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  • Between The Sticks    by The Boy Holty on July 17, 2011

    Over the years, weve been blessed at Gigg with some quality goalkeepers. Here we take a look back at Bury FCs proud history of goalkeeping custodians (a lot of Irish ones, strangely). Then well look to the future and have a guess as to what it might hold for our current keepers.


    When I took my first trip to Gigg Lane probably around 1979/1980, the man between the sticks was John Forrest. This moustachioed Shakers legend played his entire career for Bury FC from 1966 to 1980 and then worked as a coach for the club after hed retired from playing. He was a Tottington lad and his son Martyn played in midfield for the side for a few years in the 1990s. Forrest senior now works as a coach at Rochdale but we can forgive him that for all those years representing Bury.

    A £6,000 signing from Winsford United in 1980, Neville Southall went on to be regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world at one time. That he was sold to Everton for £150,000 12 months after joining Bury was both utterly inevitable and extremely profitable for the Shakers. Southall went on to make a record 92 caps for the Welsh national side.

    When Simon Farnworth moved on in 1989, we signed Gary Kelly, gave him a big pair of gloves and told him to catch the ball whenever it came near him. This was in instruction he carried out with great aplomb for seven seasons and 236 appearances before signing for Oldham Athletic in 1996. Whilst he represented the republic of Ireland at under 21 level and played once for the B team. He never got to represent the full side although Im pretty sure he kept the bench warm on one or two occasions. His dad, Alan and brother, also called Alan both represented Preston North End and did play for the Irish full side. Surprisingly small for a goalie, he was always a good shot stopper and endeared himself well to the fans. He was brutally scythed down by former team-mate and professional goalkeeper scyther downer John McGinlay in a league cup first round first leg win over Bolton in 1990 and spent some time in the treatment room. He was the first in a line of excellent Irish Bury goalkeepers with five letter surnames, starting with K and ending in LY.

    The next such player was the mighty Dean Kiely – now firmly established as a Bury FC legend. Dean Kiely either had very big hands or just very big gloves but either way he a top class keeper. He used to play to the crowd a bit too – spinning the ball backwards to cries of ‘Spin it! from the crowd before launching it downfield. Even when he came back to Gigg for his 750th career appearance in West Broms colours a couple of seasons ago in the league cup, he got a fantastic reception by the Bury fans. After starting his career at Coventry, he went to York initially on loan before signing permanently and went on to make 210 appearances for the Minstermen before Stan Ternent signed him for Bury in 1996 for £125,000. He managed 137 appearances over 3 seasons for Bury as we rose from the 3rd to the first division.

    The key incident of Kielys Bury career that still happily lingers with Bury fans, took place on 5th May 1997. In our penultimate game of the 1996/97 season, and needing just a single point to elevate Bury to the old first division (now the Championship), Bury were drawing 0-0 at Vicarage Road, Watford. With three minutes remaining and Burys fans far too nervous to start celebrating, lineswoman Wendy Toms (notable for being the first football league match official without a willy – except Kevin Lynch of course) signalled for a foul by Gordon Armstrong and a penalty to Watford. Tommy Mooney stepped up to stick the penalty away and in doing so get Watford in the play offs and put a spanner in the works of Burys promotion campaign but Super Dean Kiely had other ideas, flinging himself low to his left to keep the ball out with his knees. That got the party going and as I recall, it didnt stop for some time after the final whistle.

    Deano stayed with the club in our successful first season in the first division and then signed for Charlton Athletic for £1 million in 1999 before going on to make over 200 appearances for them in the Premier League. He moved to Portsmouth and went on loan to Luton before joining West Brom where he still works as a goalkeeping coach. Despite playing for England at junior levels, he went on to make 11 full appearances for the Republic of Ireland team. A true legend in every sense of the word, Kiely always played with great enthusiasm and style for every club he has represented.

    Paddy Kenny, signed as a 21 year old from Bradford Park Avenue in 1998, was understudy to Dean Kiely before taking over as number one when Deano was sold to Charlton. Bearing a passing resemblance to Coronation Street character Tyrone Dobbs, the nickname Tyrone stuck with him for his time at Bury although this seems to have been dropped now hes moved away – must be a Lancashire thing.

    The details of his leaving Bury are murky and still leave a bad taste over a decade later. Neil Warnock, who had been Bury manager and had left to manage Sheffield United obviously had links with both clubs and Terry Robinson, the Bury chairman of twenty years or more wanted out. Warnock now with his feet firmly under the table needed a new goalkeeper to cover for the injured Simon Tracey and Robinson needed a new job. In the end Kenny went to Sheffield United on a loan deal with the option to buy at a pre-agreed price of just £45000 and by the time the three month loan was up, Terry Robinson had already left Bury and had found new employment at, oh look, Sheffield United! What a coincidence. So was Kenny the sweetener that got Robinson his new job? Was he sold at a ridiculous price in order to secure Robinson the position at Sheffield? Did Terry ‘Mr Bury Robinson sell Bury short to satisfy his own ambitions? Well never know, but the evidence does not make you look good Terrence.

    Kenny went on to have great success at Bramhall Lane, helping them into the Premiership and establishing himself as the clubs first choice keeper for a good five seasons. After experiencing some personal problems including a nine month drug ban, he found himself signed by Warnock again, this time for Queens Park Rangers where his new team won promotion to the Premiership in his first season and he was voted by both players and fans as the player of the season. He has seven full caps for the Republic of Ireland national side.

    So those are some of the Shakers goalkeeping legends past, but what of the future? We currently have a couple of goalkeepers that look to have fantastic careers ahead of them.

    After beginning his career at Coventry and having a loan spell at Tamworth, Cameron Belford joined Bury in 2007. During his first season he went on loan to Worcester City where he made 22 appearances and his performances earned himself a new contract at Bury. For his first few years, he was ever the bridesmaid and rarely the bride as the likes of Jim Provett and Wayne Brown were first choice keepers. He got the odd appearance, usually when there was an injury or a sending off and generally failed to impress in my view. He played one game in the FA Cup against Weymouth when he let in three soft first half goals at Gigg Lane although we went on to win 4-3. However, he kept working hard and when Wayne Brown was sent off at Cheltenham towards the end of the 2009/10 season and with Bury having not much to play for as the season slowly went down the pan, Alan Knill told him that the position would be his for the remainder of the season and he took his opportunity well.

    During the summer, when we all expected Knill to announce the signing of a new experienced keeper, nothing happened and after Belford was handed the number one shirt he quickly became one of the best and most consistent keepers in the division. He missed a few weeks when he broke his cheekbone against Southend United in October but came back and was one of the most impressive performers in Knills promotion winning side of 2010/11. The future looks bright for Cameron Belford.

    When Belford broke his face on October 23rd 2010 with Bury leading 1-0 at Gigg Lane against Southend, the substitute goalkeeper was 20 year old Ritchie Branagan, son of former Bolton keeper Keith. Yes, another Paddy. He found himself thrust into the action and despite a few early wobbles, soon settled down into the occasion and made some fine saves. He kept a clean sheet and looked like hed just won the world cup when the final whistle went on a 1-0 win for the Shakers. Manager Alan Knill decided that experience was required to cover for Belford so Owain Fon Williams was brought in on loan and Branagan was resigned to the odd appearance in football league trophy ties. He has always done well for Bury and despite his youth and lack of first team action, he looks like a really good prospect for the future.