Wow, three matches in a row. It is becoming a feature, isn’t it?
I asked seven questions to Bury Me in Exile, the excellent Bury site, and got enough material for a small book. If you want a comprehensive overview of tomorrows opponents, you’re in the right place.
A word on the featured image: I couldn’t find anything too positive from our recent meetings, especially not their trip to the Bank, so there’s a shot of the day Davide Somma gave us a 1-0 win to preserve our league status for one more miserable season.
Anyway, on with the show.
What happened last season guys?
A book could be written about what happened last season… which I actually plan to do at some point, but in the future when all involved are no longer with the club! My own relatively conservative expectation for 2017/2018 was a top half finish, given the squad that had been assembled. The reality, relegation with a whimper in 24th (a position the Shakers had hitherto never finished in), has left a taste in the collective mouths of fans that will be extremely hard to shift, even well into the future.
It’s true that Lee Clark wasn’t exactly universally loved from the moment he sat in the dugout, but with the vaunted signings he’d been backed to employ in the close season, there was every reason to suspect they’d do well, even if it was in spite of his lack of tactical acumen. However, it quickly became clear that he didn’t have the wherewithal to manage the squad on or off the pitch, and the atmosphere turned sour. His outburst the day before the summer transfer deadline day was farcical, and set the tone for the rest of the campaign.
An abject failure to suitably replace the injured Jermaine Beckford (who was on the sidelines in October), or organise the ever-changing defence properly, meant demotion to League Two had an air of inevitability surrounding it, weeks before it was confirmed. Chris Lucketti belatedly replaced Clark, and was gone almost as soon as he arrived. Ryan Lowe took caretaker charge once more, and was damning in his assessment of some of the senior pros, leaning heavily on academy graduates to salvage a shred of dignity from an insipid year.
How have you started the season and what are your aspirations for the coming months?
I think it’s been about par for the course. Including the EFL Cup, my hopes for each fixture were as follows: Yeovil at home – win (and they did, just about); MK Dons away – get a result of any kind (and they missed out, just about); Nottingham Forest away in the cup – put in a good performance, run them close if possible (they did, leading for almost the entire match and losing an incredible penalty shoot-out 10-9); Forest Green Rovers at home – given the visitors’ good start, a draw (once more, managed at the death).
Four points from three games represents a decent return, and middle ground between the understandable doom-mongery from the worst season on the pitch in the club’s long history, and any pretensions of hitting the ground running in the early going. Lincoln will undoubtedly be the toughest test yet of a back five that has looked quite resolute (more on them later). I can’t honestly say I expect even a point tomorrow evening, but a long-overdue triumph on the road at Crawley Town on Saturday would represent a relatively successful first month with Ryan Lowe as permanent manager.
Going forward, it’s obvious that more goals are needed, and some point to Jermaine Beckford’s mooted return in September as solving those problems in one stroke… but I take a different view. As a proportion, very few clear-cut chances have been created in open play thus far. As good as Beckford is when fit, he isn’t really a striker that fashions his own openings. The issues stem from further back. I remain hopeful of a top-half finish.
Ryan Lowe is your current manager, what’s he like?
Lowe is certainly an interesting topic. I think I’m more ‘clinical’ in my approach to football than most people I know, and certainly the majority of Bury’s fans that I’ve spoken to. To many, he’s seen as a club legend – which he is, from his playing days. There’s no question about that. But some cannot divorce Lowe the player from Lowe the manager. They’re entirely separate entities in my mind. Last season, he was a first team coach under Clark, and once more when Lucketti had his extremely brief spell in the hotseat. He has therefore seen at close hand how not to preside over the playing affairs of a football club… but with the former, he was at best ignorant, at worst somewhat complicit or helpless, in the toxic atmosphere that engulfed the club.
On the pitch, he has yet to demonstrate a real understanding of tactics and formations, being rather blasé about them during interviews. If I thought that this was because he didn’t want to give anything away publicly, it would be easier to accept that attitude at face value. But I don’t accept it. Fortunately, he has brought in Lee Dykes as Sporting Director, which should signal the end of a recruitment policy that yielded all the wrong results.
Rob Kelly is now assistant manager, so there is a higher level of experience in the backroom staff than had been the case in recent times. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I don’t hold him in any awe, and will judge him partly on results, and partly on how closely his rhetoric matches up with his actions. I can’t shake the feeling that he might not survive the season if he cannot address strategic issues of his own making.
(Ed – when I wore a younger man’s clothes I went out with a girl who had attended the Wakeman School in front of Shrewsbury’s Gay Meadow ground. Ryan Lowe, a young pro there, had a reputation amongst the girls as always being willing to have a flirt through the fences… as did Ian Dunbavin and Luke Rodgers)
NEXT PAGE: The dangerman, how they view Lincoln City and we indulge our opposing fans as they tell us who their all-time hero is.