Pete Sixsmith‘s pre-season training got under way with a visit to Bury, where (Monsieur Salut believes) he saw Sunderland clinch promotion with a 5-2 win under Peter Reid in 1999. The early tweets were hardly encouraging. Two down and lots of moaning from fans who don’t buy the mantra that ‘it’s all about fitness’. Then a strange thing, mm well strange for recent times, happened; we scored three times. So Simon Grayson is off to a winning start, albeit only in a friendly ….
Of course, any kind of football match pales into comparison when compared to the death of a young child. Malcolm Dawson’s beautifully written elegy for Bradley says it all and there is nothing to add.
The title for the piece comes from the front page of Bury’s programmes of the 1960s of which I had quite a few. The word gleaning was unfamiliar to me so I looked it up in the family dictionary. As a result, whenever I visit the ground, the musty smell of a little used volume comes back to me.
What did we glean from this? Not a great deal. There were still senior players away so the first half was a mix and match of experience and youth with the second half being far more youth.
Adam Matthews has returned from Bristol City and looked good going forward, but was easily beaten by his winger, Callum Reilly, whose excellent shot put the Shakers two up.
They had gone ahead when Andrew Tutte picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box and rattled home a good shot leaving Vito Mannone helpless. Bury had caused problems for Kone and Djilobodji at the back and when the ball was not properly cleared, the Bury man took advantage.
Our two centre halves were given a tricky time by James Vaughan and Jermaine Beckford and Papy was lucky not to be sent off for an awful foul on the latter.
Neither looked particularly comfortable and I would be surprised if Simon Grayson is envisaging them being here after the window shuts.
Jack Rodwell, who had a good game, halved the Bury lead, but we were very lightweight up front; a forward line of Gooch, Molyneux and Greenwood will not worry the fearsome beasts who make up Championship defenders.
At half time, there were mass changes. Gibson and Khazri came on along with Love but the rest were the bulk of last year’s (relatively) successful Under 23s.
Thomas Beadling and Michael Ledger looked useful at the back and I liked Denver Hume – although with a name like that, he should be playing poker with Brett Maverick on a Mississippi riverboat.
Khazri, good and infuriating in equal measure, set up Josh Maja for the equaliser and then the aforementioned Hume put in a good cross from which the young Londoner scored with a crisp volley past former York City keeper Glen Letheren.
Maja grew in confidence as the game went on and Khazri did him a huge favour when he set him up for the leveller when he could have easily scored himself. Good on you Wahbi.
There are new players to come in and others returning and those venturing North of the Border will, hopefully, see something of Galloway, Browning and McGeady. A muscular centre forward with pace is also required and I am sure that Simon Grayson will be spoilt for choice when it comes to finding one of them.
It was a nice day out as well. Bury is a pleasant town with lots of parks, a decent shopping area and a steam railway. Unfortunately, it was a diesel weekend so I caught the bus to Ramsbottom, where there is a positive cornucopia of restaurants and, after a very good lunch at Owens and a walk around the town (superior charity shops – Retired Polo Ponies, Distressed Gentlefolks Association and all that), I rode the rails back.
It was a long journey home as the M62 was closed for maintenance between Saddleworth and Huddersfield, which necessitated an appallingly signposted diversion along the Calder Valley and then the A1 was similarly shut between Bramham and Wetherby.
Joined up thinking? – not really. Still, I am sure that the players enjoyed passing through Sowerby Bridge which looked a blast of a place to be on a Friday night.
Scotland beckons but not for me. I shall be at Bradford City in two weeks’ time.