Bury FC expelled by English Football League: History, famous players and India's connection with 134-year-old Lancashire club

  • Bury FC, founded in 1885, was expelled from the English Football League after being unable to find new owners to take over the rising debt

  • Bury thus became the first Football League club to be kicked out since Maidstone in 1992

  • Bury FC earned prominence in the Indian subcontinent when former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia signed for them in 1999

Media outlet Sky Sports ran a countdown clock this past week, akin to the transfer deadline clock, with the deadline approaching for Bury FC to introduce a new owner and keep the club going. That clock reached zero at 5 pm British time and with no sale, the club founded in 1885, was expelled from the English Football League. 125 years of membership and 134 years of existence gone. The club, based in Greater Manchester, had to justify that they could meet their financial commitments or be shown a red card by the league.

Bury thus became the first Football League club to be kicked out since Maidstone in 1992. With their fixtures getting rescheduled, former players suggesting forming a team to step up and negotiations with an analytics firm not materialising, a communique at 11.06 pm said Bury FC will cease to exist.

 Bury FC expelled by English Football League: History, famous players and Indias connection with 134-year-old Lancashire club

Bury FC has existed since 1885 but has been stripped of its league club status. Reuters

At the same time as announcing the end of Bury as a league club, the EFL gave Bolton Wanderers, another club in England's North West, two weeks to complete a sale to a new owner or face the same fate. So Bolton who were a Premier League club just seven years ago and played in the UEFA Cup in 2008 could cease as a league club as well.

Ironically Bury, who are the first FA Cup winners to be ousted from the league, and Bolton were due to face each other in a televised live match on Sunday week.

From no club getting expelled from the league for 27 years, there could be two in a matter of 14 days. Dire times.


Bury were one of the founding members of the local Lancashire League in 1889, and were crowned champions in the 1890–91 and 1891–92 seasons before being included in the national Football League (which is now called as the EFL) in 1894. They won the Second Division title in 1894–95, their only title at the level, before going on to win their next match to seal promotion into the First Division.

As the club won the Lancashire Cup in 1892, beating Everton, the chairman before the match said to the players, "We shall shake 'em. In fact, we are the Shakers!" And that is where the club got the nickname.

They remained in the top-flight for 17 seasons with a fourth-place finish in 1925-26 as the best-ever showing. They had dropped to the second division after the 1911-12 season before returning in the next decade in 1923-24. Ever since their relegation in 1928-29, Bury have never returned to the highest echelons of English football.

The club continued to bounce around the second, third and fourth-tiers of English football with two titles as part of Third Division and promotion in 1967-68.

The club hold the record for biggest margin of victory in the FA Cup final when they beat Derby County 6-0 in 1903. This has been only matched once: by Manchester City when they beat Watford in 2019. The club also won the domestic title in 1900 when they beat Southampton 4-0 in 1900.

In other domestic cup tournaments, they reached as far as the semi-finals of the League Cup in 1962-63 (losing 3-2 to Birmingham) and same round in the EFL Trophy in 2018-19 (losing 3-0 to Portsmouth).

This is not the first instance of financial woes for Bury. With the collapse of ITV Digital in 2001-02, the club went into administration and stood at the risk of folding. Before a supporter campaign raised enough money for the club to survive.

Football - Bury v FC United of Manchester - Newsquest Trophy - Pre Season Friendly - Gigg Lane - 09/10 - 29/7/09 General View of Gigg Lane Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Craig Brough - MT1ACI6221497

Bury FC play their home games at the Gigg Lane. Reuters

In 2012, with the attendance dwindling (2000 at the time for home games) and a short term loan taken out with Professional Footballers' Association, the club was placed under a transfer embargo. In May 2013, Stewart Day was installed as the new chairman following the completion of the club's takeover, with the transfer embargo being lifted as well. During this time, the club had dwindled their playing options with just two substitutes available of seven allowed.

In December 2018, Steve Dale bought the debt-ridden club from Day for £1. The financial troubles persist leading to expulsion from the league.

Most famous players

There are quite a few legendary players who either made their name at The Shakers or went on to achieve bigger things elsewhere. John Forrest, Neville Southall, Lee Dixon, Andy Hill, Keith Kennedy, Chris Lucketti, Colin Bell, Terry McDermott, Sammy McIlroy, David Lee, Craig Madden, George Buchan and Ryan Lowe are some of the biggest names for the fans. Southall was one of the best goalkeepers of his generation and while playing only 39 games for Bury, his famed career took place at Everton. Dixon, meanwhile, earned his prominence at Arsenal in a 14-year career but went through a short spell of 45 matches at Bury.

For Manchester City fans, they have Bury to thank for the legendary Colin Bell. Nicknamed 'Colin The King' he arrived at Maine Road (City's former home ground) in 1966 and spent 13 seasons with the Citizens. He took the club to league, FA Cup, League Cup, European Cup Winners Cup titles during the late '60s and early '70s. The West Stand at the Etihad is named in his honour.

For their own, Madden stands out as the top scorer and one of the most high profile players. He made 297 appearances over a nine-year career at Bury and scored 129 goals. He remains the club's highest goalscorer and put the ball in the back of the net a record 35 times in the 1981-82 season.

Bury's India connection

Football - Bury v Port Vale , Nationwide Division 2 23/9/00 Mandatory Credit: Action Images / John Sibley Port Vale's Matt Carragher & Bury's Baichung Bhutia - MT1ACI233890

Bhaichung Bhutia signed a three-year contract with Bury in 1999. He scored three goals in 46 games. Reuters/Action Images

Former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia became the first Indian to sign for an English club when he accepted the move to join Bury in 1999. He signed a three-year contract at the turn of the century. The move materialised after Bhutia impressed then manager Neil Warnock in two trial games where he made 46 appearances.

"It has always been my dream to play in Europe, particularly in England," he says. "When I was growing up most youngsters wanted to be cricketers but my first love has always been football. It feels great to be in England and with Bury," he was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

In his debut game against Cardiff, he provided an assist after coming on as a substitute with the game finishing 3-2. However, his second appearance came seven months later and that is when he scored his first. A left-footed half volley to score and then a punching-the-air celebration opened his account.

He added another with Bury's third and final goal as he cut in from the left and curled the ball from outside the area past the Rotherham goalkeeper.

With Andy Preece coming in as new manager, Bhutia's opportunities dwindled further. He was resigned to becoming the reserve striker.

In the 2001-02 season, knee injuries reduced his inclusion even further. He played only three games - all in August - having aggravated the injury in November. With the cash strapped club forced into cutting costs, they let Bhutia go in April 2002.

In total, he made 46 appearances for the Lancashire team, 20 as substitute, and scored three goals. His last showing in a Bury shirt came in the 0-3 home defeat by Swindon on 27 August 2001.

Updated Date: Aug 28, 2019 13:51:30 IST