Bury. Apparently our biggest rivals (definitely our biggest rivals). We aren’t so far apart, only 5 mile or so down Bury Road, past that house painted as the cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and just over past the big building site called ‘Bury Town Centre’. Half the school-leavers in Rochdale (like myself) find themselves in Bury at some stage, because Rochdale doesn’t really have colleges and Bury has two. Bury?! They have a football team as well! and they’ve won the FA Cup! and Neville Neville is their mascot! and they have the worst kit in the league! and they’ve won the FA Cup!
Bury FC were formed in 1885, which makes them better than us. A united club, made from the ingredients of the Bury Wesleyans and the Bury Unitarians, (who presumably had God in their side), they moved immediately into Gigg Lane and beat Wigan Athletic 4-3 in a friendly. The rest as they say, is history. And there’s nothing more a Bury fan appreciates than a good slice of history.
They were very successful Bury FC, and joined the Football League Second Division in 1894 and being promoted quickly upto the First in 1895. In 1900, and later in 1903, they twice won the FA Cup by routing the opposition, 4-0 against Southampton and 6-0 against Derby County respectively. Famously this is the biggest ever winning margin in an FA Cup Final. Times were good; Bury were winning things, crowds were decent and dashing young men in top hats could still whip factory workers on a whim. Unfortunately things were not to stay this way, and Bury’s famous history ends here. With time, gone went the victories, the top-flight football, the crowds and especially the dashing young men in top hats. Nothing remains of those days. I can see why the Shakers value their past so dearly.
Since those days of pioneering Scotsmen and the flat-capped masses, Bury have slipped somewhat inevitably down the leagues. With the monstrosity that is Man Utd plc. on their doorstep, a smallish mill town such as Bury could not reasonably hope to sustain a level of town pride and subsequent overachievement as Burnley or Blackburn have (two similarly sized towns but without the Giants of Sky nearby). In fact, Bury’s drop from the top-flight to the Fourth has seen them slip fairly embarrassingly into our territory, in such a way that the home attendances of the Shakers and the Dale are now scarily similar. As John Motson once said, and Bury fans rightly point out, their club is “a famous old club”, but the emphasis is squarely on the “old” rather than the “famous”.
Their fall from grace has not been straight forward however, and as recently as’ 97/98 Bury were in the Second tier of football, with back-to-back promotions funded by an extravert businessman called Hugh Eaves. As you can probably tell by the words “extravert” and “businessman”, Eaves’s financial input ended in tears; Bury never really had the financial clout to sustain themselves at such a level and the club went into administration in 2002 after suffering a fall back down to the bottom tier of the English league. This, hilariously, is the origin of the alternative nickname for Bury FC; the Buckets (as in ‘bucket shakers’). Although it is hard to laugh at some poor unfortunate team’s lack of money, you have to admit that ‘the Buckets’ is pretty funny all the same.
Since those dark times, Bury have somewhat refocussed their aims in the following years; financial stability and the development of local talent have been highly-prized, with the stadium rented out every fortnight to FC United and the most made of highly rated youth players such as current Portsmouth ‘star’ David Nugent (who has a 100% goal:game ratio for his country). For whatever Bury, or rather its leadership, did at the turn of the century, it would be bitter not to applaud them for trying to do it right this time. And with Alan Knill in charge, they just might do it.
The similarities between our two clubs got even stronger; Bury were knocked out of the Playoff semi-finals just a couple of hours before we were. Alan Knill’s fusion of young tryers and old bandana’d heads played greatly for most of the season, barring the old spell of frustration, and they were good enough to finish ahead of Gillingham, Shrewsbury, and Rochdale, and could have made the automatics if it weren’t for Exeter City’s mad spell of brilliance towards the end of the season. House-husband’s favourite Andy Bishop top-scored with 16 and was ably assisted by veterans Andy Morrell (9) and Glynn Hurst (8). Efe Sodje was their most impressive performer in my eyes however, not just for his towering defensive displays, but also his freakishly large amount of headed goals (the best part of 7). Midfielder Stephen Dawson also garnered much praise in Division Four circles.
With their squad largely intact, and with the acquisition of strikers Ryan Lowe and Danny Carlton, Bury could do even better. Although their squad is ancient in comparison to some in this league (us included), the Shakers are not over the hill yet, although you’d have to suggest promotion into Division Three would have to come with some drastic renewal of the team if they wanted to sustain it. Much rests on Alan Knill’s ability to get the most from a small-ish squad, and injuries could play a part. Still, they should be good for at least a playoff place.
Bury the place? (!)
Bury the place! Geddit?! The town of Bury, which a hundred years ago would have been one of the largest centres of manufacturing in the world, has no reason to exist any more. It now resides handily on the edge of Manchester’s suburbs, close enough to the Trafford Centre, but just far enough away from the seedier parts of the region’s population centre. At the time of writing, the entire centre of Bury is undergoing a facelift which will ‘transform’ it from a crap town with a decent market into a giant Odeon cinema. Despite its (many) shortcomings, Bury has two decent higher-education colleges, one of which I attended for two years when I was 17. As a result of this, I am aware that however shit Bury might be, it is ten times better than Rochdale.
Notable residents include the indie band Elbow, who won some prize a bit ago, and the director Danny Boyle, who also won something a while back for that film Slumdog Millionaire (you know, that film everyone raved about but you didn’t really see what all the fuss was for even though you raved about it yourself). Another famous Bury-man, Sir Robert Peel, has a statue outside the pub of his name, looking strangley like he has no genitals.
Bury in a word?
Written by Matt Boothman on 5th August 2009.