English Premiership

Tears and bitterness as Bury fans attend their beloved club's funeral

2019-08-29 07:34

Bury - Bury fans descended on their Gigg Lane stadium on Wednesday like mourners at a funeral after the third-tier team were expelled from the English Football League.

The supporters, old and young, reflected the sense of community that the club generated at weekends for over 100 years of playing as a league club.

Bury's travails are a world away from the riches enjoyed by Manchester City and Manchester United just nine miles (14 kilometres) around the corner -- the epitome of the haves and have nots in football.

This was not lost on some of the fans who milled around in the rain in a funereal atmosphere, "paying their respects" and hanging scarves on the gates or placing bouquets of flowers.

"Football has got out of hand," David Smith told AFP.

"There is a player (Alexis Sanchez) up the road at (Manchester) United being paid £537,000 a week and not playing.

"The greed needs to stop. The top clubs have done this to Bury FC and it won't end at Bury."

"The bottom clubs will be wiped out. In future years there will be the English Premier League and the (second-tier) Championship and nothing more," added the 58-year-old emergency services worker.

For Smith's 86-year-old mother Margaret, who recalls as a young girl shouting at the referee from behind the goal, it has been a dreadful few days for her and her husband.

"He is 88 and he has been coming here for 84 years to watch the club," she told AFP.

"He is devastated, a lot of tears come down at our house this week.

"I was reading a book at home but I could not read the book for the simple reason the club could shut down."

The hope that the club might be saved on Tuesday had prompted several hundred fans like 30-year-old Lee Chadwick to come and prepare the ground for a league game with Doncaster Rovers this weekend.

However, the takeover talks collapsed shortly before the 1600GMT deadline set by the English Football League and their expulsion was announced a few hours later.

'A simple joy'

For Chadwick, it is a huge blow to the community spirit engendered by the club.

"I am absolutely distraught," he said. "I have supported them for 24 years - generations of my family have as well.

"My grandfather brought my father and he brought me. I will never get the opportunity to bring my children down here.

"Pubs, local businesses - they could go out of business. It is a small town, the club means everything to it. It is a travesty."

Like many Bury fans, Michael Kavanagh did not get any sleep on Tuesday and he told AFP a "bit of creative thinking" could have saved the club.

"The club meant a lot, it was the heartbeat of the town," he said.

"The football club gives it a focal point. It is a very working-class town. We don't expect to win the European Cup, but watch a good game, have a couple of pints and have a chat."

Kavanagh is very proud of the two FA Cups (1900 and 1903) the club won and in producing some fine players like Manchester City and England great Colin Bell.

"I remember one of the promotion seasons when Stan Ternent was manager (successive promotions in 1995/96 and 96/97)," he said.

"I remember running onto the pitch with my son. He is jumping up and down with the players, he  still talks about it.

"Pure joy that is what football does, only it can do that - a simple joy."

But Margaret Smith looked to Accrington Stanley, who reformed in 1968 after the collapse of the original club and were promoted back to the Football League in 2006, for inspiration.

"We will have to start up from the bottom," she said.

"They used to say 'Who the hell is Accrington Stanley' after they disappeared from the league.

"They started from the bottom and made it back."

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