THE Football Association’s choice of the JD Stadium to stage the opening friendly of England Under-18s’ season is just reward for a lot of hard work, says Bury fan and FA ambassador Phil Neville.
The former England defender has witnessed first-hand - through his mother Jill’s work as club secretary - the trials and tribulations behind the scenes in recent years.
Yet he has been suitably impressed with the strides made by chairman Stewart Day since he rescued the Shakers from a winding up order last summer to believe Bury can now look forward to a brighter future.
“I think in David Flitcroft the club now has a manager that can match the ambition of Stewart Day to bring back success on the pitch,” said Neville.
“As a Bury fan, and through my mum’s involvement in the club, it has been difficult at times watching them struggle through what have been some very tough times.
“But you can certainly see by the signings they have made this summer, bringing in good players like Ryan Lowe and Nicky Adams, that they mean business.
“For me, though, some of the most important changes have been behind the scenes, with the work they have done to revitalise the academy and improve facilities, including relaying the pitch.
“That shows to me they are trying to build up the club in the right way, and I think being given this England game is just reward for all of the hard work they have done.”
England U18s will take on Holland at the JD Stadium on Friday, kick-off 7.30pm, in what is a re-run of the European U17s Championship final in May, which the Young Lions won.
Many of the players who contested that final will be making the step-up to U18s level for this match, providing it an extra edge.
Neville, who will be an excited spectator on the night, will also be holding a question and answer session with the players in the lead up to the match.
And after representing his country at every level, the former Manchester United player and coach has assured fans competition will be every bit as intense as in senior internationals.
“Playing at this level was one of the toughest periods of my career,” he said.
“Like every other player, I was desperate to make my mark in the game, but found myself up against some unbelievable talent.
“I remember playing against Italy and marking Francesco Totti. It was such a tough night, but also great experience.
“I am sure fans at the JD Stadium will see at least three or four players on each side who will go on to play for their country at senior level.
“So it will definitely be one of those nights you want to keep hold of your programme.”
Tickets for the game, which cost just £3 for adults and £1.50 for u16s, are available from the Bury ticket office or by calling 0871 221 1885 (option three).