Phil Neville has close, emotional ties to Bury and desperately hopes the club can be saved from the jaws of extinction.
Founded in 1885, the two-time FA Cup winners are in a state of disarray and have just been given a two-week deadline to save their EFL status after the suspension on their notice of withdrawal of membership was lifted.
Bury’s Carabao Cup match against Sheffield Wednesday next week has been suspended, having had their opening matches of the League One season against MK Dons and Accrington Stanley postponed by the EFL.
The body, which is also dealing with Bolton, has indicated it would tolerate no further delays in its demand that the club provides reassurances over their financial position – a situation that hurts England women’s team manager Neville.
The former Manchester United player’s mother Jill works as club secretary and the main stand at Gigg Lane is name after his late father Neville, who did so much to ensure the survival of a club that is now on the precipice.
“Bury are one of the oldest clubs in the Football League who are now probably days away from going out of existence,” Neville, part-owner of League Two side Salford, told PA.
“Regardless of the money being invested in other clubs there is a fit and proper way of running a football club and at the moment there are clubs in the EFL that are not being run properly.
“I think, from a bigger picture, that there has to be guidelines or rules where if an owner is taking over a club they have to pass stringent tests.
“Bury is a sad case, it’s a club that is close to my heart, my dad has a stand named after him at that club.
“What is happening there needs to be sorted out fast or Bury are going to lose that football club that has been an identity to that town for 125 years. That’s sad.”
Steve Dale replaced Stewart Day as Bury owner in December 2018, having bought the debt-ridden club for just £1.
The owner, who has come in for criticism, has let shared his anger at the EFL, but James Frith, MP for Bury North, believes there is shared blame, claiming arguments have come first.
“I’m so angry that the owner and the EFL have forgotten about the fans and the football club whilst they bicker and settle their own scores,” he wrote in a statement after the EFL’s came out on Thursday.
Frith added: “Let me also say to Steve Dale, I will help you sell this club. Get going and do the right thing. To save the club you must sell the club Mr Dale.”
The Labour MP plans to meet a senior member of the EFL board on Friday as Bury enter another weekend without a game.
Promoted from League Two as runners-up last season, the squad has been decimated over the summer and fan base left heartbroken.
Matthew Pickup, whose father Ian was vice president of Bury until a few years ago, cannot fathom life without football in the town.
“It just gets worse and worse,” he told PA. “You’re waiting for one court appearance and then that’s alright, so there’s a glimmer of hope.
“But then another thing comes crashing in and then there’s another court appearance.
“Then it’s alright, then there are potential buyers and then he comes out with these ridiculous statements.
“It’s felt like death by a thousand cuts – but at least now it seems like we’re on death row.
“The death is in sight so hopefully something can come to stop it or, I don’t know, we’re finished and at least we know then, as depressing and awful as that is.
“My grandad, who I never met, took my dad to Bury when he was young, and then my dad took me and my three brothers.
“My brother has taken his little one, so there’s four generations there of Bury fans in the Pickup family, so to lose this club is just unthinkable really.”