to be credited as an own goal. Dylon Meredith then had the great idea of booting a clearance against goalkeeper Callum O’Neill – two goals and neither in the right end! Morris did confirm his name on the scoresheet, making the most of a mistimed header at the second attempt. Honeyball headed in his first for the club from another Oure assist, and the latter provided Morris with the second of his opening period hat-trick. Scholes-Beard got the sixth from the spot before Cameron Taylor felt sympathetic towards the outclassed hosts, heading into his unguarded net for a third own goal of the match! Sub striker Challis Johnson got off the mark for 1885 Bury with a towering header, and Zac Werndly grabbed a consolation. 10 goals all in all, almost the same amount as combining the for and against columns in the league deep in October…

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No, not making it up…

The draw for the third qualifying round was (reasonably) kind, pitting 1885 Bury against 21st-placed Leamington in the same division at home.

King’s Lynn Town (h) – 2-1

The only noteworthy incident in the first 45 was Meredith going off injured. Morris carried on his new-found form and confidence, however, taking the ball round the ‘keeper to slot in the opener after brilliantly controlling a pass from Scholes-Beard. Jordan Richards grabbed the equaliser from an incisive breakaway before the hour mark, and Aaron Jones gifted 1885 Bury the win in injury time with an underhit backpass to Brad Watkins – Morris grabbed his fifth in two outings. The win was costly, however; Meredith’s injury was confirmed as a twisted ankle, ruling him out completely of Chapter 4 on Friday…

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Glass full: just outside the play-offs and a superb defensive record; empty: scored precisely the same as the two relegation candidates…

 

Buryball, Chapter 2: Morris is a Dancer

“Buryball? Eh?” Confused? Read Chapter 0 for a short precis.

Chapter 1 is here.

After three hours’ ceaseless searching, the quest for a Director of Football ended in the form of Mark Wright. Yes, the former Liverpool centre back from my childhood in the 90s who seemed to have perfected the art of putting through his own net. Thankfully, he’s not terrible in his new position, so he should be of some use. His appointment has not shifted the bookies’ pre-season odds – 1885 Bury are predicted to come 22nd… out of 22. Whilst having to knit together 29 extremely youthful individuals into something resembling a squad probably has something to do with it, 175-1 does seem a bit long.

I also agreed to pay out high collective bonuses to the team in order to further incentivise progress in both league and cup competition. Doing so doesn’t contravene any of the five tenets of Buryball, especially as the differences are so small.

It then came time to choose my captain and vice for the campaign. I’m sure you’ll agree that the names of the players augur well…

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Games in the National League come thick and fast; August alone contains seven, starting off with…

(1885 Bury score first):

Brackley Town (a) – 1-0

An encouraging start down in Northamptonshire. Local lad Denilson Carvalho capped off a fine performance on his debut by grabbing the decisive goal, making the most of some slack marking to rifle home from a Simeon Oure corner. 61% possession on the road is a great platform to build on as well, and it’s likely to be a style that will frustrate the opposition on good days, and the Shakers faithful on bad ones.

Blyth Spartans (h) – 0-0

Ah, Blyth Spartans – a name that still makes fans of a certain age shudder. The visitors’ tactic was the archetypal one for the sixth tier – put 10 men behind the ball and lump it long to the target man. It worked a treat, nullifying the Shakers’ attacking threats. Not a single clear-cut chance was created by either side, but Blyth could’ve won it at the death – a free header at the far post hit the side netting…

Gateshead (a) – 1-0

Another side that know all about financial problems, and also boasting a sprightly central defensive partnership of Mike Williamson and one-time Bury player Michael Nelson at a combined age of 74. James Morris latched onto the latter’s dawdling to strike in the sixth minute somewhat against the general run of play in the first half. The keep-ball in the second period was beginning to sway things back in my favour, although a slew of opportunities came and went to increase the lead.

Curzon Ashton (h) – 2-0

Possibly the closest thing to a derby in the National League North, local hospitality was not offered on the pitch. Morris was the beneficiary of another Oure corner, latching on to a loose ball to nod home in the fifth minute – clearly, the extra training sessions dedicated to attacking set pieces were having their desired effect. Nicky Wroe (a former Bury loanee in 2006/2007) made Curzon’s task all the more difficult with a red card for a two-footed lunge. Oure and Morris combined once more for the former to volley in a second after a headed one-two. Four clean sheets in a row!

Spennymoor Town (a) – 1-3

Very little in the way of noteworthy action at either end in the opening 45. The encounter exploded into life when Oure was brought down by Stephen Brogan inside the area 10 minutes after the restart, and Morris made the most of the resultant spot-kick, tucking in his third of the nascent campaign. Spennymoor had several half-chances to level things up before right-back Ify Ofoegbu hit the woodwork. Lewis Landers was finally beaten in the 85th minute, courtesy of a wonder strike from 20 yards by Max Anderson. Brogan made amends for giving away the penalty by giving the hosts the lead in injury time, which was further cemented with the last kick of the game by Andrew Johnson.

Kidderminster Harriers (h) – 0-1

Fellow play-off hopefuls Kidderminster won a penalty after a needless push by Ross Woodcock from a free-kick, which Noah Chilvers duly dispatched. The youngster could’ve put the game beyond doubt in the second period but fluffed his lines. Nevertheless, it was a powder-puff performance that left with some concerns.

Farsley Celtic (a) – 1-1

Tom Heardman never kicked a meaningful ball in anger for Bury during his loan spell from Newcastle United in 2017/2018, returning to his parent club even before August was out. On this game however, he proved to be a thorn, just about staying onside to arc a shot into the far corner for Farsley. Skipper Winner Luabu sent a rocket against the bar as the Shakers piled forward in search of an equaliser. In the 86th minute, it arrived; Alfie Raw stole possession deep in the West Yorkshire outfit’s half, squaring it for Joe Thompson to stroke home. Dylon Meredith immediately killed any prospect of finding a winner with a horror tackle, receiving his marching orders as the game petered out.

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9th place and a steady start…

Can the new Shakers build on their upper mid-table position in September? Find out on Thursday…

This way to Part 3…

Buryball, Chapter 1: Anthony & the Johnson (Redux)

“Buryball? Eh?” Confused? Read Chapter 0 for a short precis.

This is a reworked version of Chapter 1 – there were a number of issues with the save – changing/lowering the club’s reputation made it almost impossible from the outset; adding people as liked/disliked made them out to be alumni of 1885 Bury; I hadn’t loaded the ‘real name fix’ for some of the clubs – if I ever made it to the top table, Juventus would be Zebra, for example; the full release has fixed some minor bugs, too.

The people spoke. 1885 Bury would start in the National League North. A good thing, too, considering I got the official full release date of Football Manager 2020 wrong – it’s actually next Tuesday, not the traditional Friday that most video games come out on.

Still, a promise is a promise, and the game being in beta shouldn’t affect how the story unfolds too much. In case you’re unfamiliar with how Create-A-Club works on the Football Manager series, it lets you import your own logos (and kit if you’re particularly savvy) onto an existing club that you can then change pretty much every facet of, from little things like their likely minimum and maximum attendances for the league they’re competing in to the name and personnel.

For the purposes of Buryball, I wanted as clean a slate as possible, and crucially, to ‘replace’ a fan-owned club. The obvious candidates were Chester – the club culture is blank, which is a new and key feature of the game in this edition, and is amalgamated with the philosophies of previous years to give a more nuanced, easilly quantifiable assessment of how you’re performing in your role.

chester
Sorry, Seals! (To view any image in full size, open in a new tab and remove WordPress’ dimensions at the end of the URL).

The next step was to change the identity:

kits
The home and away shirts are modelled on the Legends Game that took place last month; the third kit is a close approximation of the first one ever worn by a club called ‘Bury FC’

For me, this had to go a bit deeper than simply the colours and stadium name (one of the locations that always used to be mooted if Bury did move grounds was in Pilsworth, an industrial estate in the east of the borough with motorway links).

When I finally got to the game proper, the club vision was laid out to me, and the task at hand was stark:

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Yeah, best of luck with that.

From next to nothing (no players, a skeleton crew comprising a backroom staff – I kept Shakers fan and ‘assistant manager’ Anthony Johnson on), I had seven weeks or so to assemble a squad capable of making the play-offs at a minimum in a notoriously tricky division. What’s worse, it seemed as though for a few of those weeks that I wouldn’t even be able to hire a Director of Football (granted, not many sixth tier clubs have one, but I always prefer having one on FM) – literally none were interested, so I had to place an advert in the vain hope of securing even an insipid one.

As for making signings, I decided to devise a tactic first – a contemporary 4-2-3-1 that favours using the flanks and retaining possession; it is sure to be tweaked and added to over the course of the campaign, and in time, I should have a solid ‘Plan B’. As there’s no academy in place (yet), I opted only to sign those under the age of 21, with hopefully a few of them developing well enough to be sold on for a profit that can then be invested primarily in the infrastructure if/when my standing is good enough with the board.

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Brackley Town await in the first ever competitive fixture for 1885 Bury., and it also represents many of the roster’s senior bows. Check back later tonight to see how it went, as well as the rest of August 2019 in-game…

Read Part 2 here!

Buryball, Chapter 0: Buryball is Back on Football Manager 2020!

It’s that time once more. With this year’s edition of Football Manager released officially in two days from now, I have listened to all my fans* who begged and pleaded with me to bring back my unique take on the ‘Moneyball’ philosophy, and how it can be used and refined with Bury.

Of course, this season is different. It will have escaped no-one’s attention whatsoever that the Shakers in real life were expelled from the EFL back in August, which from an FM perspective put my continued voluntary position as researcher for the club in serious jeopardy. Like everyone else, I have no idea what the short-term future holds for the ‘old’ (limited) company, although my bet would still be on (a very drawn out) liquidation.

I am but one of over 200 people involved in some small way with setting up a phoenix club, but as the likelihood of any FA application would place the new entity in either the eighth tier (Northern Premier League Division One North West) or ninth (North West Counties Premier Division), they would only be included in Football Manager 2021 on the database, and not a playable club in the base game.

That said, there are always downloadable add-ons on the Steam client; one of the most popular of these is the enfranchisement of all the clubs from the 10th tier up – that is the lowest step where all divisions run in parallel. In total, it brings another 893 English teams into the playable fold, and there is more research than ever that goes into ensuring the data that far down is accurate.

How does any of that affect Buryball, you ask? Well, the ‘old’ club are still on the game, sans any coaching staff (except Paul Wilkinson), official badge or kits. I’m unsure what the mechanism is for a side being promoted to the National League North/South on the base game. From an anecdotal perspective, I have play-tested Leicester City in the beta, and in the third season, Bury are still not back in the league system.

It is possible to use an in-game editor to manipulate events so that they’re returned to the ‘fold’, but I think that goes against the spirit of things somewhat. My preferred option is to use the ‘Create-A-Club’ mode, which lets you edit an existing club from the start, change the colours, badge, stadium, and so on. The biggest dilemma is whether to do this in the National League North or one of the lower tiers mentioned aboveI’ll be putting a poll out on Twitter after publishing this blog to let you decide.

So… what exactly is Buryball, anyway? In previous editions, it was my twist on the mantra of finding hidden gems, developing young players, and selling them on if a bid came in above their in-game value. Obviously, if I start out in the ninth tier, that will be harder to do at first – it might be that the vast majority of the personnel are on amateur contracts, not drawing a salary at all. It could make for a challenging start.

The aim of the save isn’t simply to get back to the EFL. It’s to do it in a sustainable way. Therefore, these are the rules I must follow during my stint in charge:

  • Net wage spend is more important than transfer spend, but…
  • The club cannot make a net loss in the transfer market outside of the first season in the Premier League (should I get that far).
  • Primarily, invest in infrastructure over new players.
  • The best way to improve a team is by identifying and replacing the weakest links, rather than by splashing out on making the best links even better.
  • Most fans value seeing players come through the youth academy system over other 16-20 year old signings, especially those who are on loan.

On reflection, I had too many rules when I’ve attempted this before – stripping them down to five makes them both more memorable and pertinent to the game.

As I detailed on Monday, I’m looking to be writing/publishing something on here or elsewhere every weekday. For that to work with Buryball, each chapter will probably encapsulate a month or so of in-game time. I hope you’ll find this redux enjoyable, and if you have any questions, suggestions, or feedback, do feel free to let me know!

Direct link to Part 1 here!

Review: ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ by James Bentley

For full disclosure, I had a very tiny part in helping fellow Bury fan James Bentley with his second tome about the Shakers (the first being centred around the 1984/1985 promotion-winning squad titled ‘The Forgotten Fifteen’ , which was set against the backdrop of the Bradford and Heysel disasters). I transcribed the parts featuring Mark Carter and David Pugh slowly, using lunch breaks at work to complete the task. It doesn’t affect how I perceive the book as a whole.

Having started the fortnightly pilgrimage to Gigg Lane mere months prior to where the main body commences as a wide-eyed eight-year old, the man in the dugout is Mike Walsh with a certain Stan Ternent as his assistant. It continues in a chronological fashion, spanning a four-year period until Neil Warnock takes charge and the downward spiral begins in earnest on the back of the meteoric rise hitherto experienced under Ternent, doubtlessly the most successful and best era to be a fan in the post-war period.

As well as chronicling the ups and downs of the seasons game-by-game, the major ‘added value’ comes in the guise of former players and staff agreeing to be interviewed for their takes on the extraordinary rise of Bury Football Club in the mid-90s, as well as accounts of supporters recollecting key events and their emotions at the time. Bentley is also able to call upon extensive archived material from newspapers (mostly the Bury Times when it still meant something to anyone, and the Manchester Evening News before the era of handing it out for free in the city centre). The local print and radio journalists add another layer to the prose, helping what might have been a bit dry at the end of another author’s pen or fingertips into a real page-turner.

Technology just before the proliferation of the internet into the collective public consciousness has a big say in the narrative, too. VHS tapes were still the order of the day, and even though attendances swelled to 6,000 or so in 1997/1998, it’s unlikely many copies of the season reviews were purchased back then, much less survive to this day and in a transferable state to more modern media. Anyone who’s watched the grainy footage on YouTube and other online platforms is extremely grateful for their existence; for me personally, watching back the highlights from that time (with a couple of famous exceptions) represented just the second instances of ever seeing them. That point can’t be understated because when they’re coupled with the excitable tones of commentator Paul Greenlees, it only enhances many of the goals’ iconic statuses, and ably demonstrates not having quick and endless access to them can allow a belated but renewed appreciation of memories hitherto trapped in amber.

The author himself was of a prime age for fully appreciating what was unfolding in front of the faithful few thousand in BL9, and this is relayed in what a player signing or leaving, a formation change, a rallying call, and the atmosphere before and during a match meant and felt like to him. Through no fault of his own, this in itself is a huge improvement over his first work. Simply being witness to the events adds an authentic voice to proceedings.

Whereas many of his anecdotes being close to a decade my senior are about going to pubs and driving down to away trips with his dad, what music he was into, and a finer understanding of the tactical points of the starting lineup, mine were about catching the 481 or 483 bus to Bury from Rossendale (initially with both my mum and grandma), dining in Burger King on the Rock, buying sweets in the Millgate Shopping Centre post office, and unzipping my bag to allow my teddy Paskin (named after John Paskin, the delightfully mustachioed South African striker the club had between 1994 and 1996 with a more than a whiff of porn star about him) to watch along with us.

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Like James, we were also at Wembley for the crushingly disappointing ’95 play-off final defeat to Chesterfield, and little would any of us have known that the 5-0 reverse to Warnock’s Plymouth early in the subsequent term would be the precipitant of the dramatic promotion the next May. We were among those gathered on the pitch after Ternent’s charges had done their bit, waiting to hear the outcome of the Darlington-Scunthorpe United game. Once confirmation of the draw came through, everyone, myself included, jumped up on down on the boggy pitch that barely passed as a playing surface. It would prove to be the last time my grandma was there in life. Some of her ashes were scattered there in September of the same year.

1996/1997 was the title winning season, and as was customary, Bury were one of the favourites for the drop. ‘Fortress Gigg’ was established, and with tribunal signing Dean Kiely in between the sticks, I had my first real favourite player. I’d always been a goalkeeper in the playground despite my small stature, and I always preferred asking for the jerseys over the outfield tops for birthdays and Christmases. What I didn’t know back then was just how protracted the saga had been over the fee for Kiely, and this is another way in which the book comes into its own – it has really helped me fill in the ‘gaps’ in what I would otherwise be able to recall.

Certain pivotal fixtures are of course covered in far greater detail than others, especially the decisive final pair that handed the club its first silverware for decades and a second successive promotion to boot. Once more, my feelings are mirrored in the author’s prose, but it should also be noted that even in the midst of success, the financial dark clouds that have never been far away from the Fishpool area were beginning to reform. Even in the days of lower league sides regularly paying transfer fees and a relatively low wage bill, Bury were still making fairly significant year-on-year losses. Whilst these pale in comparison to this decade and the inevitable liquidation of the current entity, they did add credence to the never-changing perception (and reality) of the club as either ‘cash-strapped’ or ‘spending beyond their means’.

Of most interest to me is the section on the first campaign in the ‘old’ Division One (now the Championship). I was starting high school, and it really felt like the team I loved and I were on the cusp of something. It was also the beginning of regularly travelling to away grounds up and down the country with my mum, including getting up at stupid o’clock in the morning to get on the official coaches to the likes of East Anglian rivals Norwich City and Ipswich Town. Although these were rarely wins, it never sapped my enjoyment of them or made me wish I’d done something else with my Saturdays and Tuesday evenings in the years since – indeed, as is reflected in the book, they were some of the best times of my life and of many others’, perhaps even more so for the ephemeral nature of being in the second tier on merit. The Valentine’s Day win over Manchester City at Maine Road in 1998 five days before my 12th birthday is unlikely to ever be beaten as my favourite away experience.

There are anecdotes contained within that few would’ve been aware of at the time, ranging from Ternent and Warnock’s mutual hatred to the far more harrowing tales of Andy Woodward, which only came to light in 2016 as the first in a deeply disturbing lone line of victims of child sexual abuse in football that continue to have ramifications in the sport to this day.

There are only two small negatives I can find in the book, neither of which really spoiled much. The first was an affliction all too common to Kindle editions, and unlikely to be the fault of the author. The formatting periodically lets things down – this manifests itself most strikingly in making words in a sentence combine into one for no real reason and giving pause for true comprehension of what’s being conveyed.

The second is the more than occasional party political allusion. I accept that the reader’s mileage will vary in this, and to play devil’s advocate, the ambiguous title of the book was very much of its time and famous for it. There are also instances where events current to the epoch are relayed alongside matches, some of which are of more pertinence than others; again though, these are less frequent or intrusive than his first book because of the authentic voice.

In summary, anyone with even a passing interest in Bury or more broadly about a less celebrated (former) member of the 92 will find plenty to entertain and elucidate them, and the author must be commended for the years of research and hard work that went into publishing it, as well as subsequent attempts to keep the ‘spirit’ of the club alive since expulsion of the EFL through a tour of pubs affected by the depressing events of the last six months whilst reflecting on better times without wallowing too much in nostalgia.

My Vision for a Phoenix Club

The deed is done. Whilst (The) Bury Football Club Company Limited still exist as an insolvent going concern, the EFL’s decision to reject the proposal by the ‘Rescue Board’ to reinstate the Shakers in League Two for the 2020/2021 season will likely be the penultimate deathblow to 134 years of history. The coup de grace will surely come in the form of a final winding-up petition by HMRC, which is slated for the 16th of October.

The blame game is still being played, and depending on your own disposition as to how much of it is apportioned to Stewart Day, Steve Dale, and the EFL themselves. But I’m not writing another post that serves as a eulogy for what’s been. Out of the most devastating of circumstances arises an opportunity that, realistically speaking, was never going to come supporters’ way without some extremely rich individuals counting themselves among the base.

There will be some who, barring a scarcely believable intervention, will not want to come on the journey of any subsequent phoenix club – the grief is still very raw for one thing. If the merits of a new entity don’t make their mark on them in the fullness of time, then their decision should be respected.

Nevertheless, I maintain the view that there is a lot to admire about a clean slate, not too dissimilar to using the ‘Create-a-Club’ mode on the Football Manager series and analogous incarnations in other video games down the years, but made real, and far from the confines of fantasy.

Name and crest

bury1885

I’m not an expert on whether the original name of ‘Bury Football Club’ can be retained in any new venture in a legal sense. Obviously, that would be the preference of the overwhelming majority… but if that’s not able to be achieved, it opens up a lot of alternative options. As illustrated by the above image, my own choice would be 1885 Bury. Darlington faced a situation with many parallels seven years ago, and opted for ‘1883’ as their suffix (they have since dropped the moniker, having had the change approved by the FA).

1885 Bury would retain in their name a link back to the founding of the original entity, as well as mirror how a lot of clubs in the Bundesliga style themselves. This is of heightened relevance when it comes to setting out the possible ownership models later in the article.

As for the crest, I think it needs modernising (simplifying). Again, the above picture is a good example of what I mean, although sadly, a new club wouldn’t be able to retain the two stars signifying the number of FA Cup wins. The v-shaped badge is a hark back to a past iteration, but with an updated motto and more legible text.

In essence, people should be able to look at the crest and know at first glance it can only be Bury’s, whilst also making it far easier to duplicate onto kits, merchandise, and in general marketing itself.

Club Colours & Kit

 

buryNEW crest
Branding, like it or loathe it, is an integral part of football, and its importance stretches far below the EFL
buryNEW crest
More excellent mock-ups… but it now seems like an especially cruel joke to have the local council emblazoned on one of the kits!

Every facet would need to be voted, and the club colours and kit are no exception to that. The shade of blue that accompanies the white is not as clear-cut; it has switched between royal and navy historically, and I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t really mind either way, having been witness to both in my time.

I think it would be prudent to strike up a business relationship with a local supplier for the manufacture and distribution of kits. This would enable them to be bespoke, which will be a key cornerstone of a phoenix club’s identity, as well as keeping the supply chain costs down. In turn, a simpler crest as described above would also make it easier to change the colours of it to a single hue, as evidenced in the away kit mock-up.

When possible, taking a leaf out of Accrington Stanley’s book would be a savvy decision:

 

It is just one method of engaging with the community; equally, they don’t change their kits every season unlike almost all of their contemporaries. This ensures greater longevity of the shirts themselves, but also keeps costs down for everyone involved.

When they do change, supporters can be involved in every step of the process.

The small matter of where they’ll play

For many, Gigg Lane is the club. It is also crucial in the sense of having a platform from which to apply to the FA for a higher tier than would otherwise be the case. Chester did this with the Deva on appeal, for example, and the ground is indeed listed as an Asset of Community Value, as can be seen on the spreadsheet link below:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1bj6nNrp3UFxmOgR08z9zEiz2fCOnO_d7/view?usp=sharing

Even so, there is a high financial barrier to having the ground under fans’ ownership, especially without the help of wealthy backers, or even a Compulsory Purchase Order by the council, who would then lease it back to the new entity at a mutually affordable rate. This does not factor in the cost of maintenance, however.

If no deal can be struck, then it opens up the prospect of ground-sharing with other local non-league outfits, such as Radcliffe, Ramsbottom United, and Prestwich Heys. The notion is not without its pitfalls, however. All three have distinct identities of their own, and might feel like sharing their homes is the first step towards absorption. This would need to be categorically ruled out.

The third route would be to find an entirely new site, but the timescales for that would vary wildly, so it’s difficult to discuss in any real detail at present.

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The small matter of which division they’ll start in

As discussed, this is partly contingent on the ground situation. Throughout the process, I’ve heard from a number of different individuals the prospect of competing in an expanded National League North. The basis for That would seem to rely on the current business somehow surviving, the debts being cleared, and Dale not being in situ. The National League as a body are far more stringent on the financial side of their member clubs than the ‘competition organisers’ above them in the pyramid.

Even then, it would require the votes of the clubs to allow re-entry. It’s far from a foregone conclusion that current members would acquiesce; many will feel that the only ‘correct’ course of action is for Bury in either form to start right back on the bottom rung of the North West Counties League.

Strangely enough, the police might have a say, too. Very few grounds that far down are equipped for large away followings. If you take the view that even half the current fanbase would desert a new venture in the 10th tier, that would still constitute a regular crowd that would dwarf every other club by a factor of 20. There are inherent safety issues associated with that likelihood, and it just goes to show that any application to the FA would have many strands for them to consider.

Ownership model

The most common misconception when the phrase ‘fan-owned club’ springs to mind is that it conjures up the logical conclusion that it must also be a fan-run club. It doesn’t necessarily work out that way, even with 100% models. The board, normally run by a majority of volunteers, employ others in a small number of paid positions to work in the day-to-day football roles.

A wholly-owned fan club would have complete control over the direction of travel, decisions and elections onto the working group/board would be democratic, and would rise or fall on the strength of the sense of community fostered therein. I’d also advocate a ‘one owner, one member, one vote’ system, despite favouring a tiered system of ownership practised by Lewes

Another style would be to ape the 50+1 rule in the Bundesliga; essentially, for a club to have a license in Germany, they (the members) have to retain majority voting rights, but the true proportions vary from team to team. This would allow some flexibility in terms of accepting external investors, whilst ensuring that no matter how much they put in, it would never assume control.

I am personally more flexible in my approach to the model than some others I know of for a phoenix club; my red line however is that it must be 50+1 at the very minimum. Bury, and many other clubs, have normally come into financial difficulties at the hands of one individual or a succession of de facto sole owners dictating the course of events. That can never be allowed to happen again.

Philosophy & values

No longer can lip service be paid to both being a hub and a service to the townspeople and beyond. The hashtag ‘#MyClubMyCommunity’ quickly became an awfully ironic phrase as many began to suffer financially and mentally.

BW.jpg
Just as important as establishing the men’s first team is the revivification of all other teams, including the hitherto extremely successful women – I make no delineation between them in my support of Bury or a phoenix

It must be at the heart of everything. For me, this means an acceptance that having a club with the main focus being just a men’s first team is over. Women, underage, veterans, Ability Counts. All of them should be catered for. That won’t be the view of everyone else – far from it; in the early days, players are almost certainly going to be drawn from the borough and Greater Manchester – the level of pay they’d receive would preclude anything else. Inversely, this presents opportunities for a much stronger link between supporter and player – in some instances, they would be one and the same. Efforts need to be made to reincorporate the women’s first team back under the more stable wing. It has gone largely unnoticed by the wider media the devastation wrought on them; this, too, can never be allowed to happen again. They’re under the care of the Trust – its future is also uncertain, and efforts should be made to secure the charity.

I’m not in favour of publicised year plans as to the goals of a club, and this would be no different with a phoenix. The aim would obviously be to get back up the pyramid as high and as fast as possible, but there are significant bottlenecks off the pitch to realising those ambitions, let alone on it. There’s also something to be said for this not coming at the cost of diluting the model and/or jeopardising the long-term security.

The club must also not overexert itself in any commerical ventures, and maintain a lithe and agile stance to current trends and events. A far greater push for transparency is paramount, too – I look at the accounting example at Clapton Community as something to both admire and replicate.

This has helped them have a strong presence far outside Walthamstow, and they are but one of several very prominent ‘case studies’, for want of a better term, of how invoking community spirit coupled with a clear identity and constant communication can galvanise support from a smörgåsbord of different sources.

To summarise, a phoenix club would not be a permanent state of rainbows and pots of gold. There’s so much that needs to be done in the next four months to guarantee football is once again played next season, should efforts ultimately fail to revive the moribund current business. Make no mistake though, a phoenix club would be more than a palimpsest of Bury – there’s a massive chance to take the very best of The Shakers from the past 134 years and pay that forward for the next 134, whilst making the club more inclusive, modern, and a shining beacon of the town and beyond.

 

A Non-Zero-Sum Game

The current situation is very bleak indeed – stop me if you’ve heard that tired old refrain before. James Frith, the local MP for Bury North, has been central to keeping efforts to save the club in the public eye, and his latest post on Facebook suggests that there has been a snowball effect in galvanising support from both the political and business fields to convince Debbie Jevans, the interim CEO of the EFL, to rescind the ‘unanimous decision’ to withdraw the golden share (membership) of the competition.

Once more, the statement makes mention of an ‘interested party’ in taking over the club. Quite what the attraction is for any consortium now is in owning a side that won’t have any fixtures for 11 months minimum is hard to see, and that doesn’t even take into account the severe lack of income there will be during that interim period, the CVA (which is now under investigation), Steve Dale (fresh from his most unintentionally hilarious and bizarre ramblings yet and belatedly widespread recognition and media depiction as the last but most crucial ‘villain of the piece’).

Hopes were first pinned on C&N Sporting Risk, who pulled out an hour before the extended deadline last week over concerns surrounding due diligence. Latterly, a London-based pastor by the name of Gustavo Ferreira supposedly tabled a £7m offer for the business before said deadline, which wasn’t sufficient to persuade the competition organisers to change tack, mainly because it just wasn’t credible.

The EFL have come in for plenty of flack since, with condemnation coming in the form of chants at many of their fixtures last weekend, an online petition (with north of 40,000 signatures at the time of writing), and a savaging in the press. I believe that they have handled the situation incompetently rather than malevolently, having simply failed to heed the warnings from two years ago. The method behind the expulsion, as much the action itself, has weakened their already sagging reputation much further still, and in a far more serious way than suspending Bury’s games prior to their decision was to the ‘integrity’ of League One.

It is this that has led to a possible legal challenge against them from a number of disparate groups, one of which could be by Forever Bury, who are holding a meeting at the town hall tomorrow. The short notice of that gathering is understandable, given that the clock is already ticking on both the outcome of any court case and an application to the FA to rejoin the pyramid. Remaining staff and players at the club have had their worlds turned upside down, with parents of children as young as eight years old

I also wonder what now is actually is the best case for the entity known collectively as Bury Football Club, and I don’t think it’s as immediately obvious as it might seem. I’m sure plenty of readers would say it’s for the EFL to place the Shakers in League Two for 2020/2021… but under whose ownership? How would the CVA (if left unscathed by the investigation) and debts not covered in it be paid for? How would income be generated without any matches? Most pertinently of all, the largest sticking point is the current situation surrounding Gigg Lane itself, which would require roughly £4m to wrest back the stadium from Capital Bridging Finance Solutions, plus the cumulative daily interest.

I find myself increasingly of the disposition that, barring a miracle (and it has been the hope that has killed fans over and over and over again in recent weeks), a fresh start might not be the worst outcome. Don’t get me wrong, every sinew should be stretched to at least come to an agreement with CBF, but in lieu of that, the following tweet from the local council should be noted:

Ultimately, I’m suggesting that as big of a wrench as leaving Gigg and perhaps not being even in League Two would be, it doesn’t have to be the last page in the story of the club. A way must be found for extremely angry and grief-stricken supporters to come together once again. A phoenix club is the last resort, but its likelihood increases by the day – this is a non-zero-sum game where things are never straightforward on closer inspection. If and when it happens, I’ll put forth my vision for what it could be like, as I think even in the most dire of circumstances, there are opportunities. Until then, or a highly improbable reversal by the EFL, this blog will keep a watchful eye on proceedings. I need to write about something other than finances, and what that will be will follow later this week on the blog.

In the meantime, the clock is ticking on 134 years of Bury Football Club.

This is C&N

In a perpetual state of cutting it extremely fine, the future of Bury Football Club is still precarious at the time of writing. The events of the past week have at once felt like a whirlwind and running in treacle, amplified by belated but constant national media attention. Many of the club’s supporters have taken to the airwaves to highlight the (ongoing) plight, and yours truly has been no exception to that:

  1. Race to the Bottom: Episode 13 (opens in Spotify)
  2. The Big Kick Off: Episode 116 (opens in Soundcloud)
  3. Sky News Interview: Five minutes of my face on YouTube (sorry!)

The previously intransigent owner Steve Dale was sending all kinds of mixed messages on Friday during his grand tour of seemingly everywhere except the negotiating table, with as many as four interested parties in taking over before the midnight deadline set by the EFL for either sufficient evidence of proof of funds from Dale himself or for a deal to be struck to their satisfaction.

Like probably every other fan, I was glued to social media (even more than usual) as the minutes ticked by, desperate for some solid sleep but even more desperate for a credible source to break the news that there had been a sale, which duly came a little over two hours from oblivion:

What quickly emerged from then on were the identities of the group – C&N Sporting Risk, a small company whose main service is in data analytics, with Rory Campbell and Henry Newman at the head of the firm.

Campbell is the son of the infamous Labour spin-doctor Alastair, who, for all his… flaws (putting it extremely lightly) has always maintained a fervent and genuine interest in football, being a follower of fellow Lancashire side Burnley and raising a family with an appreciable knowledge of how important the link is between clubs and the communities they are an intrinsic component of.

Rory has created his own niche after completing the well-trodden Oxbridge PPE path, founding C&N in 2016 whilst still in his 20s after firming up his interests at university, with the ongoing  ‘Moneyball’ experiment at Brentford a big driver behind his deepening involvement in the sport (and perhaps the current interest in Bury). It’s impossible to ignore the betting aspect of his company, however, and there would be a question mark over just how they could as a business work around the strict laws set out by the FA governing inside information whilst owning a club. He would need to prove, much like Tony Bloom at Brighton & Hove Albion and Matthew Benham at The Bees that he doesn’t place any bets himself, only acting as a ‘consultant’ for others.

Newman’s background is more rooted in coaching, especially in London with two different clubs – Charlton Athletic and Barnet, the latter of which he had a brief spell as joint-interim coach with Rossi Eames two years ago, and the pair appeared on a Not the Top 20 podcast during their brief tenure:

In it, Henry sets out his vision for how football should be played, with an emphasis on an eye-pleasing style whilst still being mindful of the shortcomings of the squad he had under him at The Hive. He took a break from a role as chief opposition scout with West Ham United during that four-month interlude, continuing to hone and diversify his skillset in the game and firmly setting him on the road to his directorship at C&N.

At this juncture, it’s important not to get too far ahead of myself. A disappointingly short extension to the deadline, in C&N’s collective view, was granted by the EFL yesterday, providing only a single extra business day to conclude the deal (or at least 99% of it). Doubtlessly, between Stewart Day and Steve Dale, a complex web was woven for any future prospective owners to cut through and unravel simultaneously. A debt of gratitude is nevertheless owed by many to a few select people – the half-dozen or so at the head of Forever Bury, local MP James Frith, and even the likes of Ron Wood and former chairman Terry Robinson in the background.

One final thing to note right now is that whilst I can claim to have no insider knowledge of the wealth (or otherwise) of C&N, they have already provided to the EFL what Dale could not in terms of proof of funds. Moreover, their pursuit of a deal has been 10 weeks in the making, only coming to a head thanks to Dale relenting at the last possible moment… and crucially, well before the CVA had even been tabled, let alone approved.

Hopefully, this won’t prove to be another false dawn (and subsequently the footnote) in Bury’s proud, if often financially fraught, 134-year history. The Gigg Lane faithful don’t want the moon, just a club to continue supporting to pass on to the generations to come.

Answering the Unanswerable

This post is an attempt to answer some of the things I’ve seen written about Bury Football Club in the past few days in as balanced a way as the current situation allows. This isn’t the place for financial facts and figures – the approved CVA is in the public domain, and experts like David Conn for The Guardian and Kieran Maguire have opined extensively about the complicated web of debt and disarray.

“Bury spent beyond their means”

There’s absolutely no question about that, and it’s never been a particularly well-kept secret. This reached its absolute nadir during the close season two years ago, with former chairman Stewart Day letting Lee Clark loose with money he never had on players the club didn’t need and could ill-afford. The common retorts to that centre around a perception that few, if any, Bury fans railed against the actions of Day. I did on this blog on more than one occasion, but this isn’t about bigging myself up for that. Other supporters expressed their concerns far earlier into the regime and were utterly castigated for it. Even if the groundswell of opinion against what was happening had more weight, without representation on the board, what practical influence did anyone truly have? A small contingent did indeed boycott going to games or spending money towards the end before it became a more widespread stance under Steve Dale, ultimately resulting in some of the most die-hard supporters asking for refunds on their season tickets.

The case is then made that Mansfield Town were ‘cheated’ out of a promotion place because of said overspending. Whilst I do have a limited amount of sympathy with that angle, it should be stated that the budget the club had and the players they used to achieve that miraculous promotion was far lower than the previous term. That’s impossible to truly verify without looking at the latest accounts (still unpublished). In truth, the EFL should’ve been scrutinising the ability to even make it through 2018/2019 under Day’s ownership. His very quick exit in December has precipitated every event since.

Most clubs in the 92 ‘spend beyond their means’, but have ways of servicing the debt and/or repaying the loans they have access to. Very few make a profit of any kind, especially without the help of transfer fees. Make no mistake, if Bury did go out of business, they’d be the first of many without legislative changes to either give the EFL more powers, redress the laughable financial imbalances in the domestic game and/or to set up an independent regulator.

 

“Bolton Wanderers are being treated differently / The EFL have an agenda against / want to make an example of Bury”

Well in one sense, Bolton definitely are being treated differently. The protracted takeover bid by Football Ventures feels like it’s taken all summer to reach its conclusion, and it’s still not certain what the outcome of it will be – the hotel (a separate business) on the same site as the UniBol Stadium complicates matters to a great degree. The only logical conclusion to take is that the EFL are far more satisfied that there are measures in place for the Trotters to fulfil their fixtures (even if the majority of the ‘squad’ at the time of writing are still in their teens) than with the Shakers.

Several statements have been issued by both the competition organisers and Dale in the past week, with the intransigent owner taking an increasingly attacking stance in his against the football body. The latest was penned by his lawyer, all of which just leaves fans in the awkward position of hoping some sort of compromise can be reached that allows matches to be take place but also hastens Dale’s exit.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think the EFL have an agenda against the club; they just don’t feel they have the concrete assurances from Dale to fulfil the commitments and money owed to creditors. Expelling Bury is an extremely bad look for the competition’s integrity, but there’s only so long the situation can be drawn out without some sort of resolution. That said, I’ve been distinctly unimpressed by interim CEO Debbie Jevans’ politician-esque answers to questions she’s faced publicly about both clubs. It’s the employees and supporters who suffer in all of this.

“Things are really bad at Manchester United / Arsenal / Newcastle United”

It seems churlish to even compare the ‘woes’ of fans of the three Premier League giants above to Bury. In many ways, it is… however, if you take the view that what takes place at one club has a knock-on effect at another and so on, then a more holistic picture emerges of the state of the game. Accrington Stanley owner Andy Holt, affected by the suspension of next Saturday’s home fixture, has nonetheless appealed to his growing number of followers on Twitter not to take too much umbrage with the discontent those clubs’ supporters have at the way they’re being run.

Whilst it’s unlikely that in the short to medium-term that any of those businesses (because that’s precisely what they are) will fail to remunerate staff on time or have a kit supplier for the campaign, it all hints at a powerlessness to affect the sort of change they wish to see, and it should reverberate down the pyramid. A decision has to be with finality whether football clubs in the English system are businesses like in any other sector with all that that entails or ‘community assets’; if it’s the latter, then huge strides are required in order to bring that to reality. Football is meant to be ‘The People’s Game’, but it feels increasingly divorced from that in many respects. Rogue owners and those who would seek to put themselves and not the club they are custodians of first must be brought to heel. The mechanisms don’t exist to do that at this point, and might only when clubs that register more on the public consciousness than Bury suffer a similar fate.

“Other clubs won’t vote to expel Bury from the EFL”

Depending on how you interpret the EFL’s statement about the CVA being approved, there are either four days until expulsion occurs or still at least 14. Should it be the latter, It should nevertheless still be noted that the first two league matches being suspended will put inexorable pressure on the body to serve the notice as quickly as possible. It’s one thing to nominally rearrange those games (which, by the way, have already had negative financial effects on both Milton Keynes Dons and Accrington), but quite another to do that for the EFL Cup tie with Sheffield Wednesday. They’re unlikely to countenance a third match across two competitions they organise not taking place as scheduled, so you can expect a decision on that early into next week.

I don’t pretend to know what’s in the minds of most boards of the other 71, so this is only pure conjecture on my part. I would posit that the calls for expulsion will reluctantly grow louder every single day, cognisant as those same people will be on the widespread consequences of such a vote, both on the overall structure of League One downwards and the club’s viability. With Dale still resisting selling Bury, I can’t envisage a scenario now where they can remain in business for longer than several weeks. I don’t want that to happen (despite some bizarre claims to the contrary), but it’s not within my gift to exert any influence on proceedings, and it feels like this has been a long time coming.

“Without Bury, my interest in football would die”

A perfectly reasonable opinion to have, doubtlessly shared by quite a few people. For me personally, my interest has been significantly waning in the elite/top tier of the sport for sometime, which feels increasingly remote from the grassroots and up. You’d hope that a phoenix club would be formed in the absolute worst case scenario, although it doesn’t always follow that fans of the original would do the same for the new entity for a multitude of reasons: different location, much lower standing, the ‘soul’ would be lost, and so on. It’s something I’d like to be involved in from afar if it does transpire.

I cannot admit to being immune from just how jarring it was yesterday to even vaguely kept abreast of the opening day fixtures, knowing Bury weren’t a part of them and almost certainly won’t be in their present form ever again. It’s difficult not to leap into other people’s conversations about how their teams got on and say “what about Bury?”, but it doesn’t do any good to.interject. Most are sympathetic to the collective plight shared by several thousand fans.

My intentions for the blog in case Bury do cease to exist are as follows: I will on occasion go ground-hopping to fixtures local to me in the Forest of Dean that take my fancy – that could be anywhere from Bristol City in the Championship to Lydney Town in the Hellenic League Premier Division. It won’t be the same, but I still intend to take an interest and to write about what I see. I’m also a self-employed freelancer, so I need to keep that up to realise my ambitions.

All we can do is hope for Dale to do the right thing – change his mind, and sell the club immediately to avoid any of this happening.