James Bentley is the author of an imminent book about one of the best seasons in the history of Bury, albeit one overshadowed, as he now explains, by grim events in British football. One of the stars of the Bury squad, jusrt 15 strong, was Wayne Etwistle, who made 53 starting appearances for Sunderland between 1977 and 1979, scoring 15 goals. James takes up the story …
Tuesday 13th April 1999 was a night both sets of supporters at Gigg Lane would remember for a long time.
Kevin Phillips’s single-handed dismantling of the Bury side was astonishing to watch from both the home stands and the away ends and the mutual good feeling that followed Sunderland’s 5-2 win, which sealed promotion to the Premier League for the visitors but pushed the hosts closer to the relegation trapdoor, was palpable as the visitors left the pitch to a standing ovation from all four sides of the ground.
Before the game, though, I discovered that Phillips’ four goals were just the latest in a series of chapters that linked Bury and Sunderland. There was the Bob Stokoe connection, of course, and it was a collision with Bury goalkeeper Chris Harker on a bone-hard Roker Park pitch on Boxing Day 1962 which effectively ended Brian Clough’s playing career (our own Sixer and I were there, right behind the Fulwell End goal where it happened – Ed).
But when my dad mentioned casually to an opposition fan in the pre-match hospitality lounge that he knew a former Bury and Sunderland striker, the reaction that this friendship provoked was incredible.
“You know Wayne Entwistle?” asked the Mackem, disbelievingly. “Well, yes,” replied my old man. “I’ve known him for about 25 years and I just saw him in the room next door. Would you like me to get him for you?”
And so it was that my dad was able to introduce a Sunderland fan to the man known as “the punk footballer”.
Wayne is the kind of player that fans love, as a determination that would see him running through walls for the cause made up for any shortcomings in his actual game. In a journeyman career that saw him play for a record eight clubs who have won the FA Cup – Bury, Sunderland, Leeds, Wimbledon, Burnley, Bolton, Wigan and Blackpool – perhaps his greatest season was 1984/85, his second spell at the Shakers, his hometown club.
Martin Dobson had become Bury’s manager over the Easter of 1984 following the sacking of Jim Iley. He’d used the period until the end of the season to evaluate which players he wanted to keep and which he wanted to transfer. Wayne was one of the players he kept. The new manager brought a new way of thinking to Gigg Lane along with the nous and appeal that attracted an altogether better class of player. Leighton James was plying his trade in the top flight under Alan Durban at Roker Park when Dobson was appointed, but the Welshman was on the verge of quitting the game before a call from his old Turf Moor amigo.
Dropping from the first tier of English football to the fourth in one close season, Leighton was one of the stars of the campaign for Bury as Dobson led his charges to promotion in his first full season in the hot seat.
As the miners’ strike wore on and hooliganism crept into every level of the British game, Enty also played his part as he weighed in with more than 20 goals scored alongside his formidable partner, lower league legend Craig Madden.In total, Bury used just 15 players to win promotion but the never-to-be-repeated achievement has largely been overshadowed by events at Bradford, St Andrews, Kenilworth Road, the Heysel Stadium in Brussels and, of course, Stamford Bridge in the League Cup semi-final.
The picture of the promotion squad celebrating that used to hang in Bury’s social club always fascinated me, given that I didn’t start watching Bury until 1988. On the basis of it, I went to work on finding those 15 players at various points around the world to tell their story.
The result is The Forgotten Fifteen: How Bury Triumphed In British Football’s Worst Year which I’m hoping will be out in April. In the meantime, you can click on www.facebook.com/theforgottenfifteen and “Like” it if you wish. There are pictures of all of the players at the interviews I conducted with them and all updates on publication will be featured there.
James Bentley is a communications manager and freelance writer. He’s a season ticket holder at Bury and has written extensively for the Shakers’ matchday programme and When Saturday Comes magazine. The Forgotten Fifteen: How Bury Triumphed In British Football’s Worst Year will be his first book, though he’s planning a second on Bury’s double promotion of the mid-90s that saw them end up in the second tier.