Bury’s Season in Review 2012/13: Doom and gloom for Blackwell’s boys after problems on and off the pitch

By Mark Shales & Oliver Rhodes

A turbulent campaign for Bury saw them stave off financial meltdown, but drop to the fourth tier of English football.

Boss Kevin Blackwell kept the media entertained, but a squad filled with short-term deals and the risk of administration hung over the League One side all year.

And the Shakers finally succumbed to relegation, but finished with a flourish and live to fight another day in the Football League.


Bury had a fairly quiet pre-season, playing just three friendlies and signing just a trio of players to bulk up their side ahead of the League One campaign.

Richie Barker snapped up free agents Adam Lockwood, Marcus Marshall and former loanee Lateef Elford-Alliyu, while Patrick Cregg and short-term signing Mike Grella left the club for St Johnstone and Scunthorpe United respectively.

The Shakers won two games on their summer travels, beating Radcliffe Borough 6-1 and Morecambe 1-0, but suffered a 1-0 at home to Burnley – a scheduled game with Premier League neighbours Wigan Athletic was called off.


August began with Barker departing the North West for Crawley Town, leaving the Shakers searching for a new manager with just days until the season’s kick-off.

Barker’s assistant, Peter Shirtliff, was appointed caretaker manager, but began his tenure with a 2-1 home defeat to Championship side Middlesbrough in the League Cup first round.

The former Mansfield Town boss wasted no time in strengthening his squad, signing Mark Cullen on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, winger Craig Jones from The New Saints, Northern Irish forward David Healy and Leicester City midfielder Shane Byrne.

However, Bury ended August without a win in their first three league games, drawing with Brentford and Coventry City and losing at Doncaster Rovers.


The poor form continued into September as Bury picked up just one point in five games under Shirtliff, before he was replaced by former Leeds United boss Kevin Blackwell on September 29. 

Blackwell’s new side began with a draw at Stevenage, but Bury found themselves bottom of the league going into October, with only four points from nine games and three points off safety.

Leicester City striker Tom Hopper joined on loan to replace last season’s top scorer Andy Bishop, who joined Wrexham on loan after admitting he was lacking confidence in himself.


Under Blackwell, Bury’s form slowly improved, despite three losses in four games against Swindon Town, Crawley Town and Yeovil Town.

The 1-0 defeat to Swindon was Blackwell’s first home game as manager and the new boss grabbed the headlines, after brandishing some squad members as ‘garbage.

Bury progressed to the third round of the Northern Section of the Football League Trophy, after defeating Rochdale on penalties, before picking up a first league win of the season at their 14th attempt – a 2-1 win over bottom club Hartlepool United.

Blackwell added on-loan Wolves defender Matt Doherty to his ranks, along with Leeds United duo Zac Thompson and Dominic Poleon and QPR striker Troy Hewitt.


In a stark contrast to the way their season had been going, Bury proved to be one of the form teams of the month, losing only once in the whole of November.

After beating Exeter in the FA Cup first round, Blackwell’s side recorded victories away at Oldham Athletic and at home to Portsmouth, before falling to defeat at Colchester United.

Despite beating Scunthorpe United and conceding a last minute equaliser to Bournemouth, goal difference kept the Shakers in the drop zone.

Seb Carole and Tom Soares joined on non-contract terms. while Ethan Ebanks-Landell and Gregg Wylde signed on loan from Wolves and Bolton Wanderers respectively.


December proved to be an eventful month for Bury, with the festive period providing more gloom than joy for Blackwell and his men.

The Shakers forced a replay against League Two side Southend United in the FA Cup with a 1-1 draw, before their Football League Trophy quarter-final against Preston North End was postponed.

Bury ended up losing both on penalties and matters were worsened with defeats in the league to Leyton Orient and Crewe Alexandra.

The club ended the month without a win, Schumacher salvaging a 2-2 draw with Shrewsbury with a 90th-minute equaliser before holding Preston to a goalless Boxing Day tie. 

A 2-1 loss away at Carlisle United concluded a month to forget for Blackwell’s squad.

However, the biggest news of December proved to be off the pitch, with the club being placed under a transfer embargo after taking out a short-term loan from the Professional Footballers’ Association, to be paid back in mid-January.


The Shakers started the New Year with a 2012 hangover, losing 1-0 at home to league-leaders Tranmere Rovers.

Captain Steven Schumacher rescued a point at MK Dons – his second-half strike securing a 1-1 draw – but the Shakers finished the month winless, seeing out a goalless draw at Shrewsbury.

Things looked brighter off the pitch, with the PFA’s loan being paid back in full to lift the transfer embargo, allowing ex-Everton defender Carl Regan to sign on a four-month contract.

Ashley Eastham, Nicky Ajose and Ebanks-Landell also arrived on second loan spells – from Blackpool, Peterborough United and Wolves respectively – while Stephane Zubar began a season-long loan from Bournemouth.

Hopper and Thompson also lengthened their Gigg Lane stays for the remainder of the campaign to help plug the exodus away from the club.

Andrai JonesLenell John-Lewis, Andy Haworth and Peter Sweeney all signed contracts elsewhere, while loanees Wylde and Doherty returned to their parent clubs – defender Mark Hughes joined Accrington Stanley on loan.


Bury started the month of love in heart-warming fashion, as Kevin Blackwell and his players secured their first win in 13 games with victory against high-flying Doncaster.

Ajose scored the second goal on his return to Gigg Lane – the former Manchester United forward played for the Shakers in 2011. 

The Greater Manchester club escaped Brentford with a credible point in their next fixture, despite only mustering two shots on-target – Ajose netted for the second consecutive game, after Marcello Trotta quickly replied to an equalising goal by Soares. 

However, the romance fizzled, with the Shakers succumbing against Sheffield United, Coventry and Notts County.

Bury failed to ripple the net in the home encounters with the Blades and the Sky Blues, who both scored two goals to earn three points, and received a football lesson from the mid-table Magpies, who performed excellently in the second-half to win 4-1.

But Bury continued to upset the odds against the higher-ranked teams, as they earned three points against Swindon Town – Paolo Di Canio’s former team. 

During this month, club commercial director David Manchester also looked to ease the tension surrounding the financial situation and the two transfer embargoes.

An unworried Mr Manchester called the problem ‘a cash flow issue’, but following the loss to Notts County, Blackwell launched into an angry tirade about the running of the club and their apparent bad luck.


Crawley‘s Barker returned to Gigg Lane to haunt his former club with a 2-0 victory at the start of the month. Two more defeats followed in the relegation dogfights against Portsmouth and Colchester, but the Shakers finally found their rhythm against Stevenage, with Craig Jones and Jonson Clarke-Harris gaining a 2-1 win. 

A poor finish to the month looked likely after Bournemouth crushed Bury and Crewe Alexandra seemed certain to win 2-1 at Gigg Lane – but Bishop netted a penalty in the 93rd minute to earn a crucial point.  

Blackwell also criticised the media and the boo-boys, after receiving flak for his team’s poor form on the pitch and said the embargoes handcuffed his method of managing.


Bury continued their search for the golden egg in this Easter period, after the club announced they required a £1million cash injection.

A statement revealed the seriousness of their financial plight, with the warning of Bury Football Club ceasing to exist if the money is not raised.

Positive talks have apparently taken place, but there appears to be a lack of clarity between the board and the players and fans – Shakers winger David Worrall echoed this sentiment during the middle of the month. 

On-pitch performances added further gloom to Bury’s miserable campaign in League One and their survival bid took a huge blow after the season-ending injury to top-scorer Schumacher – forced out due to a double hernia – at the start of the month.

The Shakers travelled to Leyton Orient and lost 2-0, before they suffered defeat to Hartlepool by the same scoreline.

As a result of the two defeats, Bury required victory against local rivals and fellow relegation-battlers Oldham to postpone the seemingly inevitable drop.

But Lee Johnson’s Latics prevailed in a tense affair, thanks to substitute Matt Smith, who powered his header into the bottom corner.

The relegated Shakers trudged off the pitch in despair and Blackwell contemplated his future with the club in the post-match conference – later in the month, the former Sheffield United manager admitted to offering his resignation during the first transfer embargo. 

However, Bury finished their two-year stay in League One with a relative flourish. Goals by Clarke-Harris and Ajose condemned Scunthorpe to an agonising defeat, before Efe Sodje scored an injury-time equaliser against Walsall to earn one point for the Shakers.

And Blackwell and his boys waved goodbye to the third tier with an impressive 3-2 victory against Yeovil Town.

Image courtesy of ESPN, via YouTube, with thanks.

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.

Related Articles