Long, hard battle ahead for new boss Chris Brass at Bury

BURY head coach Chris Brass admitted on Saturday that he felt “like a broken record”. Again, mistakes cost Bury dear and, again, a game they could have won ended in defeat.

Oxford United twice came from behind to win 3-2 at Gigg Lane and extend Bury’s club-record losing streak in the league to 12 games. It also sent the Shakers into the League One relegation zone for the first time this season.

Brass had been caretaker manager and was last Thursday handed the job until the end of the season. If he didn’t already know that he’s got a big job on his hands then he sure does now.

It was a rather underwhelming appointment. After sacking David Flitcroft, chairman Stewart Day insisted he still hoped to fulfil the bold five-year plan he announced when he took over in 2013. That leaves two years to get back into the Championship.

The club therefore attracted over 70 applicants, yet Day claimed that not one of them fit the bill. That is hard to believe. Surely several had the suitable experience to take on the job. But given the club’s financial situation, the board was hoping for something which was nigh-on impossible – someone with the suitable experience who was also willing to accept a pay cut.

So they gave Brass the chance to earn the permanent job. And despite losing four games while caretaker boss, they still gave it him anyway.

After getting thumped in his first game (5-1 at AFC Wimbledon) there had been signs of improvement. Despite being reduced to nine men at Sheffield United, they only went down to a stoppage-time winner. They then led 2-0 against Millwall before having Niall Maher sent off. They then lost 3-2. And despite going in front at Bristol Rovers, they gave away two poor goals to gift Rovers the lead. The hosts ultimately won 4-2. Yet Brass got the job five days later.

The former Bury defender has plenty going for him. Although the new owners were keen to establish an Academy set-up, Flitcroft was loath to blood their most promising youngsters. Brass has given them a chance to impress, though, and they’ve done just that. Scott Burgess and George Miller were the scorers at Bristol Rovers and Miller was rewarded with his first league start against Oxford, after scoring 3 goals in 7 sub appearances.

Sometimes Flitcroft didn’t help himself, making vague or misleading post-match comments, but Brass has been more open and honest, something the fans have appreciated. The 41-year-old also knows the club inside out and offers continuity. He was Flitcroft’s assistant when Bury won promotion from League Two in 2015 and that summer moved upstairs to become head of football operations, with the new Number 2 being Ben Futcher (who left with Flitcroft).

But by leaving Brass in charge, the Bury board seem to be accepting the team’s fate, that they are destined for a relegation battle this season. Brass was unable to spark an immediate upturn in results and sticking with him has denied them the chance to see if a fresh face could have achieved that.

Alarmingly, the players are making the same basic defensive errors they were under Flitcroft, and they can’t keep a lead. They went in front in each of their last three games only to lose all three, conceding 10 in the process.

“We can’t keep scoring two goals in a game and not getting anything,” said Brass, who added that his players must realise the situation they’re now in. “It’s not the elephant in the room anymore.”

There has been no quick-fix for the Shakers. In fact, they’ve continued to slide further down the League One table, so a long, hard battle lies ahead. At least Brass now has plenty of time to ensure they beat the drop.

That battle begins with a trip to Fleetwood on Boxing Day and a group of Bury supporters will be making the trip via Blackpool Tower, walking the 7.5 miles to Fleetwood’s Highbury Stadium in full kit.
The ‘Full-Kit Walkers’ are raising money for Ali’s Fight for Fusion. Bury fan Nick Zabel’s girlfriend Alison Turner was last year diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome type 3, which is a connective tissue disorder.

She had to give up her job working with vulnerable children and families in the North West and now needs life-saving surgery which is unavailable in the UK. Nick is therefore trying to raise £55,000 so that Ali can undergo the surgery in Barcelona. For further information and to donate, click here.