Bury buried, Bolton cling on by fingertips in a tragedy to focus Sunderland minds

STOP PRESS: from the BBC … Bolton Wanderers: Football Ventures completes takeover to save League One club

We think of Bury and we think of Paul Butler, Chris Maguire and SuperKev’s four promotion-winning goals. Bolton will stir older memories (Nat Lofthouse in Bolton minds, Charlie Hurley in ours). Here are Pete Sixsmith‘s reflections on a social and sporting tragedy …

In their breakthrough hit Letter from America, The Proclaimers charted the destruction of Scottish industrial towns like Methil, Bathgate and Linwood. After the events of yesterday, those towns could well be replaced by the names of old established football clubs on this side of the still invisible border.

Bury are first on that list. They went yesterday after a prolonged period on a deathbed that was created for them by two men with similar names.

Stuart Day was the man who mortgaged the ground, the social club, the historic trophies and memorabilia and who offered contracts to players that were unrealistic.

When his property companies went bust owing millions, he sold the club for one English pound (1.10 euros, 1.22 US Dollars, 8 Venezuelan Bolivars) to the last and final owner, Steve Dale, a man who appears to have neither knowledge of, nor interest in, football. His business record is unimpressive to say the least. Of the 51 companies he has owned, 43 were declared bankrupt, so not a great record for a prospective football club owner.

Why did he do it? He has no connection with the town, being born in Timperley, better known as the home of Frank Sidebottom. He doesn’t like football. He “thought he was doing the people of Bury a favour by saving their club”. Er, no Steve, you didn’t.

Bury are now no more. Their Gigg Lane ground is empty and padlocked. The regular 3,000 supporters must be walking round in a daze, shocked at what has happened. The white knights who rode into save them, looked at the books and the deals that the last two owners had struck and decided that the club could not be saved. Credit to them for trying, but the financial tangle was so great that naught could be done. Bury are buried.

We were due to visit Gigg Lane on the December 21 and five days later we are supposed to host Bolton Wanderers for the Boxing Day game that last year drew a crowd of 46,000.

It may still go ahead. Bolton have been given a two-week extension as another white knight tries to solve the financial mess that they are in. They thought they had been sold on Saturday but the current owner, Ken Anderson, pulled the plug on the deal.

Mr Anderson has been in charge since 2016 when the family trust of former owner Eddie Davies, pulled out. The new owner has been declared bankrupt in the past and was disqualified from being a company director. This ban was lifted in 2013 so he passed the EFL rules and was deemed a “fit and proper person” by their criteria.

They may go on to survive although whether they can turn out a competitive team remains to be seen. They haven’t so far this season and lost their manager, Phil Parkinson last week. Shambles doesn’t even describe this situation.

It could have been us. We were close to administration and possibly liquidation. Ellis Short had the decency to pass the club on to new owners and write off the money that he was owed. We were given a fresh start and, so far, things are looking better – certainly far better than they do for Bury and Bolton.

We have lost one old Football League club in Bury. They are a club that Sunderland supporters have some affection for after that glorious night in 1999 when Kevin Phillips rattled in four goals in a 5-2 win that took us into the Premier League. When Bury hit a financial crisis the next year, many Mackems contributed to their Fighting Fund by “buying” seats in the main stand and following their results.

They won’t come back. They may reform in the North West Counties League and struggle up the pyramid, perhaps joining the likes of former opponents Darlington, York City and Southport and others in the nether world of semi-professional football. Or they may just die and Gigg Lane become a housing estate.

Blame can be attached to Day and Dale, Anderson and others and to the EFL, who now simply must revise their approach to new owners. They have to attempt to find out if they are sustainable, if they have a sensible business plan for the club involved and if there is a likelihood of bills being paid and games being played. Alas, for fans of The Shakers and possibly The Trotters, it’s all far too late.

We should be thankful that football men like Stuart Donald and Charlie Methven became involved with us. They have used the last YEAR wisely. We are solvent, we have attracted new investment and we have a possibility of reviving our fortunes. Bury don’t. Bolton have but a whisker of a chance.

Donald and Methven have been criticised by a minority of fans. They should realise now, that without them, it might be “Bury no more, Bolton no more, Sunderland no more” – and not even the Mags would want that.

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5 thoughts on “Bury buried, Bolton cling on by fingertips in a tragedy to focus Sunderland minds”

  1. I am not privy to the amount of debt Bolton and Bury are in. However, I would imagine it is possibly equal to the amount a PL “superstar” earns (and I use that word loosely) in a year, and about 5 or 10% of a transfer fee for same player. Is there no levy system in place whereby a proportion of these hideous wages and transfer fees can be put aside to help clubs with financial problems? If not, then there should be. I only went to Bury once, in 1979 for an Anglo Scottish Cup tie which we lost. It was a pretty depressing place but the pies were good. A sad day for football.

  2. They should take a leaf from AFC Wimbledon. Start afresh. If so Safc should organise some friendlies where the red and white hordes could descend and put some money in the coffers.

    It should be owned by the fans

    Whilst i can understand the negativity aimed at the previous owners, one only has to look at the Prem to see owners basically cheating the system to get round financial rules. The difference is the scale of wealth. Billionaires get it wrong all the time but aren’t bankrupted.

    In light of all of this Ellis Short …at the end…played with a straight bat…..phew

  3. While we’re at it, Bob Stokoe captained them to the Div 3 (old money) title in 1961. Surely any owner who has ‘previous’ examples of financial irregularities on their CV shouldn’t be allowed to take over a Football League side.

  4. Does any other Sunderland fan of a certain age think of Bury and not immediately of Brian Clough?
    By the way, what if by some miracle Bolton are saved, and put together a decent competitive team – what happens to Ipswich’s and Tranmere’s 5-0 freebies? Could be significant at each end of the table come May….

    • Crikey, Alan, yes. That one eluded me in an admittedly hurried intro to Peter’s piece. Unforgivable since we were both there, in the Fulwell right behind the goal where it happened. Kate Adie was at the game, too, but by the corner flag (where the Fulwell met the Main Stand if I remember our interview correctly). Her memory was faulty: she thought Cloughie was hurt going for a header.

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