Opinion: The Bury situation shows why Hartlepool United shouldn't be taking their spell in the National League for granted
English football witnessed one of its darkest days last week as Bury Football Club were expelled from the Football League.
It wasn’t just a swift exit for The Shakers, the writing had been on the wall for some time after years of mismanagement behind the scenes.
It was a slow, painful, twisting of the knife with Sky Sports News counting down the seconds the 134-year-old club had left as it was lying on its allegorical deathbed.
A potential last-minute rescue job collapsed with agonising predictability, as did the hope of Bury fans.
Perhaps this will be the watershed moment that finally sees football’s governing bodies take a diligent and effective look into who is actually running our football clubs.
With alarming frequency, we’re seeing complete chancers get their hands on footballing institutions and effectively destroying them.
Rescued Bolton Wanderers have been slightly more fortunate than their north west counterparts though they’re far from out of the woods just yet.
These are two big Football League clubs whose years of history and foundation has come close to obliteration by a few select individuals.
This sickening reality is an all too relatable one these days, particularly for our clubs in the north east.
We’ve had Darlington start over and work their way back, Gateshead just last season and of course Hartlepool United, who have probably got off the lightest of the three.
People won’t need reminding of Pools’ flirtation with administration and liquidation in recent years. They came close, too close, but the club remains as does the potential for new memories.
Higher up, you see some fans of Manchester United, crying at the supposedly sorry state their multi-billion pound club is in after winning just three major trophies in the last four years – and you thought you had it bad!
The poignant narrative of The Shakers’ situation will hopefully provide some much needed perspective to football fans across the county.
Hartlepool are in the fifth tier of English football, the lowest they’ve ever been in their 111-year history. But that wouldn’t have been on anyone’s mind when Peter Kioso smashed in a late winner at Torquay on Saturday.
Given the direction Pools could have gone in, it’s days like Torquay and even less desirable trips to the likes of Barrow last night that people can take for granted.
Regardless of the results, going to watch the team you support, there’s simply nothing like it. And it’s heartbreaking to think that all that can be taken away in one fell swoop due to incompetent and negligent individuals somehow getting their clutches on our clubs.
These people play with football clubs, people’s passions and livelihoods like toys that they can throw away once they’re bored with.
The usual suspects
People lose their jobs, fans lose their club and those who caused it all walk off into the sunset before circling like vultures whenever another club looks set to implode.
One of those individuals who came out of the woodwork with a last-minute ‘bid’ to save’ Bury was a name very familiar to those in the north east. Joseph Cala – who was interestingly referred to as the former Gateshead owner in the media despite having no official involvement at the club – had reportedly came forward with a proposal to rescue Bury.
This was as confusing as it was concerning to pretty much anyone who knows the American-Italian fantasist. Cala had previously failed the much criticised owner’s and director’s test, so how he’d get hold of Bury was anyone’s guess.
In fact, the nauseating rhetoric spewed by Steve Dale as Bury collapsed around him was eerily similar to what Gateshead’s former owners were saying as things came to a head earlier this year.
It’s never their fault. It’s always the league or the previous owners who are to blame. Everyone has to take some degree of responsibility of course, but when you agree to take charge of a football club, especially if it’s just for £1, perhaps try looking out for the club’s interests rather than your own.
There’s usually a reason why the club was available for £1 in the first place. As the owner, the buck stops at your door.
Still, owning a football club can’t be easy. National League clubs in particular seldom make money barring a good cup run or consistently large attendances.
Eventually, owners will have had enough and move on if money is being wasted with no progress to show for it.
The real victims
When club’s get into these sorry states, the situation it puts the players and staff in is far from an envious one. You’ve got people who mostly just want what’s best for the club, not getting paid and frantically doing what little they can to save the club.
It’s a bit of a catch-22 situation. Do you work with the owners to try and resolve things or do you stand up to them knowing it would likely cost you your job?
The latter happened at Gateshead towards the back end of last season which resulted in everyone being sacked but the club was ultimately saved.
It’s important to look at the bigger picture. Players, staff and owners come and go but it’s the club and its fans who remain.
The fans are the clichéd but true heartbeat of their clubs. As long as they’re around the club’s will be too, no matter what guise its under.
As the saying goes, ‘never say die’.