Gary Neville advises Bury fans to take control of the club
"They need to go and set up a new club themselves and own their own club. There is this idea that somebody else will come in and set it up, but my honest advice would be just to go for it and do it yourselves"
Last Updated: 03/09/19 3:32pm
Gary Neville has spoken of his shock at the demise of Bury, describing the club as "rotten" on the inside following their expulsion from the Football League.
Neville has close links with the club. He was born in the town, his father was famously associated with the club for many years and his mother still works there as a secretary.
Now one of the part owners of Salford City - who have risen up through non-League to League Two in the past five years - Neville has advised Bury's fans to take control and secure the future of their club, and reckons that while the situation may seem devastating now, there could yet be light at the end of the tunnel.
"It's an absolute shocker, I'm speechless," the Sky Sports pundit said on The Gary Neville Podcast. "There is nothing you or anyone can do.
"I obviously know a lot about it. My mum is the secretary of the club, she is immersed in there and is still going in every single day to try and sort out what's happening, and I'm in a position whereby I am conflicted in the sense that I know everything that is going on.
"My dad, who is not with us anymore, saved that club on numerous occasions over many years. He was actually the chairman of the SOS Shakers fund that basically held the rights to the ground and other such things.
"But I think the last three or four years what has essentially happened is there has been no one there to monitor what has happened to the club. There has been no one there to stop bad management and the over-investment that has happened.
"In the end it was just impossible for anyone to touch the club not knowing what the liabilities were and not knowing what they were signing up to. It was an inevitability that I felt was coming for months and months that no one could stop. When an apple is that rotten and you don't know what is actually inside it, no one is going to take on that liability.
"I know the EFL have received criticism, the guy who bought the club for a pound has received criticism and the previous owners have received criticism, but my overriding thinking is one of just complete shock about how it's happened."
Can Bury rise again?
But while Neville has admitted his shock at Bury demise, the former Manchester United defender remains hopeful the club can rise again.
"I'm a positive person by nature and I see that with the council support, in terms of retaining the ground, with a group of fans who are as hardened and resilient as they are, I do believe that Bury can be a stronger club and rise back through the leagues and be back in the EFL within five or six years.
"Bury will have some great fun along the way. We've been down in non-League for the last four or five years. I come to Premier League football but I've also watched the Evo-Stik North, the Evo-Stik Premier League, the National League North and the National League in the last five seasons, nearly every week or every other week, and I have had the time of my life watching football.
"I feel like I have gone back to my roots again, seeing fans have a drink on the side of the pitch and discuss games with each other. That camaraderie that is there for Bury, their fans won't be feeling that this early but that is going to come their way and they will feel that way again about their club.
"They need to go and set up a new club themselves and own their own club. There is this idea that somebody else will come in and set it up, but my honest advice would be just to go for it and do it yourselves, get someone in who knows how to work through those leagues and basically just go for it, because the fans are there.
"There are two, three or four thousand people who will passionately support that club and there are a lot of people inside it who will do the work to get them out of the darkness, and it has been a dark week. It has been a massive struggle in the last few months, but I think there will be light at the end of it.
"Myself, my brother and my sister have been close to it every single day because we are talking to my mum and she's still in there just hoping some miracle would happen, but it was never going to come, that was the reality of it. The [owner] kept going on the radio all the time to lift hopes but there was no hope, no one would touch it. It was rotten inside and there nothing anyone could do about it.
"When we took over Salford five years ago we went to see AFC Wimbledon, FC United, Morecambe, AFC Fylde, Fleetwood and others. Teams who have been in the North West Counties leagues, there are plenty of clubs like that who have done this journey back up through the leagues. Stockport and Wrexham are big clubs who are back in the National League at this time.
"Everyone will open their doors and give the information as they did to us. Every single club that we went to see gave us every single piece of information that they could to support us, and that will be the same with the Bury fans who are trying to set up the club.
"Eventually they will become the Bury Football Club of the future and one that will get back into the Football League. And it will be a club everyone in the town will be proud of again."
Can Bury fans learn lessons from Portsmouth?
Portsmouth are another club who went through financial turmoil in the past decade, but survived going into administration twice and being relegated three times in four seasons to re-emerge as a community-owned club. Earlier this year Sky Sports' Adam Bate spoke to Ashley Brown, who was chairman of the Portsmouth Supporters' Trust, about how they managed to survive.
"The fans went through 18 months or longer where they were not sure whether there was even going to be a club for them to support in the future," said Brown. "The club was very close to liquidation on a number of occasions. I think some people don't realise how close. As someone heavily involved in the process who was speaking daily to the administrator, I know that it was just hours away from possibly disappearing forever.
"There were some very low points and I remember one particular occasion where if it wasn't for a number of fans who invested in our acquisition scheme, to stump up and underwrite some ongoing costs for the administrator, then it would have been liquidated. That was a particularly low point.
"We went to a high court battle with the previous owners to ensure that we could retain Fratton Park. We jumped through countless hoops with the administrator, the governing body and various authorities just to get to a position where we could successfully bid to save the club. So there were many low points.
"But there were a significant number of high points as well, particularly when we eventually won and the fans managed to save the club. What so often happens with football fans is that until it's really bad it's difficult to get them united behind a cause. But with Portsmouth, having been through administrations before, and this one dragged on, people very quickly got behind us.
"The community spirit was tremendous and so many fans played a part in making sure that this great club survived. It wasn't just a few people it was many people. And not just financially. It's frightening when you get into the bones of what happened at Portsmouth and what certain people were allowed to get away with. By certain people, I mean previous owners and senior executives at the club.
"The first couple of years when the club was owned by the supporters it was very difficult on the field. The club had to completely rebuild and that included all of the playing side. It's a fantastic turnaround for the football club.
"It may have been only nine years ago that we were in the Premier League and runners-up in the FA Cup final but the pain and the treatment of the club as it plummeted through the leagues in that nine years was horrendous. When the supporters took it over, it was only the bare bones of the football club it once was. But now I am very optimistic about the future."