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The Forgotten Fifteen

19 November 2015

The story of how Bury won promotion using just 15 players across the whole of British football’s worst year is ready to be told

Hooliganism was rife in British football in the mid-1980s. Watching the national sport was a hazardous pastime, a million miles from the ‘customer-focused experience’ which exists today.

The 1984/85 season was undoubtedly the worst of the lot in this respect, as high-profile riots at Luton and Birmingham culminated in the Heysel stadium disaster in which 39 football fans died before the European Cup final.

It brought the curtain down on a sorry season which had ended domestically with the deaths of 56 supporters in a fire at Bradford City’s Valley Parade stadium just 18 days previously.

Yet in the middle of this, Bury Football Club achieved something great – and Bury fan James Bentley has written a book about it that you can order online and pick up at the social club this weekend (21st November) at the Burton match.

Managed by ex-England international Martin Dobson, the Shakers were promoted from Division Four as a result of playing some of the most eye-catching football ever seen at Gigg Lane.

And what’s more, they did it using just 15 players all season. 

Freelance writer and Bury fan James didn’t start watching the Shakers until 1988, but he was always fascinated by the picture of the 1985 team which used to hang in the Gigg Lane social club and mystified as to why he knew nothing about the players in the photograph.

He set out to find the 14 men of the squad who are still with us and the fans, members of the press, directors and backroom staff who were involved with the squad to tell their story against the backdrop of British football, and Britain itself, in the mid-1980s.

The book also features eyewitness accounts of the St Andrews riot, the Bradford fire and the Heysel stadium disaster.

It’s the story of one club’s triumph against the odds in British football’s worst season, using a squad made up of star names as well as local heroes, that came at a time when society was in turmoil too.

Order your copy of the book at by 12noon on Friday 20th November to guarantee pickup the following afternoon, between 1.00pm and 2.30pm in the social club.

There’s also more information on the book, including the in-depth story of how each player was found and Spotify playlists of songs that were in the charts during the 1984/85 season, on the website.

Alternatively, author James Bentley can be contacted by these methods:

Twitter: @jamesisaburyfan

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