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Bury AFC prepare for a new life in the North West Counties League

The new phoenix club, Bury AFC, set up following the expulsion of Bury Football Club back in August 2019, will start their life as a member of the North West Counties League Division One North on Saturday 3rd October with a game against Steeton at their new home sharing with Radcliffe FC. Richard Irving spoke to Phil Young, chair of the supporters’ trust at the community owned club, about the challenges that the club has faced since its set-up in March of this year.

It’s fair to say that it’s not always been plain sailing since the demise of Bury FC after 125 years of Football League membership. Phil puts many of the problems down to “misinformation” provided by those around the “old” club, but is keen to focus on the new season ahead given that, like most, it’s been a long time since any football’s been played.

In Bury supporters’ case, it’s approaching eighteen months since they’ve seen a team bearing the name enter the pitch and the new club is now ready to face the season with a renewed sense of belief.

“The FSA and the Manchester FA have been very helpful, and the wider football community has also been hugely supportive as shirt sales have reached almost 2,000, and membership at £60 per year has now exceeded 1,100.”

One down side to this level of interest is the fact that capacity at Radcliffe’s Staunton Park Stadium will be reduced, for the first few games at least, to just 300 to meet with current guidelines. Phil told us, however, that “the club’s budget has been prepared accordingly and we have a system in place to ensure that as many fans as possible get to see the team.”

As far as aspirations on the pitch are concerned, the club are bullish in their belief that they will be pushing hard for one of the four promotion slots available this season from the division. Young admits that he would be “very disappointed” if the club didn’t achieve promotion in its first season, such is his confidence in the squad that has been assembled by manager Andy Welsh.

“I’ve been delighted at how the manager, players and volunteers have all bought into the idea of community ownership and a belief that the club will do things the right way,” said Young.

The next phase of the project off the pitch will see a renewed effort to return football to Gigg Lane, a “realistic prospect”, and then to build the community aspect of the club, with teams at all levels of the game and of all ages.

In addition, and despite all the potential problems that the reduced capacity and financial constraints on matchday revenues such as catering that the pandemic has brought, he remains fully committed to his belief in the longevity of the club.

“We know we can run a sustainable football club”, he tells us, and with the support of the local community in Bury those at the club can set out on their journey knowing that the dark days of August 2019 are well and truly behind them.

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