Bury Ams celebrate their centenary

WHILE the Lancashire and Cheshire AFL, along with other grassroots leagues, is waiting with bated breath for the roadmap back into local outdoor sport and have plans in place to cope with whatever time they are given for a restart, it gives the league the chance to outline the distinguished history of one of its clubs about to celebrate their centenary.

By Phil Savill – Vice Chair, Secretary, Third Team Manager, U12 Manager, U7 Manager

Bury Amateurs FC will celebrate the club’s centenary on February 28th.

In the Secretary’s minutes record, 18 members attended a meeting at the Derby Hotel in the centre of Bury (now demolished) and passed the resolution ‘That an Association Football Club be formed and application be made for membership to the Lancashire Amateur League’. The members seemed to find some difficulty in agreeing a name for the newly formed club and the discussion of the topic had to be suspended but later in the evening a proposal suggesting the title BURY AMATEUR ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL CLUB was carried. Despite the use of the singular word ‘amateur’ the Club is often referred to as Bury Amateurs.

For their first ever season in 1921 a ground was acquired at the old Golf Links on Manchester Road but only rented and not purchased. The failure not to purchase a suitable ground in the earlier years of existence of the Club would be felt in later years. A substantial number of members felt that the future lay in becoming the Football Section of the well-equipped and organised Bury Sports Club and approaches were made. The two merged in 1925 but it was not to be a happy partnership. Even so, the arrangement lasted until 1934 when a new ground was sought off Manchester Road in Redvales, Bury.

The split with Bury Sports Club was due to the success of Bury Amateurs on the field, they naturally wanted to be independent of the Bury Sports Club but yet still an integral part of the host set-up. After three seasons settling in, Bury Amateur A.F.C. took over the Central Section (virtually the L.A.L. until 1929). Season 1923-24 saw them pick up the Division 1 and 2 titles and they repeated their success in the following 1924-25 and 1925-26 seasons.

Lancashire Amateur League Clubs often entered the Lancashire Football Association Cup but with rare success. Quite often the cup ended up on Merseyside and being drawn against a Liverpool side usually signalled a short campaign. In 1926 and with the Championship side enjoying league success Bury Amateurs did well to draw with the holders from Liverpool, Marine F.C. Unfortunately, Bury went on to lose the replay 9-1.

The following year saw an amazing goalscoring feat. Amateurs’ player Norman Tattersall, playing for Lancashire against Birmingham hit seven, an amateur record at the time. The result 10-2 to the Red Rose County must have been very satisfying and particularly to the Bury player who notched the goals. Entries in The Lancashire Evening Post said: ‘Within just one minute of the start of the game at Deepdale, Tattersall had scored two goals and completed his hat-trick in a mere two and a quarter minutes. What a way to start a game!’

Another newspaper article told the story of a supreme triumph. The year was 1929 and the Manchester Guardian allocated no less than 16 column inches and a photograph, reporting the Lancashire Amateur Cup Final played between Bury Amateurs and Liverpool opponents Collegiate Old Boys. The report was written in true guardian style and makes wonderful reading. Most important of all of course was the result, a 3-1 victory for Bury despite having gone one behind after only six minutes. It is hard to imagine but the final generated such interest that 2,000 people turned up to watch.

1936 found the Club yet again on its travels and this time the Warth Riverside Ground became home. Lying as it did between the River Irwell and the Bury-Manchester electrified railway, a hefty clearance out of play meant either the ball floated away down the river or somebody dicing with death retrieving it from the lethal live third rail. During this pre-WW2 period the Club had the fortune to have services of an outstanding goalkeeper, Ken Whitehead. Such was his talent that on three occasions he wore the much coveted keepers jersey for the England Amateur International XI, all were victories including a 5-2 victory over Wales at Whaddon Road in Cheltenham on 28 January 1939.

The disruption caused by WW2 took time to clear but the Club picked up two immediate post-war honours, winning the combined section in season 1945-46 and the Central Section Championship in 1947-48.

In 1955, Ammies player Francis Adams, left the club to sign for Bury FC going onto make 169 appearances for The Shakers between 1955 and 1963. He missed only three games in Bury’s Third Division championship season of 1960-61, the most successful in the club’s history in terms of goals scored and points gained. In 1958 Adams was involved in controversy when playing for Bury against Chester in the FA Cup second round. With Chester leading 1–0 in the closing minutes, their player Norman Bullock was brought down in the area with play stopping as the linesman flagged for a penalty. However, Adams picked up the ball and punted it forward and, with the ref deciding to play on, set up a late equaliser for Bury, who went on to earn an attractive tie with Arsenal in the third round after beating Chester in the replay.

The early 1960s found a young 20-year-old left-winger working his way through the lower teams until he reached the first XI. His footballing ability was reasonable but his speed phenomenal. So quick in fact that encouraged by the local athletic club, he gave up soccer and took up sprinting. Despite very poor local athletic facilities Barrie Kelly reached the top and represented his country at the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico. For several years he held the European 60 metres Indoor Record. Pity he didn’t stick at football he may have helped the Ammies out of what had become a very barren spell in terms of success.

Season 1965-66 found the Club without their ground. An adjacent paint manufacturing company needed further room to expand their business and the two football pitches through the railway arch suited them ideally. Fortunately at the time, Bury was the base for the Lancashire Fusiliers Regiment. Often the barracks were empty but were maintained for when the Regiment returned from their duties in overseas. The facilities included a large playing field, changing accommodation and a large gymnasium. With the softening of the Cold War the barracks came under control of the local authority and sadly what were superb facilities deteriorated badly. Despite the disappointments a period of success was on the horizon.

Promotion to Division 1 was followed by immediate relegation and made for a mixed start to the 1980s. On the recommendation of The Lancashire F.A., Amateurs appointed their first ever Manager / Coach. With team matters now in the hands of one person as opposed to a Committee, the club was on the road to revival. The all-round improvement brought to the Club soon showed itself and in season 1984-85 the club finished with both the Premiership title and the L.A.L 1st XI’s Challenge Cup. A third Premiership title followed and a further taking of the 1st XI’s Challenge Cup made for a satisfactory end to the 1989-90 season.

The 1990s saw the break up of the successful 80s side as players were cherry-picked by clubs offering a higher standard of football. Even though the Amateurs had to dig deep to keep going they always turned out a first and reserve team week in, week out, mainly through the hard work of stalwarts such as Nick Kingston, Mike McMahon, Milton Colman, Roy Lindon and Pete Holden.

In the early years of the new millennium, the hardcore of players and particularly Glyn Haslam as manager, secretary and treasurer (along with his wife Geraldine), coupled with the return of several ex-players, stabilised the club. The long-term future of the club was secured with the amalgamation with Prestwich-based junior club, Drinkwater Warriors. The Club continues into its 100th year and prides itself on the ethos of the club to provide football for all. The Club currently field sides in The Lancashire and Cheshire AFL, NBJFL and BBDFL and despite the testing times currently, the committee are working hard in an effort to secure that football for all for another 100 years.