BURY fans headed to Gigg Lane on May 4, 2019 knowing that their club was in peril.

But few could have imagined that 12 months on, they would not have seen their beloved Shakers take to the field again.

A year ago the deep financial issues were very much in the public domain – the Shakers sealing promotion from League Two despite upheaval behind the scenes.

Wages had been paid late in March and on April 25 Steve Dale put the club up for sale and laid the financial situation bare in the kind of statement that would soon become familiar, claiming £1.6million was needed by the end of May to meet salaries, HMRC bills and pensions with income of just £180,000 projected.

A crowd of 6,719 were in attendance for the final game of the 2018-19 season and saw Ryan Lowe’s men draw 1-1 against Port Vale, sealing second spot in the table in doing so.

The details of the game are largely immaterial in the grand scheme of things, Rangers loanee Jordan Rossiter scoring his only Bury goal on the stroke of half-time to cancel out one from Tom Pope, a man no stranger to finding the back of net at Gigg Lane.

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For a few moments there, as fans raced on to the field to celebrate a successful campaign against the odds, dreams will have turned to what a Lowe side might look like in League One.

Reality soon hit home though and no Shakers fan needs a reminder of how the promotion-winners of 2019 were stripped from the club and the town lost its Saturday footballing fix.

Fast forward a year and despite numerous court cases, the two-time FA Cup winners limped past their 135th birthday on April 24.

After months in the shadows Dale has re-emerged to declare his intention to try and secure a place in the National League structure next season, while also resuming his war with the EFL about how the Shakers were kicked out of the competition last August.

A solvent takeover from a local consortium having fallen through, Dale’s comments opened up divisions in the fanbase, the man who bought the club for just £1 from Stewart Day back in December 2018 having defaulted on a Company Voluntary Agreement to settle debts.

There are those that only see a Bury side they can get behind playing at Gigg Lane while others have given their backing to Bury AFC, the phoenix club that is gaining momentum.

The ‘new Shakers’ have applied to play in the North West Counties league next season and rather like Dale, are waiting to see what impact the coronavirus pandemic will have on how the football pyramid looks next season.

With everything but the top two tiers of non-league having been declared null and void, with no promotion and relegation, there is a long way to go before the situation about where both the current and new incarnation of Bury could fit in to things is resolved.

Opinion is split, those behind Bury AFC insisting that their sole aim has always been to ensure that there is a club playing in the famous white shirt next season.

As for their away kit, that is currently the subject of an online poll.

Those behind the club have launched a membership scheme, vowing the phoenix will be democratic, and are encouraged by the initial uptake that has included support from former players including Andy Bishop and Cameron Belford among others.

Soon attentions will turn to their football operation and what that might look like in the ninth or 10th tier of the pyramid.  

They will be playing away from Gigg Lane however, at least initially, and that is something that is just too much for some fans to stomach.

That is why some Shakers have seemingly been heartened by Dale’s words in recent weeks, despite the events of the past few months. He claims to offer an option that some fans crave more than anything else.

It was an issue that was highlighted back in December at a heated public meeting where Robert Benwell, an entrepreneur looking to potentially buy Gigg Lane out of liquation, was quizzed by supporters.

While it would be everyone’s dream to see a united front, division here is understandable, given the passions involved, supporters placed in a situation few football fans ever dare imagine, one that shamed the national game and had a devastating impact on the local community, even before the worldwide health emergency.