Transfer embargo lifted just in time
12 February ~ As preparations for a new season go, Bury's run-up to the current campaign was hardly ideal. Manager Richie Barker departed for Crawley just days before the opening game, leaving behind him a squad that might fairly be called poor after the loan players who helped Bury to safety last season returned to their parent clubs. Caretaker manager Peter Shirtliff looked hopelessly out of his depth in charge and Bury sank with little grace or finesse to the foot of League One. The appointment of Kevin Blackwell as manager provided an instant adrenaline shot.
At some particularly spiky press conferences he made it clear he didn't rate an awful lot of his players, a position reinforced by his immediate foray into the loan market. Matt Doherty and Dominic Poleon, from Wolves and Leeds respectively, both gave some much needed excitement to crowds at Gigg Lane that twice dipped below the 2,000 mark.
Yet as results were gradually picking up, Blackwell's arm was forced by the Football League imposing a transfer embargo on the club after it took out a short-term loan from the PFA. Fielding players he clearly had little time for and who didn't fit into his footballing philosophy, results once again went against Bury on what felt like a weekly basis. The embargo was in place as the transfer window opened, leaving Blackwell with few options but to decide on who he'd like if the club were able to sign players again by the time it shut.
But with the embargo finally lifted on January 18, the manager was finally able to re-enter the loan market and pick up the players he wanted. Tom Soares looks a classy recruit, brought in after being without a club and now on a three-month contract, as does Stéphane Zubar, on loan from Bournemouth. Ashley Eastham, who spent much of last season on loan at Bury from Blackpool, has returned to Gigg Lane as has Bury-born Nicky Ajose who played a pivotal role in the 2011 promotion and who came home from Peterborough. Together with a hopefully fit again Andy Bishop, the squad looks stronger and signs are positive.
Results have reflected this positivity and on February 1 Bury got their reward. A fine 2-0 victory over Doncaster Rovers was the team's first win since November 20, only the visitors' second away defeat all season and the weekend's surprise result. A creditable draw at Brentford followed before they welcome Sheffield United to Gigg Lane tonight. A few weeks ago, a lot of Bury fans would have been worried that tonight's result may have involved the videprinter spelling out the score against us but they've been replaced by a feeling that there's every chance, if they can get at the visitors early, Bury can get something. James Bentley