Bettering Stan the Man: Part 3

Peter is back in Bury! After successfully keeping Bury in Division 1, what now for Peter and the Shakers? You can find Part 1 here & 2 here

Survival in the second tier with relative ease and games to spare, so in one sense, my efforts have already bettered Stan Ternent’s. In the summer of 1998, he chose to go out on a (massive) high, taking up the reins at fellow Lancashire side Burnley in the league below; the allure of managing a sleeping giant with higher potential than the Shakers were likely to afford him was just too tempting, and much to everyone’s chagrin, the board’s replacement was a certain Neil Warnock. ‘Colin’, as he’s more affectionately known by supporters of sides throughout the country, didn’t have quite the same positive reputation he ‘enjoys’ now, and in his 15-month stint at Gigg Lane, he masterminded a relegation, as well as lumbering the club with the costly signatures of many players he’d previously worked with, many of whom were simply not up to the task. My challenge is simple: avoid the drop and look for younger talent to lower the age profile of the squad…

I attempted not to upset the apple-cart (and budget) too quickly by bringing in lots of new faces all at once, but for some, the attraction of leaving ‘Schoolboy’ and ‘Minor Team’ to adorn the white and royal blue in the old Division 1 was all too apparent. In a similar theme to last season, goals were still going to be a major headache for me. A narrow win away at newly promoted Walsall was swiftly followed by the customary exit at the first hurdle of the League Cup to Merseyside giants Everton, licking their wounds after an unexpected demotion from the bright lights of the Premiership. It took until the seventh fixture of the campaign to register more than one goal in a single match, which was only enough to share the spoils with Tranmere Rovers. Another close encounter with Reading yielded maximum points, and the players showed tremendous fight to come within inches of making the derby at home to promotion favourites Manchester City a six-goal thriller.

1

The defence as a whole seemed to be a little bit more porous than last year’s collective effort, with six games on the spin shipping one. Although that doesn’t sound a lot on the face of it, without the requisite increase at the other end, it was making any hope of even matching 1997/1998’s final position difficult, even in the first third of the new campaign. October was shaping up to be particularly miserable until Port Vale came to town. My side had come to rely more and more on Jason Peake’s dead ball skills as the months wore on, and thus it proved against the Valiants.

2

The league meeting with the blue half of Liverpool went precisely as I’d expected: a 3-0 reverse flattered my outclassed group. Thankfully, the city of Stoke-on-Trent had two sides in the same division as me, and the red and white variety were beyond woeful.

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Whilst it’s certainly true to state that it took a long time to get back in front, this was the rarest of rare feats: a) an away win, b) a convincing away win, c) a striker scoring more than once in a game and d) actually managing to outshoot and outscore the opposition considerably. I could scarcely believe a certain Ray Wilkins was still turning out at the age of 42, having been drafted in as player-manager in an attempt to arrest Stoke’s slide down the table.

4

The triumph was the first in a triad of wins, and I somehow conspired to end November unbeaten… but sadly overlooked once more for Manager of the Month. Whilst I was ruing the Football League bigwigs’ ignorance, Stockport County delivered a harsh lesson of their own, spanking five past my shellshocked troops.

6

The game also marked the debut of 19 year-old right winger Warren Stevenson, and he at least had something to remember the occasion by in a positive manner. Recommend to me by ‘League Scout 2’, within three games, he was second top scorer at the club. With three. In December.

To my relief, the huge setback didn’t take hold of the dressing room for long, as the cloggers down in Berkshire were in festive mood, once again channelling the true spirit of Christmas and gifting Bury three precious points. Huddersfield Town were not so generous, and another ‘0’ was present (no pun intended) in the goals for column.

7

The FA Cup had drawn me against lower league opposition, which is usually no barrier whatsoever to the other side going through at the Shakers’ expense. Exeter City bucked that particular trend though, being beaten 2-0. Bury were in the hat for the fourth round, which is something neither Ternent nor Warnock managed to do at the helm.

8

About where I hoped to be in the standings at just past the halfway point, and still in the most famous domestic cup competition in all of football, you’ll have to wait until Part 4 to see which huge name I got!

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