A King's Lynn-based Bury FC fan mourns the demise of his club
It started for me strangely enough with a second round FA Cup game in 1971 between Rossendale United and Bolton Wanderers at Gigg Lane, writes JEFF HOYLE.
I enjoyed it so much that the following Saturday I was back to watch Bury FC play, the beginning of a love affair that has lasted almost 50 years.
It ended on a cold April night when I saw the Shakers slump to a 0-3 defeat at the hands of Cambridge United and rumours were flying round the stadium that our players had not been paid.
In between I attended maybe 25 games a season and followed my team from Carlisle to Plymouth, a total of 116 grounds and maybe a thousand matches.
More eloquent people than me have been filling the pages and airwaves to describe the feeling of a large part of their lives being ripped away, and the effect on the community.
The advice that I received in a recent letter was unnecessary, as I have been to the first three games of the season at the Walks.
It looks like they are well organised and ambitious. I enjoyed my visits, but they will never be ‘my team’. I hope and expect that Bury will reform lower down the pyramid, and maybe even play in the same league as Lynn in the future.
However the saga of Bury and Bolton present a dire warning for the rest of the game. While the top teams spend untold millions, the rest struggle. I saw a list of all those who have been into some kind of administration recently, or had difficulty in paying wages and it is far too long to reproduce here. What went wrong at Bury could be the fate of almost any club in the country. Some owners are possibly less than honest and see ways to make huge sums of money, either by taking consultancy fees or selling club assets for personal gain.
Others are incompetent and let their heart rule their heads while chasing success. Sooner or later they become broke or disillusioned and reality bites hard.
In the case of Bury, there are a lot of facts that will emerge, and I would direct anyone who would like a glimpse behind the scenes to David Conn’s pieces in the Guardian.
David is an Old Boy of my school in Bury so has a personal interest in the case as well as better libel lawyers than me. One thing is without question though. Bury signed players that they could not afford to pay in a quest for promotion. They weren’t the first team to do this and they won’t be the last.
In the absence of strong leadership from the football authorities many clubs will try to follow this route. Perhaps the one rule of football is that the fans are never satisfied.
While my team disappears into oblivion, it seems that some fans are incandescent to the point of making death threats. because one of their players missed a penalty. The club owners need to attempt to satisfy the unrealistic ambitions of fans like these.
My fear for the Lynn team is that they are at a crossroads. They look like they may have a chance of promotion, but if they go up, they will soon reach a point where the stadium will need substantial investment.
I think 20 of 24 teams in the next higher league are full time. Will Lynn go full time to compete, or struggle and see the fair weather fans evaporate? I have seen how it ends. Be careful what you wish for.