CHRIS Casper still has fond memories of the “learning curve” he went through as Bury boss.

The former Manchester United man was named the youngest manager in the Football League, when aged 30, he stepped up from the Shakers youth team to take over from Graham Barrow in October 2005.

Despite an upturn in fortunes, football league survival was only secured on the final day at Notts County.

Money was tight and a 21st-place League Two finish followed 12 months later, a campaign notable for Casper offering to resign after the Shakers were expelled from the FA Cup for fielding an ineligible player.

The board turned that down but a poor run of form brought an end to his time in charge in January 2008, Casper by this point working with director of football Keith Alexander.

Looking back, the now sporting director of Salford City believes his time at Gigg Lane helped shape who he is today.

“I had some great experiences. I really enjoyed it, I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity that I got,” he said.

“The fans were brilliant with me, they really were. They stood by us, I knew things were difficult for them.

“It was a difficult time for the club, we’d just come out of administration. Things were very, very tight but you cut your cloth accordingly and you’ve got to make the most of what you’ve got.

“There’s no point whinging about it saying 'I’ve not got this, I’ve not got that.'

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“The training ground wasn’t great but you’ve got to get on with it. We had to lose players before we could get players in the building and getting players out is the hardest part of the job.

“We did it, we got on with it and it was a great learning curve for me. I learned a lot about myself.”

Casper was far from a stranger to the Shakers having been around the club when dad Frank was assistant to Martin Dobson in the 1980s.

It was that, among other things, that the Burnley-born 45-year-old believes helped prepare him when stepping up to the top job at Gigg Lane at such a young age.

“Because of the way that I’d been brought up, I’d always been around professionals,” he told the Sports Bar Show.

“In school holidays I’d go and train with Bury and see all the first-team players there and some of my idols that I’d used to watch on a Saturday, Winston White, Jamie Hoyland, all these great players.

“I’d listen to how Martin Dobson and my dad would speak to them and treat them and things like that.

“It had an impact on me and gave me an experience that I took into that role.

“The first thing I did was I spoke to a couple of the experienced players in the dressing room – Dave Challinor, Dave Flitcroft and Colin Woodthorpe – and said ‘look, this is the situation, we’re bottom of the league, we’re in a bit of a mess here to be fair. I think if we can add one or two to the squad and change things around a little bit I think we’ll be okay. But I’m going to need your help and support in there. I’m going to need some leadership'.

“That’s what we did and by just before Christmas we were just outside the play-offs after some decent results.”

Casper points to selling Simon Whaley three months after taking charge as a turning point in the 2005-06 campaign.

The arrival of players like Kasper Schmeichel, Jon Daly and Lewis Gobern would prove important in securing survival at Meadow Lane, but what Casper takes great pride in is the young players he brought through in his time at the club, something that has remained an important part of his work throughout his career.

“The situation gave me an opportunity to blood the young kids,” he said.

“Nicky Adams, David Buchannan, Andy Parrish, Mark Pugh, he played in the Premier League, Dale Stephens, he played in the Premier League.

“The other lads have had great careers as well and played 400, 500, 600 games each. That was a good part of it as well, developing young kids. I think we gave 12 debuts out or something like that which I’m pretty proud of.

“They weren’t all as successful as the ones I’ve mentioned but we did give opportunities.

"Young kids give the club a real boost. Fans would much rather see one of their own coming through, as was the case at Manchester United.

“It’s really important you keep that connection with players coming through and the fans.”