Overlooking the cemetery at Gigg Lane – Carl Marston’s Travels with Town
PUBLISHED: 11:21 29 August 2019 | UPDATED: 11:49 29 August 2019
Football writer Carl Marston has visited 120 Football League grounds over the last 30 years, many of them reporting on Ipswich Town. Here he puts the spotlight on Bury, who were expelled from the Football League this week
The view from the press box, at Bury FC's Gigg Lane, used to overlook the adjoining cemetery.
Quite apt, alas, given the sad goings-on of the last few days.
I admit that this column seems to be fast degenerating into a portrayal of ailing, debt-ridden and perhaps soon-to-be ex-football clubs - though more by coincidence than design.
Last Friday, I shone the spotlight on Bolton Wanderers, on the eve of Ipswich Town's comfortable 5-0 win over the painfully young Trotters.
Crisis club Bolton were facing the prospect of expulsion from the Football League (EFL), and even folding as a club, until they were rescued by a successful takeover by 'Football Ventures Ltd' on Wednesday.
Just 24 hours earlier, the demise of near-neighbours Bury - the two clubs are just 16 miles apart - has been well chronicled, so I felt that I had to devote this column to the subject of the sorry Shakers.
On a personal note, I have visited Gigg Lane, with my lap-top and Dictaphone, on 12 occasions over the last three decades, most of them with Colchester United but the odd one with Town as well.
Paul Lambert's men had been due to play away at Bury on Saturday, March 28, which would have been the Suffolk club's first visit to Gigg Lane for 21 years.
Now that fixture will not take place, and all of Bury's other fixtures for this season have suffered the same fate. After their first six matches were postponed, the proud club were finally kicked out of the Football League in unceremonious fashion.
Bury FC's future is uncertain.
They are no longer a Football League club, after 125 years (they joined in 1894), despite having only four months earlier clinched promotion to League One.
Technically, the club still exists, but it remains crippled by debts and with no match-day income to support it. If nothing changes, that will mean liquidation.
Ground: Gigg Lane
Club: Bury FC
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Town's first visit: 2-1 away defeat on September 18, 1954
Town's last visit: 3-0 away win on February 6, 1999
Town's overall record at Bury: P6 W4 D1 L1
Bury were once a top-flight club, winning the FA Cup twice, in 1900 and 1903.
Having beaten Southampton 4-0 in the first final of the 20th century, they then thrashed Derby County 6-0 in 1903. This remains a record winning margin in an FA Cup final, although it was equalled by Manchester City's 6-0 triumph over Watford this year.
Of course Bury and Manchester City are poles apart, even though the Ethiad Stadium is just 12 miles down the road from Gigg Lane. While a debt of a few million pounds has cost Bury their EFL status, City splashed out more than £150m in transfers during the summer.
The contrast couldn't be more stark.
Town's last visit
One of Town's happiest hunting grounds, I recall their last visit during George Burley's era, in the 1998-99 season.
Three second-half goals from centre-halves Mark Venus and Tony Mowbray, plus striker Marlon Harewood, bolstered Town's second-tier play-off push in front of a crowd of 4,750.
Town were beaten in the play-off semi-finals that season, ironically by Bolton, having finished one point behind second-placed Bradford City, while Bury were relegated on goal difference.
Twenty years later and the Shakers would happily have taken a relegation, if it meant still being a member of the Football League.
Priorities can change so quickly.
I have always relished my visits to Gigg Lane, having usually 'joked' in my pre-match build-up that despite travelling a distance of 200 miles, I would be ending my journey in the same named place - from Bury (St Edmunds) in Suffolk to Bury in Greater Manchester. I know, more a sad geographical fact than a joke.
Ironically, given the current dire state of the club, I always found it to be one of the most family-orientated, community-spirited clubs in the whole of the EFL.
The press box, being at the back of the main stand, meant I was always rubbing shoulders with the Shakers faithful. Different generations would sit together, kids, parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles.
That view over the cemetery has never seemed more poignant.