IF the Bury management were looking for a positive to take from Saturday’s cruel defeat then they would have been buoyed by Phil Picken’s energetic performance.
The Droylsden-born right-back charged up and down the flank as if his Gigg Lane future depended upon it, putting in a series of dangerous crosses that could have easily turned the game in Bury’s favour.
It was a real testament to Picken, who has endured a frustrating start to the season after losing his place to young Andrai Jones.
Rather than sulking in the shadows or demanding a move, the 26-year-old defender has knuckled down in training and waited patiently for his chance.
That came at the weekend after Jones was ruled out with illness. And while Picken was sorry to hear his good friend had been taken unwell, he did his utmost to extend the young full-back’s time on the sidelines.
“That’s football,” said Picken. “You’ve always got to take your opportunity. It’s a ruthless sport – you’re in one minute and out the next. You’ve got to learn to deal with the highs and lows. One minute you’re up here, the next you’re down there – it can change in an instant.”
Picken played 43 matches in Bury’s League Two promotion season after Alan Knill brought him to Gigg Lane from Chesterfield in August 2010. The former Manchester United trainee played another 40 last campaign, but was replaced by Jones for a handful of games near the end of the season and looked set for an extended spell on the sidelines.
“I’m used to playing 40 games a year and that’s what I want to be doing,” he said.
“I want to play at as high a level as I can, so if I get my opportunity I’m going to take it.
“Hopefully, I’ve taken it and hopefully there’s more to come.
“I don’t like sitting out, nobody does I suppose. I just want to play football so it’s tough watching from the outside.” At the moment, it looks to be a straight fight between Jones and Picken for a place at right-back, but Picken doesn’t believe that has to be the case.
“Andrai is a great young lad that I get on with really well and I think in the future we can play together,” he said.
“I think he’s going to be a cracking centre-half when he’s older. He’s got the physique and he’s going to fill out a bit as well.
“In the meantime, it’s good competition, but hopefully I’m just going to sneak ahead now, get a few more games under my belt and have a good season.”
After suffering a disappointing start, Picken had a few words of comfort for team-mate Lenell John-Lewis, who missed a string of chances on Saturday after being given a rare start.
“I’ve spoken to Lenny and said ‘be worried if you’re not getting in those positions and not getting the chances’,” he said.
“He’d bury them in training half the time so I told him to keep his chin up.”