Tuesday 15 November 2011

Bury - Gigg Lane

Bury FC
Gigg Lane

08445 790009

Ground Number: 100
Tuesday 7th December 2004
Bury 2-2 Wycombe Wanderers
Coca Cola League 2


1:  The club was established in 1885 by local football enthusiast Aiden Arrowsmith. He brokered meetings between two local church teams Bury Wesleyans and Bury Unitarians. It was agreed that they should merge and turn professional. They'd join the Lancashire League as founder members in 1889 and finish as champions in 1891 and 1892.

2:  Bury FC were elected to the Football League in 1894. There were only two tiers in those days and the club won Division 2 at the first attempt. They were regulars amongst the top teams in their early days, finishing as high as 4th in Division 1 in 1926. In 1929, they were relegated and have not played in the top tier since. They've played in all four divisions of the Football League, last playing in the second tier as recently as 1999. The record low finish came in 2007 with a 21st place finish in League 2, some 14 points clear of relegation.

3:  The club has played at Gigg Lane for the entirety of their history. The stadium has been floodlit since 1953 and once had a capacity of 35,000, the record attendance when Bolton Wanderers visited in the FA Cup 3rd Round in January 1960. To comply with the Taylor Report, the ground was converted to an all-seater between 1993 and 1999. The Manchester Road End boasted the scoreboard from Leicester City's Filbert Street between 2002 & 2011.

4:  Bury won the FA Cup in 1900 (beating Southampton 4-0) and 1903 (beating Derby County 6-0, a record margin of victory in a final until Manchester City matched it in 2019). In modern-day terms, they last reached the 4th Round in 2016 (losing 3-1 to Hull City and 5th Round in 1986 (losing 3-0 to Watford. In terms of losing to Non-League teams, Chorley beat them 2-1 in 1990 and Blyth Spartans won 2-0 at Gigg Lane in 1995.

5:  Bury reached the League Cup Semi-Final in 1963, going out 4-3 to Birmingham City over two legs.

6:  In terms of local cups, Bury have won the Lancashire Cup on eleven occasions, the Manchester Cup on twelve occasions, the Lancashire Junior Cup in 1890 and the North West Regional Wartime Championship in 1940

7:  Bury FC are the only club to have scored over 1000 goals in each of the Football League's four tiers, completing the set in 2005.

8:  The club's traditional rivals are Bolton Wanderers, though they have not competed against each other much in recent years. Other rivals include Rochdale and Oldham Athletic due to their geographical location.

9:  The club is nicknamed 'The Shakers' This can be traced back to 1892 when their chairman-manager J Tingham quoted to the press before a Lancashire Cup Final 'We shall shake em, in fact, we are the shakers. The name stuck, though it has been used against them in recent years with rivals calling them 'the bucket shakers' due to their often perilous financial position. This looked to have come to a head on Tuesday 27th August 2019 when they were expelled from the Football League. Plenty has been written about the situation, though fingers can be pointed at the stubborn and scruffy Steve Dale whose inane ramblings and reluctance to sell the club without personal gain looks to have killed the club. The previous owner Stuart Donald was no better, racking up enormous debts. The football world as a whole though has been poisoned at all but the very top by TV money and coupled with the EFL's slap-dash approach to vetting owners, it looks likely that Bury FC will have to start over in non-league.

10: The town of Bury itself has a population of just over 78,000. It's known for being the home of the black pudding (an essential part of a full English breakfast in my book). Famous people from the town include Robert Peel (founder of the Metropolitan Police and Conservative Party), actresses Helen Flanagan & Nikki Sanderson, actor Antony Cotton, footballers Gary Neville, Phil Neville & Andy Goram and Cherie Blair, wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair.


My first visit to Gigg Lane was actually on Tuesday 18th September 2001, despite what the information above says. That would have made it ground number 62 for me, though I wasn't keeping a count or even groundhopping at that stage. Anyway, I went up on the supporters' coach, as I did in those days. We arrived at 6.30 and were given a really friendly welcome by the club, including a bloke wearing a pale blue suit and riding around on a unicycle that sticks in my mind for some reason. I went into the bar and had a pint or two and some chips before going into the ground around half an hour before the scheduled kick-off. There was an issue with the floodlights on one side but all appeared to be OK when they got three of the four pylons working and the pitch was perfectly well lit, albeit slightly dim in one corner, the one near our end. It turned out to be not as dim as the referee who called the game off at 8.15 with zero consideration for the fans that had travelled. I had to write to the Bury secretary to get my money refunded, which at the time was around £14 after they gave us a slip of paper on the way out. We watched a DVD of Germany 1-5 England on the coach on the way on the way home and were back in Wycombe around midnight.

The replay was scheduled for a few weeks later, but I couldn't make it. Indeed, it would be over three years until I would visit again properly, this was in the midst of my seven-year run without missing a Wycombe game, which ran from December 2001 until August 2008. It was in December 2004 and we drew 2-2 on another Tuesday night. I didn't remember much about that visit but the following year was a lot more memorable, as it ended our 21-game unbeaten run in the league. It was the last Saturday before Christmas and all appeared fine as Kevin Betsy gave us the lead. However, goals in the 87th minute from Paul Scott and in injury time from Gareth Whalley meant that we suffered our first league defeat in over seven months. I remember them playing Slade's 'Merry Christmas Everybody' on the tannoy at the end and stopping for a curry near Aston Villa's ground on the way home as I'd got a lift with my Dad & Brother. Our best result at Gigg Lane came on a Saturday in February 2007, where unusually for a Paul Lambert side, we scored four goals as we won 4-0.

Thanks to me writing a Wycombe blog during the 2007/08 season, I can recall my visit in February 2008 (yet another Tuesday) with a lot more clarity as I went with my workmate Paul. After Saturday’s disappointing result against Mansfield, a good result in the game against Bury was essential. For me it meant an early start, as I was planning to travel up early, stay the night, then have a tour of Old Trafford tomorrow. As well as visiting various football grounds on the way up, we also stopped off in Warrington at Morrisons for a much-needed breakfast. Coincidentally the topic of discussion on the radio was Warrington related, what with the news that Gary Newlove’s widow wanted the death penalty for the people that murdered her husband. It’s been covered elsewhere, but his revolting killers booted his head “like a football” while his sobbing 12-year-old daughter watched. We eventually got up to Bury just before lunchtime, before having a look round the town and going back to the hotel for a bit of a relax. The owner sorted me out with a copy of the United V City programme from Sunday’s game that I had looking for, so thumbs up to the White Horse in Bury. Terry Christian on BBC Radio Manchester kept me entertained for a couple of hours before we set off for Gigg Lane just before 6. I fancied a leisurely stroll. But poor Paul's legs couldn’t take the 10-minute marathon, so whinged into submission I drove. Bury (and a lot of their local rivals) have always been a pleasure to visit due to their friendly club and supporters. Generally travels with Wycombe are trouble-free, but the North West always seems to offer the best welcome.

The first half was fantastic for Wycombe. We were playing some really good stuff and went 2-0 up. Sergio Torres and Scott McGleish from the penalty spot doing the damage. Bury’s furious protests were ignored as Leon Knight went down under pressure and McGleish set Wycombe on their way to what looked an inevitable win. Even in the 2nd half Wycombe continued to control the game. The turning point game-wise came when the influential Tommy Doherty was replaced. Shortly after Russell Martin’s handball in the area was penalised, Bury’s top scorer Andy Bishop did the business from the spot. Wycombe continued to press though, Torres forcing a desperate save from Bury keeper Darren Randolph. Perhaps it was inevitable then, that through bad luck or failure to kill the game off that Bury got the equaliser. It was a great free-kick from Brian-Barry Murphy, a curling shot into the top right-hand corner that rescued a point for the Shakers.


I did go to the Old Trafford Tour the following afternoon, but frustratingly, I was not yet into groundhopping at the time, so didn't see a game on the way back, what a waste! I made two more visits to Gigg Lane, firstly for a dull 0-0 in September 2008, though it's a testament to how much I enjoyed going to Bury that I made that one, as I was very much a part-time away fan by then. I visited again in April 2011 went on the Independent Supporters Club coach for that one and I recall stopping at the excellent 'Trackside' pub en route. It was a memorable day on the field too, as we celebrated a 3-1 win that meant promotion was in our own hands under manager Gary Waddock. Despite falling behind after ten minutes - a Ryan Lowe penalty converted after a handball in the area. We recovered though and a Gareth Ainsworth header ten minutes later levelled things up. A couple of Ben Strevens goals on 63 and 88 minutes ensured we won and we completed the job the following weekend at home to Southend as we earned promotion to League 1.


GIGG LANE is a decent  ground, another one that is all-seater with no terracing though. There are three separate stands - the Cemetery end behind the goal, where away fans were originally housed. The main stand, which has the dressing rooms and bars underneath and is probably the oldest part of the ground. The other 2 sides have a stand that is joined together in a half bowl with the corner filled in, this is the most modern area of the ground.

The tea bar and club shop are pretty standard for the level. Though I've not been in there since my first visit, I recall the bar being pretty decent, spacious, admitting away fans and doing food too. The Staff Of Life pub near the ground was another one that I visited.  It's a friendly club and this extends to the town which is a nice place to visit. As previously mentioned, the Trackside is well worth a visit. Other pubs that appear to be worth a visit are The Robert Peel (Wetherspoons) and The Thirsty Fish (Micropub)

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