In a matter of months Bury have gone from the bottom tier to play-off aspirations and reaching the Championship. David Triggs looks at an eventful year at Gigg Lane.

After Alan Knill left Gigg Lane for Scunthorpe United with 8 games to go of the season, Bury fans were staring at another season in the basement of the Football League with trips to Moss Rose and Underhill to look forward to. The board appointed Youth Team boss Richie Barker as caretaker manager, and little did he know at the time, but he was about to go down in Bury folklore.

The first game of Barker’s reign was at home to Oxford. The question on everybody’s lips was “How long would it take to adapt to life without Knill?” The answer?  64 seconds. Manchester United loanee, Nicky Ajose put the Shakers in front with a beautiful lob, and from that point on the Bury Boys never looked back.

Barker won the next 4 games as Bury manager before coming up against table-toppers Chesterfield on Easter Monday. A victory for Bury and results elsewhere could see the Shakers promoted back into League 1. Knowing this, around 2000 Bury fans made the journey to the B2Net stadium which proved to be a wise decision indeed. With the scores tied at 2-2 at 86 minutes, a Peter Sweeney corner fell to Ryan Lowe at the back post, and Bury’s top scored tucked it away to send the travelling Bury fans into raptures. Shrewsbury’s result meant that the Shakers had secured promotion, with caretaker manager Richie Barker winning 6 games out of 6, and guiding Bury back into League 1.

Barker was given the Bury job on a permanent basis over what seemed a very quiet summer for Bury fans. Barker brought in former Swindon assistant Peter Shirtliff as his Number 2 as Bury were preparing to test themselves on the League 1 stage. Barker’s first signing of the summer came in the form of Mark Hughes, a product of Everton’s academy. The Centre-Back had just finished a spell in Australlia with North Queensland Fury and signed a 2 year deal.

With the release of the fixture list, many Bury fans realised just quite what they were up against. An opening day trip to Play-off final runners-up, Huddersfield, followed a week later by a visit from the mighty Sheffield Wednesday.  With opening day fast approaching, transfer activity was relatively quiet with the only addition being Hull striker Mark Cullen joining on loan.

It was a start that some Shakers fans couldn’t even dream of at the start of the season.

The day finally came when Bury would officially return to League 1. Around 1500 Bury fans nipped over the Pennines to the Galpharm Stadium to see Bury take on Huddersfield. After going down 1-0 on 64 minutes, Bury striker Ryan Lowe tucked home a late goal to secure an opening day point for the Shakers at one of the best teams in the league. Bury then faced Championship opposition in the Carling Cup as they welcomed Andy Thorn’s Coventry City to Gigg Lane. Goals from Andy Bishop and a brace from Ryan Lowe ensured Bury were in the hat for the next round where they drew Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Leicester at home.

The next league encounter saw the visit of Carlisle to GIgg Lane and they dominated and took all 3 points after a 2-0 victory. The following Tuesday, Bury welcomed former Premier League side Sheffield Wednesday to Gigg Lane. Bury took the lead through that man Lowe, and then doubled their advantage through Damien Mozika before Half-Time. Wednesday pulled one back through Chris Sedgewick but it wasn’t enough. Wednesday fans began to sing “We’ve got more fans than you, we’ve got more fans than you.” To which Bury responded with “We’ve got more goals than you, we’ve got more goals than you.” And the Shakers hung on for their first 3 points of the season. Bury then went to Wycombe, who were also promoted from League 2 the previous season, and got a 2-0 victory, which meant they’d attained 7 points from a possible 12. It was a start that some Shakers fans couldn’t even dream of at the start of the season.

Next up was Leicester in the Carling Cup, and despite matching them for the majority of the game, Barker’s boys went down 4-2. Next up was the visit of title favourites Charlton Athletic, and with Bury leading 1-0 at Half-time through a Ryan Lowe free-kick, things quickly turned sour in the second have as 2 goals in 10 minutes sent the Addicks back down south with 3 points.

The news wasn’t great, Lowe had signed for fellow League 1 team Sheffield Wednesday.

With Transfer Deadline Day approaching, rumours began flying round about the possible departure of talisman Ryan Lowe. Panic-stricken Bury fans were logging onto messageboards everywhere to try and see what the latest news was on their star striker. The news wasn’t great, Lowe had signed for fellow League 1 team Sheffield Wednesday. Things got worse, Damien Mozika also left Gigg Lane and joined up with former manager Alan Knill at Glanford Park. Factor in the injury to Captain Steven Schumacher and Centre-Back Mark Hughes things weren’t looking great for the Shakers. Barker then brought in some new faces to Gigg Lane. Defender Ashley Eastham joined on loan from Blackpool along with Midfielder Shane Byrne from Leicester. Another midfielder Giles Coke joined on a 3 month loan deal from Sheffield Wednesday, and Bury paid an undisclosed fee for Northampton Striker Shaun Harrad.

Following the deadline day madness, Bury were thrown into a tough test as they travelled to Bramall Lane to play Sheffield United. A 4-0 thrashing wasn’t the start Barker was looking for following the departure of his 2 key players.  Bury then went the next 5 games only picking up 1 point, including a humiliating defeat at home to local rivals Rochdale (But we won’t go into too much detail about that.) The winless run was finally ended at Huish Park as Bury won 3-1 against Yeovil and things started looking up for the boys from GIgg Lane. Wins against Exeter and Bournemouth and a draw against Notts County all indicated that Bury were on the wise. Barker also brought in Liverpool loanee David Amoo. The former British sprinting champion took to Barker’s 4-5-1 formation like a duck to water, and left-backs across wondering what on earth had hit them.

Into November and a 2-0 victory against local rivals Oldham, after a brace from Andy Bishop meant Bury were sitting peacefully in mid-table before the FA Cup encounter with Crawley Town. The League 2 Money Men came to Gigg Lane and sailed into the 2nd round leaving Bury to fall hopelessly at the first hurdle.  After a superb 4-2 win at Walsall, Bury came into a home tie with Preston North End. Phil Brown’s North End ended up on the wrong side of a 1-0 score line following a wonderful goal from Amoo.

The Shakers now go into Saturday’s game with Yeovil with some Shakers fans even dreaming of the play-offs.

Into December, and Bury fans were eagerly awaiting one game, a trip to Alan Knill’s Scunthorpe United. Scunny were floating dangerously above the relegation zone before Bury’s visit on Boxing Day, and second half goals from Peter Sweeney, Andy Bishop and Efe Sodje sent the travelling Shakers into bedlam, as they got one up on their old boss. Following a loss at Tranmere, Bury were into the New Year sitting in 11th place, a fantastic first half of the season for managerial debutant Barker.

2012 started with a bang after a 2-1 home win to Walsall, but then a repeat of August looked set to occur as Winger Mike Jones departed for the White and Blue of Sheffield Wednesday to link up with former team-mate Lowe, before Bury’s encounter with Wednesday’s bitter rivals, Sheffield United. The Shakers were on the receiving end of a 3-0 score line as Barker’s boys took a heavy beating.

The Shakers now go into Saturday’s game with Yeovil sat in 11th place on 34 points, with some Shakers fans even dreaming of the play-offs. Personally, I’d still take survival this season and look to build next year. Credit has to be given to Richie Barker as he’s assembled a fine squad and dodged every obstacle thrown at him, and here’s hoping it continues. Up The Shakers!

You can follow David on Twitter at!/triggs14