Bury great Craig Madden recalls happier times at Gigg Lane as deadline looms

Craig Madden took a pay cut when he gave up plastering to sign for Bury in 1977 and the club told him he had been sold nine years later when they urgently needed the cash.

So Bury’s all-time leading goalscorer knows better than most that money is usually tight at Gigg Lane.

But the club have never been hours away from league expulsion and liquidation before, and that upsets the man who many Bury fans consider to be one of their greatest servants.

Speaking to the PA news agency, the 60-year-old Mancunian said: “It’s very sad for the club, the community and the fans. And with all the money in the game, I just can’t get my head around it.

“But it’s not looking good is it? They’ve already got five games to make up and that is going to be hard enough in League One, where you’re playing two games a week as it is. I know the other teams are starting to get fed up and I don’t blame them.”

Unconvinced by Bury owner Steve Dale’s claims that he can settle the club’s debts and fund the season, the English Football League has postponed Bury’s first five League One fixtures and awarded their EFL Cup first-round tie to Sheffield Wednesday.

Bury’s 125-year stay in the EFL is on the brink of ending, with a best-case scenario of rebirth in the Northern Premier League.

For Madden, this is a depressing state of affairs for a club that gave him a chance when others had told him he was too small.

Bury’s then-manager Bobby Smith had been tipped off about a winger playing for itinerant Manchester side Northern Nomads but he had an off day while Madden, then an apprentice plasterer, scored.

That earned him a trial in a reserves match at Coventry. Having scored, he thought it had gone well only for Smith to give him “a rollicking” for not wearing a shirt and tie to the game.

“I didn’t have a clue – I turned up in a t-shirt,” he recalls.

“But I started to get a few more chances and when Bob Stokoe, the former Sunderland manager, took over I was offered a contract on £35 a week – a pay cut!”

That investment proved to be one of the wisest in Bury’s history, as Madden would score 153 league and cup goals over the next nine years, including 43 in 1981/82.

“They were very happy times. We would get changed for training at Gigg Lane and then run half a mile to Lower Gigg, which had just one grass pitch, for training,” he said.

“We got promoted from Division Four in 1985 but we didn’t have any money even then and I remember the manager Martin Dobson telling me one Thursday that the club had sold me to West Brom.

“We didn’t have mobile phones back then so I had to call my wife from The Hawthorns later that night to tell her where I was – she had no idea.”

Madden spent a year with the Baggies in Division One and played alongside the likes of Garth Crooks and Imre Varadi, before returning to the North West with Blackpool.

He then moved into coaching with the Tangerines, before switching to youth-team jobs with Stockport, Fleetwood and now Burnley, where he is an academy coach.

“I really enjoyed my time at Bury. In fact, I loved it,” he said.

“And a lot of good players have gone through that club. It’s just very sad to think that they are in this mess.”

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