Shakers view: Spending was unsustainable, but Bury have tightened purse strings

David Flitcroft 3  3053921
David Flitcroft 3 3053921

Bury fans David Turner and Peter Taylor give us the lowdown on Saturday’s opponents as the Iron travel to Lancashire for a top of the table clash at Gigg Lane.

It’s safe to say Bury fans had concerns about David Flitcroft prior to the season starting and possibly even through August, but a great September has seen you move into second place. What is the aim for Bury this season? Is promotion possible?

PT: Promotion is unlikely for several reasons, chiefly because of a small squad and current injuries to defenders in what looks like a difficult October on paper. The club can improve on last season’s lower mid-table finish of 16th and there is definitely a better balance to both the squad and starting XI this time around. If Bury can get to the Christmas period in the top 10, then there is a good chance of remaining in its lower reaches come May next year… assuming the injuries don’t mount up.

DT: As boring as it is, safety is the first priority but I’ve seen nothing of outstanding quality in the teams we’ve played so far and Burton showed that it doesn’t always have to be about the bigger clubs in this division and Flitcroft seems to have simplified his team selections and tactics to good effect. There are tougher tests to come in the next couple of months and we were in a similar position this time last season only to fall away. Let’s get to 50 points as quickly as possible and keep going.

The Bury board seem like they have tightened the purse strings a little after a couple of years of big spending. The well known players Flitcroft signed and the lease of the Carrington training ground never really gave the club the return they were looking for in Promotion from League One. What has changed this season?

PT: Undoubtedly, there was a larger playing budget last season (although concrete figures are hard to come by) and as I alluded to in my first answer, the squad is itself was imbalanced and top-heavy with strikers in a setup that normally only deployed one – Leon Clarke. Until James Vaughan’s arrival, there was a big question mark over who could score goals regularly in the squad and that has been resoundingly answered thus far.

The key will be keeping him fit and well serviced. As for Carrington, I believe the real benefits of being based there will be the youth sides. First team players coming in will be attracted to the facilities but they won’t in themselves keep them here any longer than they would be otherwise; the long-term future of the club remains two-pronged, with one of them being producing talent through the ranks and selling them on in deals that will keep the academy running (and thriving).

DT: We lost our top-scorer, top assist maker and Fans POTS in the summer and it looked like the fire sale was on. What we’ve got instead is a smaller
and more balanced squad (we started last season with 6 senior strikers on the books) which is hopefully also more financially sensible. We’re also still inside the Chairman’s grand “5 year plan” so they may get the return they were looking for…

The club faced a number of winding up petitions and county court orders last season. Do you feel comfortable your club is in safe hands?

PT: To be honest, I don’t pay them as much attention as some other Bury fans; that’s not to say that I’m unconcerned by them but the reality is until Bury can turn a profit each year, finances are always likely to be tight. The other ‘prong’ is bringing in substantial matchday revenue, which simply will not happen as long as they are based at Gigg Lane; to that end, the club are currently identifying other sites in Bury in which a new ground with other facilities can be situated – it’s what preventing Bury from being more akin to Burton (i.e. sustainable and possibly a tier higher eventually), even with a relatively small supporter base.

DT: I am not suspicious of the chairman’s motives compared to some supporters but anyone who’s seen our accounts will know our ongoing losses are not
sustainable. A club with Bury’s fanbase and lack of commercial / “non football” revenue that you need now can’t continue down this road forever. There’s a new Finance Director in place so it looks from the outside that we’re trying to get our house in order on the CCJ front at the very least. It would seem our financial stability depends on the success of the Chairman’s other companies until we can find a way to generate more income streams for the football club.

Zeli Ismail is making quite an impression on the Bury fans and seems to have found the end product he may have lacked at Wolves and during some of his loan spells in recent weeks. How has he found that consistency?

PT: It’s obviously hard to say for certain as fans only get limited insights into anything behind the scenes, even less so what goes through a player’s mind. David Flitcroft has been steadily developing a reputation for signing ‘broken toys’, i.e. players who have played in the second tier but for one reason or another have been released by their previous club, be it attitude, injury proneness or a lack of consistency and then improving them. In Ismail’s case, he’s still only 22, so he isn’t even in his prime years yet. Wolves tend to have large squads for Championship level and in not finding that consistency quickly, there is almost always someone else ready to come in and stake their own claim. He doesn’t have the same direct competition at Bury and he was eased in at the start, coming on as a sub for the first few matches.

By the nature of his role as a winger, there will be times when he isn’t in the game as much as fans and management would like – last night against MK Dons being a prime example of this. However, he still managed to get a goal and he needs to add that ability to his game, as well as more accurately crossing the ball. He already has the pace and skill to get in behind the opposing defence, so the rest should come with practice and regular game time.

DT: At the moment it just seems to be one of those instances where a club fits a player. The fans have a taken to him immediately and the dressing room seems a happy place. His attitude also looks to be spot on – if this wasn’t the case in the past then credit to the manager and Zeli himself for sorting that side of his game out. Tom Pope finally has a winger who can find him with regularity which is good news.

Ismail aside, who else should we look out for in the Bury line up?

PT: Assuming Danny Mayor doesn’t make the squad for Saturday, then Jacob Mellis is one to look out for. He didn’t feature as prominently as I expected last season and has had a reputation of being somewhat of a luxury player. However, since the side has reverted to a midfield two, he has grown in confidence and added some steel to his playstyle, which is an absolute necessity when only playing two at League One level. He has an eye for a long range shot but it is his through balls which are the best aspect of his game; a good example of this was for James Vaughan’s second goal against MK Dons last night. Bury have not had someone who can consistently unlock defences from a central midfield area for a number of years until now.

DT: Danny Mayor on the other flank is unplayable on his day and there is less pressure on him to produce with Ismail doing well. Jacob Mellis in midfield looks a different proposition to last season and seems to have developed a good understanding with Vaughan. Vaughan himself and Pope up top will give anyone a game.

Do you have any weaknesses the Iron may be able to exploit?

PT: As I alluded to earlier, there are a number of injuries to Bury’s defence: Nathan Cameron is out until probably Easter next year, Leon Barnett is out until the end of October and now Craig Jones could be out for a number of weeks… and Niall Maher is doubtful for Saturday! Even with everyone fit, four of the back ‘five’ are new to Bury this season; with Cameron out, the whole unit is.

The only experienced defender who is likely to play on Saturday is Anthony Kay. Ben Williams is an experienced goalkeeper at this level but communication with an ever-changing defence is still an issue and will be for some time to come; Kay is a committed player but he is slow and Scunthorpe have a lot of pace in forward areas. He is likely to be partnered by Kean Bryan, who, whilst a great prospect for Man City, has never yet started a senior game. He did look excellent last night but wasn’t tested as much as the stats would suggest. Who will line up at right back on Saturday is a mystery.

DT: Despite our run of form, we have the unfortunate habit of conceding soft goals and haven’t kept a clean sheet since mid-August. Gifting soft goals is not really an option against a side who’ve scored 24 goals in 10 league games. We have two defenders out injured and two more went off at MK Dons, so it could be a cobbled together back four facing up to Morris & Co.

Where will Saturday’s game be won or lost?

PT: Down Scunthorpe’s left/Bury’s right. Josh Morris is in sparkling form for Scunthorpe and assuming Maher doesn’t make it, he will come up against either Kelvin Etuhu or Tom Soares, neither of whom are right backs or even natural defenders. With a fully fit defence, a higher than average number of shots are allowed by Bury’s defence and Scunthorpe have Morris, Tom Hopper and Duane Holmes, who aren’t exactly afraid of shooting and should look to turn the full backs at every opportunity and get in behind Kay.

A lot will depend on Mayor’s fitness as well, but again, assuming he doesn’t make it, the main threat will be from Ismail, who will be up against Harry Toffolo, who isn’t the most experienced of left backs himself. James Vaughan will look to play on the shoulder of the deeper lying centre back and Scunthorpe’s pairing will have to keep a much tighter shackle on him than MK Dons managed. Bury have also taken the highest number of shots in the league, so I expect it to be an open game!

DT: Which defence can nullify the opposition the best. I’m setting it up for a 0-0 here but the game screams goals. Vaughan has 5 in 5 and doesn’t need many sniffs at goal to find his range and our two wingers will keep coming all afternoon. Obviously Morris has 10 goals on his own but there looks to be threats from various angles, and some of them only made the bench on Tuesday..! Duane Holmes (who played here on loan) has the pace to worry our backline.

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Written by Matt Blanchard

Part of the team since 2007, before becoming editor in 2013. Undertaken the role of match summariser during Scunthorpe United live match commentaries for BBC Radio Humberside. Seasonal contributor to football titles FourFourTwo and When Saturday Comes and a finalist at the Football Blogging Awards in 2014.

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