I WROTE on Saturday about Greater Manchester’s League One strugglers getting back to business after the festive period.
Well two days later Chris Lucketti had no more business to attend at rock-bottom BURY after being relieved of his duties at Gigg Lane. He was the 3rd Bury boss to be sacked in 14 months after an injury-hit Charlton side eased to a 1-0 victory at Gigg Lane, with the Shakers offering barely any threat of scoring after Mark Marshall claimed the game’s only goal on 63 minutes.
That made it 8 league games without scoring under Lucketti, taking 1 point from a possible 24. After being 3 points from safety when he took charge on November 22, Bury are now 12 points adrift of 5th-bottom OLDHAM.
I had said before kick-off that it couldn’t go on like this. Even if Bury’s fate was sealed – which it isn’t – there is still a lot of games left and the club couldn’t let the fans continue to watch performances so meek, without seeing any positives to cling to for next season.
Chairman Stewart Day told me on Tuesday that a decision had to be made now, and I have to agree. After Saturday’s game, Lucketti said: “From when I got the job, I certainly didn’t think we’d be in this position, so I’ll keep working at it until I get it right.”
But I just couldn’t see how he would do that. He had already tried just about everything. He’d chopped and changed his starting line-ups – although many of those changes had to be made as some of the individual performances had been so poor.
His formations had many scratching their heads though. There didn’t seem to be any pattern with how he wanted the team to play and Saturday’s side featured several players out of position.
There were 2 left-backs, with Joe Skarz in a back 3 and Greg Leigh wing-back, while forward Harry Bunn was at right wing-back. Lucketti also had 2 of the best wingers in League One at his disposal yet neither were playing on the wing. Zeli Ismail and Danny Mayor were playing behind striker James Hanson in a 3-4-2-1 formation but they couldn’t get close enough to Hanson so despite winning virtually every ball that came his way, Bury’s new loan signing was completely isolated.
In his post-match interviews, it seemed clear that Lucketti had run out of ideas for how to turn things round and Day couldn’t see it changing either.
He said: “I want to give us the best possible chance of staying in the division and I just didn’t think we looked like improving under Chris.
“The Plymouth performance (3-0 defeat on January 6) was unacceptable and I told Chris that. The mood at Carrington (training ground) wasn’t the best either.
“But these are the same players that beat Shrewsbury and Bradford. Granted, we’ve had a few injuries, but Jermaine Beckford didn’t play against Shrewsbury, and we showed some fight, some passion in that game.
“Normally when you appoint a new manager you get a bit of a spark and that didn’t materialise. We haven’t scored – we didn’t look like scoring – and there wasn’t any fight, so we had to make a call.
“Too many people have gone ‘that’s it, we’re in League Two’. But until it’s mathematically impossible, I don’t accept that.
“If we’d have left it another 5 or 6 games it might have been too late. But now we have 19 games left and 57 points to play for, so let’s have a bloody good go!”
Ryan Lowe had 6 games as caretaker manager before Lucketti was appointed and the player-coach has been put back in charge till the end of the season, again assisted by highly-rated Academy boss Ryan Kidd.
But for all the bad decisions that Lucketti made, the players must shoulder most of the blame for his return to the club lasting just 2 months. Bury have invested heavily in the squad, they have some of the best players in League One, but that’s now 3 managers this season that they have failed to perform under consistently – including Lowe.
Day feels Lowe can motivate the players but his previous spell was mixed. Although the Shakers shocked then-leaders Shrewsbury in his last game in charge, they also had 2 dismal FA Cup games against Woking, with the replay seeing the non-league side win 3-0 at Gigg Lane!
Lowe takes his side to 10th-placed Oxford tomorrow and Day expects them to go for the win. That might be a bit ambitious but, by making the call to change manager again, at least he’s given Bury a chance of avoiding a return to League Two.