Gary Megson has this month confirmed his position as the vulture of Bury Football Club, after swooping for yet another player from the ranks of Gigg Lane. Mike Jones had spent an eventful three years at Bury, establishing himself as a key player and achieving promotion. Yet some are still undecided as to whether the sale of the 24-year-old will see the wheels come off the Shakers’ surge up the Football League, or simply put more money in the Bank of Barker to have at the club’s disposal.
Jones divided opinion amongst fans. Some claimed his performances after Christmas declined every season, seeing him nicknamed the ‘half-a-season-wonder’. Of course most dismiss this opinion as a myth initiated on internet message boards, although I’d be lying if I claimed Bury were enraging to watch when it came to the glorified ‘business end of the season’. Under former manager Alan Knill, it appeared obligatory to whimper out of a promotion race. It was more of a polite tradition in which form would rapidly decline to let other teams claim promotion; leaving some to use Jones as a scapegoat for the shameful bottler’s negligence and general mismanagement. The reason for such laborious criticism?
He is a converted winger, but a natural trequartista. His technique heavily suggests a more comfortable approach behind the striker where he is able to get amongst the goals as well as providing slick through-balls to forwards. His lack of pace and inability to beat a man down the wing proved frustrating to watch, but also confirmed stubbornness amongst the previous management. This begs the question, why was Jones such a success at Bury if he was being played in the wrong position? It is his general style of play and set-pieces which will be missed if a suitable is not brought in.
Obviously this is just mere speculation, but if a player is not bought then it perhaps again implies more about the previous management. Knill’s overspending and his record of nothing to show for it must be covered by something and higher attendances may not be enough. The sale of key players has only come recently, yet it is a testament to Richie Barker’s achievements in his first management job. Dealing with the loss of talismen and with a small budget to replace them, to sit comfortably in the top half of League One must be recognised as a great success. On the other hand, the replacement for Ryan Lowe; Shaun Harrad, has been underwhelming to say the least and has become a fringe player with the likes of Lenell John-Lewis getting the nod ahead of him.
The realist, or cynic, inside me doesn’t believe the Shakers can maintain their place at the lofty perch of top half of League One – with or without Mike Jones. Barker has to be wise this transfer window, we can’t afford to lose anyone else and must acquire quality to replace quality. Yet he must also have next season in mind. A club like Bury must sell its key players to keep their heads above water and Bury fans can’t expect their club to splash out 100k+ on new players. Replacing Jones may well be another early test for the bright young manager.
Written by Peter Keighery, We Are Going Up’s Bury blogger
Peter tweets at @PeterKeighery