I didn’t have high hopes for Bury. Not the match, the town. I hated Manchester- dirty, unpleasant, damp place- and have no good feelings about Blackburn, Bolton, Burnley and other Lancashire places not necessarily beginning with B. I’m a professional Northerner, but Lancashire- with the possible exception of Liverpool- has never filled me with joy. But Bury was rather nice. A pleasant, compact town, lots of attractive Victorian architecture, a packed and thriving shopping centre, and nice people. And apparently the Swan and Cemetery did good food with very large portions- so large that even Andy Tester and Travel Ken had leftovers. What’s not to like!
I approached the match with trepidation. We’ve had a week of press stories of unfit players who wouldn’t be available, only to be told this morning that they were fit after all. Kidology or miraculous recoveries, due to the healing fingers of Mark Stein? Who knows- perhaps only the Gaffer- but it’s been unsettling. Bury stewards gave me some confidence though. Their team has supposedly been on a good run, but almost to a man (or woman) they were confidently predicting a home defeat. “Rubbish”, “inconsistent”, “dire”, “about as much use as a soggy barm cake” (I made the last one up) were amongst the comments. Well, they were right.
The journey up was a joy. A full Alliance coach, a happy atmosphere, and the company of a certain Mr and Mrs Torres, or as they will now be known, the King and Queen of Argentina! We got to watch the FA Cup match against Derby on DVD, and the look on their faces when the winning goal went in will stay with me for a long time. They must have seen it a hundred times, yet it was almost like the first all over again. Mind you, I have to say I was almost as emotional as they were. But I’m just a big softy- one of the greatest nights of my life and I get emotional every time I watch it! We then showed them Robbie Savage in his new career as a ballroom dancer, which shocked them to the core, but also elicited the knowledge that Sergio was a bit of a mover!
So, the match, following a very good meat and potato pie and a packet of muffins (bread buns to the rest of us). We started with our strongest team. Shearer in goal, Deano, Kyle, Pablo and Dr Fu Manchu (Aka David Hunt) at the back. Drury, Bully, Josh and “Sergio the tango king” in midfield. Tyrone and Tubbsie up front. And we started quickly, putting Bury under early pressure. We remained in control for most of the first half, but couldn’t find a goal. I was confident it was coming. Travel Ken, however, was telling us it had “0-0 written all over it” and asking when the replay would be. Ken, stick to travel, you’re a novice at the football predictions game.
Second half, and I was tweeting away, updating the non travelling masses on our progress. I predicted a goal was coming. 30 seconds later and a bullet header from Tyrone was nestling in the Bury net. That’s how you do it Ken! And then Bury woke up. They put on a substitute called Amoo, and I was hoping he’d be a right load of bullocks (sorry). However he was anything but. The next fifteen minutes had goalmouth scrambles, desperate blocks and a collection of Shearer saves. But bit by bit we wrestled control back. Michael Doughty came on as a sub and began to torment the defence. A shot from 30 yards which the Bury keeper couldn’t hold was a warning. Then, after yet another intelligent run from Simpson came a lovely lay back and a great finish, the ball passed into the net. 2-0, and game over. Mark Hughes was then sent off for Bury after an over the top tackle (there’s a sentence from another decade), after which we passed it around beautifully and were not threatened. Bury fans, being safety conscious, greeted this moment by holding a fire drill.
So, another FA cup run beckons. This season I’m not sure whether to be excited or worried about fixture congestion. I’ll stick with the former for now. But the last word to a Bury fan outside the stadium. “They’re very excited, they’ve never beaten a League One team before.” Well he’d never win in a Travel Ken football quiz, would he? Roll on the second round draw.
Next week- the launch of our sponsorship deal with the Centre of Excellence, the relaunch of Golden Gamble, and another three points against Oxford. And keep an eye on the CTSA website for Colin’s report and lots of pics.