MOST bosses will tell you that the Manager of the Month curse is just a myth. However, after winning the award, a team’s form drops off so often that it can’t just be coincidence.
Just ask David Flitcroft (pictured above). BURY were second when he won the League One award for September and even enjoyed the hype of a top-of-the-table clash with leaders Scunthorpe on October 1.
But for him it wasn’t so much a curse as a kiss of death. The Shakers lost all seven in October and, after their winless run stretched to 11, Flitcroft was sacked two weeks ago with Bury 16th – three points above the drop zone.
Caretaker boss Chris Brass also seems to have been stricken. He stepped down from an upstairs role but they’ve lost all three under Brass, to stoppage-time winners in their last two, leaving them 20th – just a point above the bottom four.
So where did it all go wrong for Bury? Brass believes injuries and suspensions have cost them dear over the last two months.
He said: “It’s been key players going out at key times. We’re having to put too many square pegs in round holes. We’ve got to make sure we get the group back quickly, but you’ve got to make sure you do it right.”
While Bury have had some rotten luck, it’s partly self-inflicted. Flitcroft was accused of over-training his players and admitted last season that he rushed players back, aggravating their injury.
Legendary striker Ryan Lowe, who left for Crewe in the summer, said last week that he was “forced to do stuff he shouldn’t have done”. Flitcroft said he’d learn from that but made the same mistake this term.
He also brought in some big-earners on contracts the club struggled to sustain so had to offload the likes of Leon Clarke, Chris Hussey and Peter Clarke to cut the wage bill.
But Flitcroft replaced them with seasoned Championship players who have been under-performing or unfit – and they aren’t cheap.
The owners took over in 2013, with a five-year plan to get back in the Championship. They appointed Flitcroft and won League Two promotion in 2015. Over £7m has been invested in the squad, as well as installing an infrastructure and Academy set-up, which is already bearing fruit.
Brass (pictured above) said: “I wasn’t on the training ground. I had heavy involvement with Emeka Obi going to Liverpool and Jack Ruddy to Wolves, so there were things off the field we needed to take the club forward in order to aid the first team.”
Those deals were welcome boosts to the coffers as losses are growing. As of their 2015 accounts, the club were over £8m in debt. HRMC have issued three winding-up petitions this year.
That’s why the FA Cup defeat that cost Flitcroft his job was so important. Had Bury won their replay at AFC Wimbledon, they were guaranteed over £100,000 from a TV game with CURZON ASHTON this Sunday. Instead they lost 5-0.
After losing 5-1 at Wimbledon in the league four days later, striker Tom Pope said the players had to stand up and be counted. They did last Tuesday, almost earning a draw at Sheffield United with nine men. Then they went 2-0 up against Millwall on Saturday thanks to a James Vaughan brace but lost 3-2 after Niall Maher was sent off. That not only cost them a much-needed win but Brass the permanent job.
He said: “It was frustrating watching games and seeing the results change, but I’ve had a short period to work with the players. While it’s been a difficult period it’s been good to get out there and rectify it. They haven’t been positive results but I think they’ve been positive performances.
“To go 2-0 up against a strong Millwall side, it shows that you have got enough in the camp to turn it round. And we’ll be a damn sight stronger once we get everybody back.”
Brass is set to stay on in some capacity and intends to help decide upon the new manager. Ideally, chairman Stewart Day wanted to appoint him this week as Bury have two weeks till their next game, and he still targets the Championship within two years.
The new man would need to inspire an incredible turn-around to be in contention this term. But surely Day doesn’t want him to do too well. He doesn’t want another Manager of the Month trophy arriving at Gigg Lane!