One of the first things Ryan Lowe did on being appointed Manager, was to pick up the phone and bring back an old friend in a new role. Following his appointment as First Team Coach, we caught with up Schuey to talk about his return to the Shakers, the 2010/11 season and that special day at Chesterfield, and of course Lowey...
Why now Schuey, why are you suddenly back at Bury in a coaching role?
“Basically, because Ryan Lowe asked me, obviously he has got the main job now and he wanted me to come in and help him out with the first team coaching and to try and help him keep the club in League One. Lowey asked me, and I jumped at the opportunity, it’s a chance to do something great and finish the season well.”
You were in a full-time coaching role at Everton’s Academy, and playing part-time at Southport, why all of a sudden was it important that you came back to the club?
“I’ve been coaching for a while with Everton in a full-time role. I had realised last year that my career as a player was winding down and I had decided to move back up North after spending a lot of time living down South. I was living in London at the time and more or less made the decision to pull out of full-time football and the coaching role was always going to be the next step for me anyway.”
We can take it from that then that your playing days are over?
“They are now. I left Stevenage and more or less went full-time at Everton, but still felt that I was good enough to be playing. I had a year out of football after the injury and thought playing part-time football would be better for me. I asked Everton if they had any problems with me playing part-time, which in the end was never a problem so I signed a two-year contract with Southport to play.
“That all ended when Ryan phoned me two weeks ago and he told me he wanted me to come and work with the first team in a coaching role. It was an opportunity for me and to be honest, I jumped at the chance. It obviously meant that I couldn’t play part-time anymore, and also meant that I would be leaving my full-time job at Everton.
“I thought about it long and hard, but in the end, it was a very easy decision for me to make. I’ve come back to Bury, which, if I am being honest, was the best club I’ve ever played for, it was the one club where I enjoyed it the most, and to be First Team Coach was an opportunity that I simply could not turn down.”
Lowey has himself a squad number, is there one there for you?
“I keep asking him that, I keep asking why he doesn’t sign me up, but he keeps saying no. He says I am not fit, but at the moment there are no plans for me to start playing again.”
May 2013 you left Bury, a lot has changed since then?
“That’s an understatement! The Chairman has come in and the club has changed massively in many ways - especially with the training ground and the facility that we have. Off the pitch the club has moved on and it seems to be a lot more professional, not that it wasn’t before - I don’t want to sound disrespectful because it’s obviously a fantastic club, but it’s gone to the next level, and that’s all credit to the Chairman and the Directors.
“The basics and the club’s identity is still there, we still have those great fans home and away. It still feels like a family club, there are still people around the club that were here when I was here back in the day such as Gordon, Lynne, Joan and Jill Neville. Mike the groundsman is still as grumpy as ever, it’s good to see so many faces around the club. It’s a club that needs to keep the identity it has, and hopefully we can all take the club to another level again.”
What do you make of Carrington, it’s a lot different to Lower Gigg Lane?
“It’s unbelievable, the facilities are fantastic, and the players really need to appreciate that. Sometimes it gets lost on how fortunate you are, you just expect good training facilities and it’s easy to forget where you came from.
“We used to get changed at the ground and walk down the road in the rain, the snow, the wind and by the time you got there, you were freezing, but it also brought out a character in the lads and we had a great togetherness.
“We all had to do it, everyone left at the same time, nobody walked up and down in stages or in their own groups. We have to try and get that feeling back, we are all in this together, we all appreciate where we are, we appreciate what we have got and what the Chairman gives us. We have to work hard to try and maintain that because results on the pitch will determine whether we can stay in these great facilities.”
Is that the difference between the 2011 promotion squad and now, the togetherness, that team spirit you had then?
“I don’t think there is a difference. Since I came back two or three weeks ago, I cannot fault it, it seems as good a dressing room as we had back then. I can only speak for what I have seen since I came in and the changes have happened. The lads are top draw. I can’t say the team spirit seven years ago was better than this, because I haven’t seen that.
“We had a week of good solid training and it was fantastic, it was as good as anything that I have seen in any dressing room and as long as that continues from now until the end of the season, and we give it a right good go.
“We have the players within the squad that are good enough. If we have that togetherness, and we keep it, and everybody buys into it, and the lads do what the coaching staff asks them to do, then we have a really good chance. The lads have got to believe that we have a chance to get out of this. We will do everything that we possibly can to make it work and keep us in this division.”
Once you did leave in 2013, it was onto Fleetwood and then Stevenage, do you look back at those clubs in the same way as the time you had here?
“I enjoyed my time with Bury, it was a great three years, it was the best time out of any club that I played at, Bradford, Crewe, Fleetwood or Stevenage. It was a great time and I got on with everybody at the club, we played some really good football, we had the promotion and managed to score a load of goals. I enjoyed it. Fleetwood was good, and I also had a promotion there, but it never felt the same atmosphere as it was here at Bury.
“I enjoyed my time at Fleetwood and I enjoyed my time down at Stevenage. I was only there a couple of years and living away from home brought up a couple of different challenges. I also had a cruciate ligament injury at Stevenage which meant I missed a year of playing. I only really played one full season for them, it was a good experience and it was an experience living down South, but I am glad to be back up North now. I’m a Northerner and a Scouser and at the moment, I am made up to be back at Bury.
“I’m loving it at the moment, the first two weeks couldn’t have gone any better”
Did the cruciate injury more or less make the decision for you to stop playing?
“No, because I came back and played for Stevenage again. I was out for nine months and it took me the full year to get back playing in the first team. I wanted to prove to myself that I could carry on playing. I played every game from November to the end of that season and played 30 games. That was a big achievement for me. Once I got back in the team, I stayed in there for the rest of the season and I was playing at a level that I knew I was capable of playing at.
“The decision to stop playing was one that I took because I was only ever going to get a one-year contract. I had offers from Port Vale, Chesterfield and Crewe, but only one-year deals. I would have been in the same position twelve months later, so I thought if I get my coaching career started now, I already had the badges and I rang Everton and they offered me a job straight away, so I went there.
“In the long term, that was where I saw myself, I know I am going to be a good coach eventually, I just needed some experience. This is what I want to do, and it was a decision that I felt at the time was right for me, to pursue this career and become a young coach. I am passionate about it, I have ambitions with what I want to do so I have to start now rather than delay the process by playing for another year. It was more important for me to get on this road and start a new career.”
Is experience essential to become a good coach?
“Not really no, I think I have the passion, the drive, and the energy. That is essential. You only get the experience by doing it. I’ve learnt at Everton in the last seven months that coaching is a lot harder than being a player. It does stress you out, you have so much to think about, so much to do. There is the planning, the reviewing, dealing with unhappy players and you have to learn how to do so many different things and take on so many different roles.
“As a player, you just turn up and play football. It’s all you have known all your life. Experience for me is not essential, it just comes by being there. In the last six months at Everton, I have probably learnt more than I would have ever done by being an Assistant or as a First Team Coach. I was fully hands-on with everything. As long as you have that enthusiasm and the drive. I know that for me, this is what I want to do, I’ve known for a long time that this is what I want to do, and I am so grateful for Ryan and the Chairman to give me the opportunity to do it. For me, it's priceless.”
Was it a wrench to leave Everton then?
“Yes, it was, to have been given the job and the role that I had was a privilege for me. I had no other previous experience in that role. I’ve been in and out, even when I played at Bury, I went in and volunteered to coach the kids on an evening, but only in a voluntary role for a few months here and there. I was the Lead Coach for the Under 11’s and was also coaching all ranges from Under 15’s to Under 18’s. For them to give me that role showed a lot of trust in me, they thought I could do that role and it was hard for me to say thanks very much for that, but now I am going to leave six months later.
“I went into the Academy Manager and the Head of Coaching and explained to them the opportunity that I had been given at Bury and they understood how passionate I was about it. They knew that deep down I want to be a First Team Coach. They didn’t stand in my way, they gave me the blessing. They also said that if I ever want to go back, then the door is open for me. It was fantastic to hear that, and I told them that I was coming here to give it my all for Bury, and try my hardest. If it doesn’t work out, then fair enough, but I think it will work.
“Ryan Lowe, Kiddo and everyone involved and that includes me, we all want the same thing. We want to succeed. Hopefully, the Chairman will see that we have tried and then we can sort something out in the summer.”
Now you’re in then, you’ve had a good few weeks at it, what have you seen?
“I’ve seen only good positive signs. I know it’s only early days, but I can’t ask much more from the players. They are all enthusiastic, they are all training with energy and they are all desperate to play in the team. They are all fighting for the places. They have shown a great togetherness off the pitch, they all seem to get on with one another, so I cannot fault it. We had a fantastic result at Oxford, the first result and goals in eight games, the first away win in twelve months and the first time we’ve come back from behind in ages. All I have seen is positive so far and we need to continue it and keep this momentum going.
“We’ve set our stall out and we’ve told the lads the game plan, we’ve told them how we are going to play, we’ve told them how we are going to defend, this is what we are going to do when we win the ball and the lads appreciated it.
“We just have to continue believing, the lads are good enough to get us results. I know they are, I’ve played against them all and they are good players. It’s down to pure graft and hard work to keep us in this division.
“It will take understanding, belief and 100% commitment from everyone. We need a bit of luck along the way, we need decisions to go for us, results to go for us. It may mean we have games that we don’t play well, but have scrapped a 1-0 win, or nick a draw here and there. It will require a big effort but everyone in the building wants to do it.
Is it possible to compare this squad with the squad that won promotion at Chesterfield in 2011?
“Yes and no, because if I am being honest, I think the players now are better than the players we had then. Individually, we have better players now. The professionalism is at another level. The squad back then was great because we were all in it together and we got results together. We built on that and everyone wanted the same thing.
“Back in 2011, we all knew our role within the team. As coaching staff now, our job is to tell the players their role within the team. We are making it clear to everyone exactly what is required. If they all understand it and they all believe it, then we will have a chance to have some success, but obviously, it’s on a different scale to 2010/11.”
Going back to that season again, Alan Knill has just left, yourself, Lowey and Sodje stepped in and took over, along with Richie Barker, is it going to take that same sort of mentality to achieve safety?
“Without a doubt, we had eight games to go when Knilly left. Brian Fenton and the Directors said to the three of us that they wanted us to run the team, we said yes in a heartbeat, but we needed Richie Barker in as well because he was the more experienced coach at the club as he was running the Academy.
“Richie became the head or the figurehead. He told Lowey, Sodje and me exactly what was required, and we passed that onto the players. We had a couple of bad results before Knilly left, it was a defeat and two draws. We all had to dig in and pull together. We gave them a plan and won six of the next eight games and got promoted
“It’s going to take that same sort of mentality because we have to get the senior players and tell them what we want, what we need, then they have to filter that down to the rest of the squad and hopefully that will bring the results.”
Was there one game that stood out for you back then, the ‘just smash it’ free-kick at Shrewsbury was obviously one?
“I remember going to Macclesfield on a cold Tuesday night. We were going through a spell where we hadn’t been great, and we beat them 4-1. Back then, Macclesfield was a hard place to go to and get a result, but we absolutely battered them and played them off the park. I can remember sitting in the dressing room after the game thinking that this squad was good, and we can do something here.
“There was another game, just after Knilly left, against Burton Albion. We beat Oxford and then Northampton away. Sodje and Damien Mozika both got sent off, we didn’t play very well in that game. I was on the bench after being suspended but we won the game 1-0 with Tom Lees scoring our goal, we beat them with nine men and after the game we just knew that this was it, we are going up now. We hadn’t played well, we were down to nine men - Burton also had one sent off, but we all just stuck in and dug it out for each other. No matter what, we weren’t going to be beaten. That’s the kind of mentality that we need now for the rest of the season.
Where does Chesterfield away stand in your career now?
“The best day of my career to date. It was everything, the whole day. I can remember sitting in the dressing room, not long after the whistle had blown before we went back out to see all the fans. I was watching the young lads like Damien Mozika, Nicky Ajose, Michael Jones, David Worrall and little Max Harrop. They were all jumping around and dancing around the dressing room. I can remember thinking that you are not going to get many days like this, so try and savour it.
“I was six or seven years into my career and I hadn’t experienced a day like this, so I am going to savour it. We went back out to the 2,000 Bury fans and champagne was being sprayed everywhere, the fans were unbelievable, getting back to the club and dancing on top of Phil Pickens car, in the social club was wild. I had made the decision that we had to enjoy that night. It was such a good day and the way it happened, to win it at the League leaders, in the last minute, with Lowey’s goal, was just perfect. It’s a day I will never forget. I went up with Fleetwood at Wembley, that was an experience, but it wasn’t as good as the Chesterfield experience.”
Has Ryan Lowe changed?
No, he hasn’t changed a bit. He still has that same passion, that same fight, he doesn’t take any hassle from anyone. He was the same back then, if he didn’t think people were pulling their weight, he would lose it and they got told.
“I can remember a game against Crewe at home, Lowey had scored two and we won the game 3-0. Kyle Bennett went down the wing in the last minute and took a shot instead of passing to Lowey. When we got into the dressing room, Lowey stripped him down a peg or two. We had just won the game 3-0 and Lowey was destroying him for not passing the ball. That’s what he is like, Kyle made the wrong decision and Lowey wasn’t going to stand for it. That is why Lowey is a winner.
In the two weeks, I have been back I have seen him deal with things, seen him sort things out and do it properly like any good manager. His hair may be changing colour, but it’s the same old Lowey. He’s a winner and wants to win, we all do.”