Stewart Day gives an update on the clubs progress
May I take this opportunity to thank you for your support over the last 12 months and wish you all a very Happy New Year.
I wanted to write this statement as we are now coming up to two and a half years since I got involved in Bury Football Club. I wanted to reflect on this time and how far I feel we have progressed as a Football Club both on and off the pitch.
When I came into the Club, I set out a goal that I wanted to achieve Championship football within a 5-year period, a goal which I knew would take a lot of effort and hard work to achieve, but not only did I want to get into the Championship, I also want to have a Football Club that can sustain itself in the Championship and compete.
I feel that we have achieved great strides in achieving this success, although we are a long way from achieving what I set out to do. Firstly, bringing David Flitcroft in to the Football Club two years ago, I feel, has been the stimulus for us achieving the goals to date by gaining promotion last year from Sky Bet League Two. League Two is a very difficult League to get out of. You only have to look at Clubs like Plymouth & Portsmouth, who both have incredible fan bases. It just shows that having the support and size of Club doesn't always guarantee you success. Two years ago when David came into the Club, we were languishing at the foot of the Football League, relegation from the Football League was not an option for me!!
I had to move quickly to bring in someone that shared the same vision as myself. At that time, I didn’t feel Bury FC had an identity or indeed a winning mentality. We were seen from the outside as a Club with a small Club mentality. This was something I was extremely keen to come away from and I felt we needed to bring the professionalism into the club.
David and the coaching staff did a fantastic job in keeping us in the League. I firmly believe if we had another four or five games that year, we would have made the play-offs and who knows where we would have finished. It could have been a remarkable achievement. In the summer of 2014 we sat down to plan our challenge for promotion out of Sky Bet League Two. This enabled us to go in the transfer market and identify key players that we thought would lead us to success, some of the decisions we got right - some of them we got wrong. Ultimately through the course of the season we achieved our aim in promotion to Sky Bet League One, albeit on the final day of the season. Those scenes after the final whistle at Prenton Park, and back here at Gigg Lane, will be something I will never forget. They made me extremely proud of what we had achieved, especially with the fact that we achieved promotion with a Club record points total of 85 points in one season.
Contrary to reports we were not the highest budget in the League and we stayed well within the FFP rules. It shows just how hard the coaching staff had worked on bringing the recruits in.
Our aim this season was to make sure that we are able to compete and play attractive football as we wanted to continue building and moving forward. Taking on the fantastic facilities at Carrington as our training complex enabled us to bring in players that wanted to be part of something special. Somewhere that they wanted to improve and stimulate them to get better, we also believed that we needed to strengthen in certain areas as one of the hardest things in any League is to score goals. This has been proven where other clubs in League One and other divisions have spent significant amounts of money on transfer fees in bringing in players to do just that, score goals. We quickly identified that we could bring in 2 top quality strikers into the squad to add to our current crop and both would be on free transfers, incredible business showing what other Clubs are paying as transfer fees and not getting the same return as we are.
On reflection of the season so far I think the progress of the Club has been fantastic both on and off the field, we are currently sitting in 12th position of League 1, 4 points off the play-offs, into the 3rd round of the FA Cup - something the Club hasn’t achieved for a number of years and certainly not in my tenure, we have gone to Sheffield United and put in a superb performance to win the game 3-1 something the Club hasn’t done since 1925, beaten the likes of Walsall, Burton, Coventry and Peterborough in the League. All teams who are currently in the top 6 and Wigan in both cup competitions a team that won the FA Cup 2 years ago, the same time I got involved in the Club.
The Commercial Team is growing from strength to strength each season which the partner programme is one of the best in the country, the attendances are increasing each season which is great seeing a younger generation coming to the games and the singing section are making some great noise supporting the lads. We are looking to roll out a Junior Shakers programme in 2016 which I have pledged that we will go into every school in the borough and talk about the Club in raising the profile and the Junior Shakers Club will be something that young supporters can feel part of something and have a real value of being a member.
There are a number of events planned for 2016 which will bring in revenue for the Club, something with the current stadium format we are restricted on from other Clubs in this division, as most other Clubs have corporate boxes, function rooms etc. that enables them to bring in significant income away from the football match days, again the work that CEO Glenn Thomas puts in organising these events and working with the Commercial Team is tremendous which continues to bring new income streams into the business.
We have also been able to develop and sell a young asset to a Premier League Club in Matty Foulds who I think will have a very bright future and one thing we made sure we got the right deal for Bury FC. This again is something that we haven’t done as a business for a number of years and we have some bright prospects coming through with a lot of clubs taking interest in our youth players and whilst we look to develop them into the 1st team environment sometimes we have to realise financially what is best for the player and the Club to be able to keep on progressing. We have also been able to reject a number of offers from Premier League and Championship Clubs for players within our academy structure, even rejecting a six figure sum for a player which we felt didn’t represented the best value for the player or the Club as we believe we can develop the player far greater under our regime.
There are a number of new ideas that we will be implementing into our Academy teams next year which allows them to spend more time at Carrington and work with our coaches to develop to the highest of standards in order that we can produce players like Matty on a more regular basis.
The Academy and the Youth Team is something that we have taken back ownership of in the past 2 years and an incredible amount of work has gone into what we are looking to achieve but again we are still a long way off delivering the product of what we expect to represents Bury FC this again will come with time with the new systems that are being put in place.
We are also looking at implementing an Under-21 squad which will allow us to develop the transition from Youth team to 1st team with the likes of Burgess, Dudley, Mohammed and Ruddy to name a few who have all had 1st team experience this season will allow us to develop them further in game environments on a regular basis, whilst also looking at recruiting talent from other Clubs who we feel we can nurture into 1st team regulars and develop local talent.
As some of you know I am extremely passionate about football and I visit a number of other Clubs looking at ideas on ways we can improve both on and off the field and one Club who I spoke with who have achieved numerous promotions said "There will always be challenges in a Football Club and you will not get everyone to agree with the decisions you make but if everyone is pulling in the same direction this will help you achieve what you want to".
It will take time to get to where we want to be and we need to build the business back up to one that can be sustainable and even profitable but time is what is required which is why I set out 5 year plan as I feel this will enable us to have a realistic opportunity of getting to where we want to be. We go into every game wanting to win and if we get promotion to the Championship before then fantastic but we need to make sure we keep doing the right things, I feel on reflection over the past 2 years the progress of the Club has been phenomenal and for me this is just the start of what we are building, we are if anything ahead of schedule but with working within the FFP regulations and one of the lowest budgets for League One, we are able to build a squad that is extremely competitive for this League and I for one are extremely looking forward to 2016.
Thank you again for your continued support and I look forward to the 2nd half of this season as we continue to build.