by The Boy Holty on July 19, 2011
You wouldn't have thought of the Shakers as being a particularly great business acquisition, but over the last couple of decades there have been a few suitors, hoping to take control at Gigg. Here we take a look at some of the dreamers, megalomaniacs, liars and criminals who could have led us to glory or dragged us out of existence.
In the late 1990s or possibly early 2000s, when Sale Sharks RUFC owner Kennedy decided he wanted to turn his club into the Manchester United of the Rugby Union world, he realised the club's current home at Heywood Road probably wasn't going to cut it at the highest level. He needed access to a bigger and better stadium to kick-start his global domination campaign and he very wisely spotted that Stade de Gigg would fit the bill nicely. Unfortunately, Mr Kennedy being the megalomaniac dreamer that he was, ground-sharing wasn't on his agenda. He decided he wanted to buy Bury FC, lock stock and barrel and move things forward that way.
He made out that his 'involvement' in Bury Football Club would be beneficial for all parties but it was widely feared amongst the Shakers camp that his plan for Bury FC would initially involve us being the tenants in our own home and that he'd ultimately put us out of business and make Gigg Lane the home of the Sharks. You can see that perhaps it wasn't such an ill-conceived plan when you realise that it would only take the re-shuffling of a few seats in the South Stand to change the wording from Shakers to Sharks. Clearly not just a hat-rack, that Kennedy bloke.
Fortunately the plan never materialised - I don't know if Bury FC told him to sling his hook, or he just changed his mind, but good riddance. Anyway, the clearly deluded old fool then decided he was going to move Sale Sharks to Maine Road when Man City moved out. They now play at Edgely Park, presumably because the FA wouldn't let them move into Wembley. Anyway, having decided to pick on poor Stockport County we can see what would have happened to us if he had taken over at Gigg. Stockport don't own their own ground and instead pay crippling sums in rent to Mr Kennedy and it has left them in a sorry state in the Blue Square Premier league. That was a close shave.
In the early 21st century, Bury Football Club almost ceased to exist. Well in the end we were okay, but at the time it all seemed a little bit hairy. A combination of the after-effects of relegation from the new old first division and the evil Herr Warnock, plus the collapse of ITV Digital and some general poor senior management sent the club into a downward spiral which saw them in so much trouble that we even got mentioned on Football Focus. We waved buckets about, much to the amusement of many of our dear neighbours, we 'sold' the seats in what must go down as the greatest football swindle of modern times (I don't even know where mine is and I've certainly never sat on it) and generally begged our way out of the mire.
In the midst of these dark times, a beacon of hope very briefly shone out. He was an elderly gent who called himself Beau. He declared that he was heading up a consortium to buy Bury FC, and to pump vast quantities of money into the club. He was actually interviewed by Granada Reports outside Gigg wearing a coat that was obviously bought for a pound off Bury market saying something like, 'We've got 100 million right away, and access to a further 200 million within 12 months. We are not short of a bob or two'.
What he WAS short of was the ability to tell the truth, it transpired. At one of those rather exciting emergency supporters meetings at the Town Hall a few weeks later, Nev Neville declared, 'These rumours are killing our club. Its time to put up, or shut up'. Fortunately, Beau chose the latter option and we didn't hear from him again. Meanwhile the buckets kept being shaken, and the seats kept being sold, Forever Bury came into being and the club survived.
Had Beau and his imaginary consortium take control of the Shakers, Bury being Bury, probably wouldn't have bothered to check him out and after a few weeks, with all the club's creditors banging on the door, Bury FC would no doubt have shut down and we'd all have gone and supported Rochdale. Okay then Oldham. Man United anybody?
Going back a little bit further with this one, it must have been about 1990, 91-ish. I don't know where the rumour came from but it went something like this: Ron Wood (greetings card magnate, not the Rolling Stones guitarist) was planning to buy the club and put his good pal Bryan Robson in charge as manager.
This was just after Robson had retired from playing and before his first managerial appointment at Middlesbrough so he was pretty hot property, and Birthdays (Ron Wood's greetings card company) was booming and Wood was worth a lot of money. In truth, they were actually good pals, he was worth about a hundred million and Birthdays did become the club sponsor - an association which lasted a good ten years or so, but Ron never did buy into the Shakers and I suspect Bryan would have laughed at the prospect of managing Bury FC.
If Ron and Bryan had got their teeth into Bury FC, great things could have happened. With Ron's millions, and Bryan's standing in the game we could have signed decent players and had a good side. Don't forget that when he went to Middlesbrough that year, he did well for a spell - its only since then that he's proved to be rubbish. Having said all that, if we'd gone up with Ron Wood's money and Bryan Robson's managerial expertise, would that have been any different to the success we had with Hugh Eaves' cash, and Sir Stan Ternent's managership? In fact it would have been worse because there would have been better known and more expensive players plus the additional unwanted Man United connection and when Robson, inevitably, did eventually leave for a bigger club, we would have been left in a financial mess like we were after Colin but probably worse. That was another lucky escape then, although it was just a rumour.
In November 2000, a Norweigian billionaire called Atle Brynestad decided he wanted to buy into Bury FC - there exists the possibility that he might not have known exactly who we were. However, he came to watch the FA Cup first round game at home to Northwich Victoria. We took the lead, then conceeded a late equaliser and it finished a 1-1 draw. There was a low attendance and a typically quiet Gigg Lane atmosphere. The fact that we lost the replay was probably of absolutely no interest whatsoever to him as he, having seen more than enough, returned from whence he came (probably to sack his research team) and nothing more was heard from him.
With Mr Brynestad's cash, we could have gone on to achieve the usual - promotions, Wembley appearances, trophies, Europe! we could have been an established Premiership side now. No honestly, we really could. We could have been like Wigan! So we dodged another bullet there.
At the exact same time that Terry "Greengrass" Robinson packed his bags (with Paddy Kenny secreted in the lining of his suitcase) and sneaked over the Penines to Sheffield United, he informed us that there was interest from a group called Mansport Developments who were keen on taking over Bury Football Club. It was exciting, we'd never had reason to use the word "consortium" before. The two key players here for Mansport were David Jones and Paul Barrett.
Then the Manchester Evening News revealed that Jones and Barrett had been convicted together in 1997 of some illegal jiggery pokery and imprisoned for 18 months. Several of Barrett's companies had also been put into liquidation and were under investigation by the DTI. Following this revelation, Barrett resigned from Mansport. David Jones, it transpired, was a former bankrupt who had been disqualified from acting as a company director for 12 years following irregularities in his running of another company.
The collapse of this deal left Bury up the creek as the mortgage on the ground was not a solid one and certain lenders wanted their money back. Interest was at a crippling thousand pounds per day when those two heroic dour-faced stalwarts Fred Mason and John Smith took up the reins. Smith & Mason revealed that Jones had been trying to arrange another highly risky, high interest loan to keep us going which they cancelled sharpish. Anyway, thanks largely to the Manchester Evening News, Mansport departed and the rest is history.
If Mansport had got their grubby hands on Bury FC, having been taken over by a bunch of crooks, the club would probably have been shut down and the stadium sold for housing to make a dozen or so unscrupulous con-men a great deal of money.
In a nutshell: Turkish bloke. Had a son who could play football. Wanted to buy a football club so his son could play professional football for them. Now when I say Edward Tarsus (the son) could play football, what I mean by that is that he was much better at football than any of his friends, or his friends' friends and could do almost 50 keepy uppies in a row, or at least he had done once although no-one was watching so it's a bit debateable (but no-one ever says that to his dad or they end up taking a swim wearing a pair of concrete slippers, if you know what I mean).
Tarsus snr was in the hotel business, and he obviously had a great deal of money. I wouldn't go as far as to say he was passionate about Bury Football Club, he just wanted a cheap club to buy and probably could have picked up Bury for about a million. His son, Edward did actually play for us for a while but he wasn't very good. In the end, Alex Tarsus lost interest in Bury, or maybe his precious boy decided to take up basketball and he went off to try to buy the Harlem Globetrotters.
He was actually believed to be a part of the aforementioned Mansport group but Tarsus wisely distanced himself from them but then added that he wouldn't rule out some involvement in the future. In retrospect, this makes some sense as Mansport couldn't have given a monkeys about Bury FC either.
If Tarsus had taken control at Bury, each and every manager would be sacked as soon as they dropped his son who by now would probably be well beyond retirement age so no doubt he would be appointed the manager and all his greasy Turkish mates could come over and get the occasional game, if not a good shower.