DAVID Flitcroft’s exit from BURY last night came as no surprise to anyone who listened to his post-match interview from Tuesday night’s FA Cup defeat at AFC Wimbledon.
Some fans had been calling for Flitcroft’s head for weeks but chairman Stewart Day stood by him in an interview conducted by his vice-chairman on Monday. It didn’t seem your usual ‘vote of confidence’, where they’re just going through the motions. It seemed they genuinely wanted him to stay for the foreseeable.
But all that changed after a dismal 5-0 defeat on Tuesday night. Former Bury loanee Dominic Poleon scored twice and Tom Walker, who is currently on loan from BOLTON, had a nasty collision with an advertising board near the end. Apparently Flitcroft didn’t hang around to see how Walker was doing at the final whistle, he just walked down the tunnel while the young midfielder was still receiving treatment.
Now you wouldn’t do that to one of your own players, let alone a kid that another club has left in your care. I don’t believe Flitcroft is the sort of person who would normally do that. As soon as his interview began he looked shell-shocked so I believe it was an honest mistake, that he didn’t realise what was happening at the final whistle.
And as he continued talking, there was none of the defiance he has shown in recent weeks, as Bury have slipped down the League One table. Instead he looked humbled, he looked hurt. Indeed, there was an air of resignation about him.
It reminded me of Bury’s defeat at Chesterfield in September 2011, when, after the game, manager Richie Barker said something like ‘he didn’t know how to turn things round’. It didn’t look good in print but we knew by his general tone that that wasn’t exactly what he meant. Put into context, he was saying ‘I can’t put my finger on it but I’m determined to keep trying’. There was no ‘air of resignation’ that time.
After not only seeing Tuesday night’s result but then hearing how it came about, I wondered if Flitcroft would hand in his resignation. The board may have been willing to stand by him but any more performances like that could tarnish the reputation he has managed to build. And Bury are back at AFC Wimbledon on Saturday before having to visit an in-form Sheffield United next Tuesday so there was a good chance it could have got even worse for Flitcroft before it got better.
The statement released last night said that Flitcroft and his assistant Ben Futcher had “left the club with immediate effect”, so we’re not sure if they did jump or the board were finally compelled to act. It wasn’t announced till nearly 7pm so perhaps the board needed all day to convince the management duo that this was best for everyone.
After losing in that manner, there is no denying that something had to be done. More damage like that to Flitcroft’s reputation could have been irreparable, it wouldn’t have reflected well on the club and it wouldn’t have been fair on Bury’s travelling fans.
Flitcroft was the board’s man. Kevin Blackwell was in charge when they took over in the summer of 2013 and they picked Flitcroft to replace him that December. The former Bury and Rochdale midfielder led the Shakers away from the bottom of League Two in his first season, then automatic promotion in 2014/15 before a mid-table finish in League One last term. But now the owners’ bold five-year plan to get back into the Championship is in tatters.
A further statement is expected today although former assistant Chris Brass and Academy boss Ryan Kidd have been placed in charge of first-team affairs.