A death in the football family: How Bury’s plight will dampen my enjoyment of tonight’s occasion

Courtesy Graham Burrell

Football fortune, that’s what Danny considers tonight to be. He’s right, win, lose or draw we’ll go home happy.

Okay, get beat 8-1 and I wouldn’t be smiling, but we should be looking forward to this game without trepidation. After all, what does it matter? The win is getting the match on Sky, earning more money and hopefully investing back into the team.

We’ve done it before, the FA Cup run of 2016/17, the EFL Trophy win a year later, our FA Cup tie with the Toffeemen last season. Each year we craft some football fortune and boost the budget a little. Each year we, as fans, get excited about a big game, a ‘day out’ somewhere and a chance to enjoy ourselves without the pressure of failure.

Over the last 24-hours, it’s become increasingly hard to get excited about tonight’s game, or rather it’s become hard to allow myself to become excited. I feel that in glorifying our own success I’m in some way ignoring the death of a 134-year-old football club.

I have no allegiance to Bury. I have a friend, Peter, who is a Bury fanatic but other than that I feel nothing towards them that I don’t feel for other clubs. I’ve booed them, I’ve willed them to lose and last season, for a moment, I was happy they hit money problems as it cleared our way to the title.

Imps v Bury, 2008 – Courtesy of Graham Burrell

I felt immense guilt when I realised how deep those problems ran; guilt that I’d initially felt a little relieved that they had another battle to concentrate on. Given our late-season form, if they’d been clear of financial worry we might have had a fight on our hands for the silverware we ended the season with.

All of that seems a long time ago now. Our stumbling to the title is nothing but a memory fogged by presentations, pitch invasions and joy. For Bury, them finishing second and securing promotion is nothing but a ‘PS’ written at the end of their obituary. Funny, isn’t it? Not ‘haha’ funny, but ironic that those moments in April and May have been quickly consigned to history. All that nice football Bury played, means nothing. That awful 3-0 defeat we suffered on the final day is equally as meaningless.

I can’t begin to imagine the pain Buy fans are feeling. I imagine it’s like the death of a loved one, such is the bond between club and fan. I recall when we almost went bust in the summer of 2002, the same time Bury first had real troubles. I woke up one morning realising we might not have a club to support and I cried. Lincoln City is as much a part of me as anything; it’s like a family member. My partner often asks which I love more, her or Lincoln. Of course it’s her (it is her…. it IS), but Lincoln is up there with the loves of my life.

Imps v Bury, 2010 – Courtesy of Graham Burrell

Losing the club, losing the purpose on a Saturday and the belief things are always going to improve would destroy me. How would I be feeling if I were a Bury fan right now? Inconsolable? Suicidal? Maybe. I wouldn’t go as far as doing anything, but the grief would be as real as losing a parent or loved one.

That’s why I can’t get as excited by tonight because we’ve all lost something this last 24 hours. When was the last time a club actually went out of business like this, mid-season? We’ve always had that feeling that something will come along, that extinction is something that happened in the past. In February 2015, when the Coop Bank looked like sending us over the edge, I had belief we’d survive. It has almost been an age of renewed innocence, brought about by the rich culture of football, Someone always has the money, someone always wants to save the clubs.

Last night, that recently-acquired innocence ended. I’m not naive, I know Workington, Maidstone, Aldershot and Rushden (to name but a few) have gone to the wall in the past, but not recently and few during a season. The signs were ominous when Bury couldn’t kick off this campaign and to be fair, there wasn’t anywhere left for the EFL to go with this. League One has been unfair at the start of this season and a decision had to be made. Sadly, whatever plans people had to save Bury, they’ve come too late. Far too late.

Bury v Imps last season – courtesy of Graham Burrell

I’ll go to Sincil Bank tonight and I’ll enjoy the game, but I’ll feel like I would on a night out when a mate’s Mum had just passed away. I’ll feel a little guilty at enjoying myself, at cheering on my club during the good times. Sure, it’ll subside and maybe I’m being melodramatic, but that’s just the way I feel. I firmly believe if you’re revelling in this situation, championing their expulsion from the league, then you don’t truly empathise with other football fans.

So what if some of their supporters were arseholes last season? A club isn’t fifteen or twenty angry young men intent on having a fight. It’s the staff member chaining herself to the drainpipe. It’s the 80-year-old who has been going since he was a kid, following his Dad’s footsteps who no longer has a purpose on a Saturday afternoon. It’s the blogger without a subject to write about anymore. It’s the families, the supporters and the members of the community who have their lives intrinsically linked with a club they thought would go on forever.

They’re suffering and to revel in that is, simply put, sickening.

I know one thing; win, lose or draw tonight I’ll be grateful that our club had Bob Dorrian to guide us through our financial turmoil and Clive Nates to usher in the new age. I’m thankful that when fans have said things like ‘get the chequebook out Mr Chairman’, he’s resisted the urge to in order to protect the club’s long term future.

Most of all, I’m just going to be thankful we still have our club, in great shape and hopefully secure in the future.

Imps v Bury, 2011 – Courtesy of Graham Burrell



  1. ????. Well said. Even my wife (who sadly has no interest in football) appreciates the sadness in this loss. There is nothing in this for any proper fan to revel in.

  2. I can’t believe you did not have a good word to say about the one man who worked his fingers to the bone in 2002. and ensured that Lincoln City survived a very difficult period, in its history and more importantly, had a future.. Mr Rob Bradley. Bury had enough warnings. They adopted the risky line. It happens to other clubs not us. RIP to a fine old club. Let down by people who should have known better. Hopefully they can reform, learn from their mistakes and come back even stronger

  3. Bury supporters should try and take heart from the examples of Accrington Stanley, Newport County and Aldershot where new clubs were formed and (re)gained league status. The same could happen with Halifax before too long.

  4. i understand why the Nevilles didn’t step in.
    But why weren’t they financially involved yonks ago..?
    they are from Bury & mum, dad , grandad heavily involved for years & they put money into Salford.

  5. Good article. My thoughts on this are two fold, one on our fans and some others. And then on football as whole.

    Fans wise I have seen plenty of people being happy to see them go because it is one less rival. I have seen some saying they overspent and that is that. On the latter part that completely misunderstands what happened. From what I know they recruited 11 free transfers at the start of the 18/19 season and let go 13, three of whom for a fee. Then they had loans in and loans out. We are not talking a mini Man City here, or more relevantly Salford city. I like FGR and I know many don’t, but again they are more like a man city dependant on the owner and are now trying to be sustainable. Bury are exactly not dependant on the owner, more the reverse. They were picked up by someone who of their 53 business owned has see 41 go into liquidation. Prior to that the previous owner loaded huge mortgages on the assets for his other businesses. He failed to pay wages, and left after the new owner bought him out for a £1 who also then failed to pay wages later on. On all occasions the fans protested and raised their voice. None of this was done to buy in players well out of their league. It was done to fund other businesses of the owner. How can anyone turn to those fans and say “well that is what you get for overspending”. A) Bury didn’t and b) who is the “they” you are complaining about? The ones who tried to shift out the owners and forewarned what would happen? What makes it worse for me is that Lincoln nearly went to the wall in 2002 but for Bradley. And nearly went to the wall in 2015 but for Dorrian when we had about a fifth of the fans we do now and couldn’t even cobble together enough for a crowdfunder which Dorrian had to cover. And what if Dorrian had sold to Trew as some fans asked? He ended up at County and look how they went. Lucky that they had a bad owner later on but one who would at least sell. And also that there was a buyer willing to come in.

    This could so easily be Lincoln and there is absolutely nothing us fans could have done about it, like the Bury fans. There is nothing we as fans have that they don’t. Some clubs are run badly, and some are run well. But at the end of the day fans are mostly beholden to the chairman. What if Dorrian had said I am tired of the constant abuse from fans and sinking my money into the club, I am going to sell. What if Steve Dale had picked up the phone and called Bob and said I notice you have your own ground and some lovely juicy assets, I’ll come in and take over for you. What if Dorrian had said sure, as long as you take on my debts and free me from that? And what on Earth could anyone have done to stop them? The EFL wouldn’t step in, they didn’t for Bury. More worrying for me, is what if we have a three bad seasons and start sliding back that way and lord forbid Nates has to sell for some reason. What is going to change after the Bury and Bolton incident to stop us going that way? What has changed? The only thing that changed after ITV digital and us going in admin was you get a ten point fine for going into admin and certain restrictions on dealing. Punishment, not prevention.

    On the football side, so many clubs have slid away. What is worse about the timing for me is that Bury have gone at a time that there has never been more money in the English game. I don’t think the Premiership should be giving us handouts and the lower end, but it is just quite a contrast. I read that people say the 92 is too many and should be cut down. Really? Who do we say can’t have a club anymore?

  6. 2002 i nearly lost my football club, Lincoln City FC and to contemplate football without my team was not worth contemplating.Everyone knows you only have one team you truly support and love.

    I wish ALL Bury supporters the very best in the resorection of there club however i wish nothing but hell to the 2 last owners of there club.

  7. Very sad news for every real football fan…
    Hopefully they can do what many other fans did in the past. Take things in their hands, start of from the bottom, rebuild and with bit of luck (and money…) be back in football league one day soon.

  8. Very good piece about Bury, who I’ve followed since the 1950s, though I’ve not been to many games recently, since I now live on the Wirral. I was at the Tranmere v Bury game in April when they won promotion – little did I know what was coming. I’ve always like Lincoln City, ever since I saw them at Bury in early 1956 – a terrific 3-3 draw, with Lincoln’s no. 4 Middleton scoring twice. The match was so good that the clubs arranged a floodlit friendly only a week or two after – that also was an exciting draw. I got to your website through reading the 2018 piece about Alick Jeffrey, who I saw score a hat-trick for Doncaster in a 4-4 draw at Bury, only a few weeks before his injury.

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