Recent clashes between the local rivals have been marred by crowd trouble and Bury have been concerned about a so-called ‘firm’ element growing amongst their younger supporters. Not only is that doing little for the club’s reputation but it’s seen the Shakers’ police bills rise, an additional cost they could well and truly do without.
So Bury and Oldham took a firm stance this week, putting statements on their club websites two days before the game, urging fans to behave or face a banning order.
Bury made the game all-ticket to avoid a repeat of Oldham’s 2013 visit, when it was pay on the day but hundreds of Latics fans were locked out as the away end had filled up. Oldham didn’t sell all their allocation, though, so away fans can now pay on the day. At least this time the Shakers have set aside an overflow area in the Family Stand.
Over 1,500 away fans are expected to make the short trip to Gigg Lane and although the hosts are eager to avoid any problems off the pitch, they’re not exactly making it easy for themselves.
Although they’ve made it clear that any nonsense will not be tolerated, they also put a story on their website telling fans the social club is open from 12pm. And not only do they have a Happy Hour from 12.30-1.30pm, away fans are welcome too!
Gone are the days when every single pub within walking distance of a football ground has a ban on away fans. Most modern fans have shown they can be trusted to mix without kicking off with each other. However, even in this day and age you can understand if a pub still chooses not to let away fans in, so there is certainly no pressure on clubs to allow both sets of supporters to mix on their own premises.
But when the two sides are local rivals, and you’re giving them three hours’ drinking time, and for an hour of that it’ll cost them just £2.50 a pint? You’re asking for trouble! I really hope I’m wrong but surely it’s an accident waiting to happen, one Bury can ill afford.
As for matters on the pitch, former captain Peter Clarke makes a swift return to Bury after they let him join Oldham this summer.
“It’s where I spent last season but having said that, time moves on, players move on and I can’t wait to go back there and do what we have to do and get the result that we want,” he said.
The veteran centre-half was immediately installed as the Latics skipper and although Steve Robinson’s new-look side lost 3-0 at Millwall on the opening day, Clarke has since helped shore up their defence. Oldham beat Wigan in the EFL Cup before claiming two 0-0 draws at home.
Bury had a far better start, enjoying a surprise 2-0 win over Charlton, and they have since had three games on the road. Despite losing one, drawing one and going out of the EFL Cup in extra-time, David Flitcroft’s men put in some encouraging performances so it promises to be a hard-fought contest. Let’s hope the action is confined to the pitch.