Duncan Edwards puts Tuesday's League Cup defeat to Crawley in perspective, with a look at the awful fate of Bury
Even in the aftermath of an away-day for the ages, it was difficult not to dwell on the events that had transpired through the day that saw the expulsion of Bury from the Football League.
I know very little of their plight or how they arrived there; perhaps that is indicative of the state of football in England today. Bury didn’t feature much in the news as this was unfolding, yet with a quick search you can find pieces highlighting the profligacy of clubs at the other end of the spectrum easily. £90m transfer fees, £300kpw wages, Lukaku’s goals costing an estimated £650,000 each and so on. Of course, there will always be clubs better off than others, it has always been that way, yet it seems that big clubs blowing ridiculous sums of money is almost celebrated while even a relatively small percentage of that cash would keep a club like Bury ticking over nicely.
The Sky Sports age. An age where every January they have a spend-o-meter racking up the pound signs as clubs gamble their futures trying to stay attached to the udder of the cash-cow that is the Premier League. It’s utterly vulgar. Yet they brazenly thrust it into the living rooms of football fans everywhere, self-promoting their golden promised land, dangling the diamond-encrusted carrot while convincing fans of every club in the top-two divisions and some beyond that this is where they belong. This is what you DESERVE as fans. All the time conveniently ignoring the fact that only twenty teams can play in it at any one time, six spaces at least are taken by the closed shop of the superpowers and that 40 definitely doesn’t fit into 14. But look at the rewards…
Clubs continue to chase windmills and tilt at rainbows, gambling money they don’t have on the promise of more. It’s not all that different to the much maligned FOBT machines in betting shops, just on a monumental scale.
Yet Bury haven’t been chasing the impossible dream. They weren’t even on a downward spiral on the field having been promoted. It looks, to my distant and untrained eye, as though they have been the victims of unscrupulous bastards. There’s a suspicion that this sad chain of events will still see somebody fill their pockets. Profiting from the misery of others. The misery of fans that have followed the club for decades. The misery of the fans of the club they own. The club they have no affinity or emotional attachment to.
That’s the real tragedy. The community that supporting a football club creates, the sense of belonging to and being a part of something; it’s all been destroyed. Being a football supporter is an unconditional love in the purest sense. There’ll be times that you don’t like what you see on the pitch, think your owner/Chairman is a crook or thinking of themselves as opposed to the club and then there’s the managers and players…
But you never stop loving the club itself. It doesn’t matter where you move to, what job you take or what your other half says; you’ll go if it’s possible and if it isn’t there’s only one score that you’ll be checking on your phone, refreshing the page relentlessly until the final whistle goes or you drain your battery. The highs and lows of emotion you go through, be it during a big derby game or a run of the mill end of season dead-rubber, can’t be replicated.
The post-match analysis in the pub, the pre-match warm up in the pub, the “we haven’t got a game because we got knocked out of the cup but we’ll meet up anyway” in the pub. A football club isn’t just a business. It’s the heartbeat of something so much bigger. The heartbeat that pumps the lifeblood of a community. A community of thousands of people, all over the country, all over the globe.
I can’t even begin to imagine how I’d feel if it was my club. Even when we’ve been scraping about for cash, relegated to the third tier and watching us panic-sell players to keep the wolf from the turnstile, I never honestly contemplated that my club would cease to be. It’s unimaginable.
Through your life, you will go through many things. Some will go through more; some will go through less but we’ll all face trials and tribulations. You’ll lose loved ones and pets. You might experience divorce or illness. Periods of unemployment, moving home; some might lose their homes. You might find yourself estranged from your family or in prison or you might win the lottery. Throughout though, the one constant would be your football club. The one thing that is unchangeable. The one thing you can rely on; the one place you always feel at home and know you’ll be with like-minded folk (and those who always disagree with you). It’s an incredible support structure.
There’s a community this morning that have had that support kicked out from under them. There’ll be all kinds of emotions; anger, bitterness, defiance, fear, injustice and many others. All football fans should empathise.
I just hope that the community of fans stays strong and there can be a renaissance. Perhaps on paper it won’t be the same club, but it would still be THEIR Bury. I wish them all the luck in the world.