Blackwell’s down-sized to step up

Shakers boss: Kevin Blackwell will be working on a shoestring budget at Bury
Shakers boss: Kevin Blackwell will be working on a shoestring budget at Bury
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A trip to Wembley for the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy could just be what the doctor ordered for Bury.

The Shakers, who welcome North End to Gigg Lane tonight in the regional quarter-final of the competition, revealed last week that they are working under a transfer emabargo.

Due to financial issues, the Shakers have negotiated a short-term loan with the Professional Footballers’ Association, which is expected to be repaid in the middle of next month.

Up until they clear the debt, Bury manager Kevin Blackwell will not be able to register any new players.

The board of directors have assured Shakers fans that the loan is only a temporary measure as they, like many other lower Football League clubs, are experiencing cash-flow problems.

If Bury were to reach the final and enjoy a day out at Wembley, it could go a long way to easing their financial burden.

So there will be no shortage of motivation for their players when Graham Westley’s men arrive in town this evening.

North End know what it takes to be successful at Gigg Lane after winning there 2-1 in the league earlier in the season.

However, a lot has changed since then, with Bury appointing former Sheffield United and Leeds United boss Blackwell soon after.

He has helped guide the club to within a win and a draw of moving out of the relegation zone. It took him six games to win his first game, but since then he has presided over five victories, although they are winless in their last five games – a run which has included three draws.

North End manager Westley believes Blackwell should be applauded for taking over the reins at a relatively modest club like Bury, after spending the majority of his management career at a higher level.

Westley said: “Kevin is a good, experienced manager. He’s been at some big clubs.

“It’s a credit to him that he’s been prepared to come to a smaller club to keep his name in the frame, so that he can give himself a chance of progressing back to the level where he wants to manage.

“There are a lot of people who would not take a job at a much smaller club and give themselves the risk factor which goes with it.

“Suddenly now he has a transfer embargo and things which are not going in his favour. He probably wouldn’t have known about that when he went there.

“So going to a smaller club in this day and age is a big risk but he’s facing that and big respect to him for doing what he’s doing and taking on that challenge.”

Bury suffered last-minute heartache when at the weekend as Crewe Alexandra scored at the death to secure a 1-0 win at Gresty Road.

Blackwell introduced a new-look 4-3-3 formation against the Railwaymen and it remains to be seen whether he will implement a similar system against PNE tonight.

Loan men defender Matt Doughty and striker Tom Hopper, from Wolves and Leicester respectively, are likely to feature, although ex-Preston striker David Healy is set to be missing with an Achilles injury.