Gigg Lane

Ground No. 155
Visited - Saturday 26th April 2008
Result - Bury 1-1 Rochdale
Competition - Coca Cola League 2
Attendance - 6271

It was about 2003 when I first really became interested in visiting all 92 league grounds. I’d already notched up quite a few whilst following Wolves away and after coming across Duncan Adams’ Football Ground Guide and similar people who had the same idea, then it really caught my attention and became somewhat of an obsession, so after 5 years of travelling the country it finally came down to just one last ground. 

When I was planning out the games to go to, then I hadn’t particularly left Gigg Lane until the last, but with a dozen left to go, then I decided I wanted to finish on a ground that I knew I would like, and preferably a decent game, so Bury’s local derby and final home game of the season against Rochdale stood out and it was pencilled in that this was where I would complete the achievement.

Travelling up to Bury was easy, a direct train to Manchester and then a quick change onto the Metro which took just over half an hour to reach Bury interchange with no problems at all.

Now most people would associate Bury as a mainstay lower league side never having done much of note, and it’s an easy, if quite a lazy assumption to make. But with nearly a quarter of a century of top flight football to their name and having won the FA Cup more times than the likes of Derby, Leeds, Birmingham, Southampton or Middlesbrough, then they actually have a record that many would envy, and the ground reflects that.

Tucked away behind trees and houses, then from the outside there isn’t a great deal to see other than the back of the Main Stand, which stands relatively tall, and slightly spartan in design, a classic brick and sheet metal design, reminiscent of its counterpart at Peterborough, although dating back much further to 1924.

Inside though, the ground opens up into a fantastic venue, which on a warm summers day with trees surrounding the ground on three sides feels vaguely reminiscent of Shrewsbury’s Gay Meadow, even if it looks nothing like it! Firstly is the Main Stand, a two tiered structure with a section of seats raised above terracing below. The terrace/paddock hasn’t been used for over 20 years now, and is covered by advertising boards and stairways leading up to the second tier, whilst the central section has given way to a number of portacabin type buildings used perhaps for the press? This stand does have a slightly unusual history. Whilst originally built in 1924, in the early 90’s it was stripped down to just the steelwork and rebuilt in the same design with the club opting to keep the supporting pillars and redundant terracing, (for an interesting pictorial history check out the Mighty Shakers Site. To its left is the Cemetery End, which doesn’t run the full width of the pitch, starting from in line with the 18 yard box with a gap between it and the Main Stand. A single tier of seating, it is the newest structure at the ground and wraps around the corner to meet the South Stand which again is a single tier of seating, connected to, although not of the same design as the Cemetery End. Finally is the Manchester Road End (or West Stand) which like its counterpart opposite, stops short of running the full width of the pitch, with this time a gap between it and the South Stand, again from the 18 yard box. This again is a single tier of seating, with an unusual layout. The steps are very deep and shallow, whilst the roof hangs out well over the front row of seating, giving the stand a very cavernous feel to it.

Having taken a few pictures, I went back to the town centre for a bit, before grabbing a drink in the Waterloo pub on my way back to the ground (nice pub, but absolutely packed). 

Choosing to sit in the Manchester Rd End, I found a seat which had a good view, trying to avoid the pillars that supported the roof, before waiting for the game to start. We waited. Then we waited some more! It soon became obvious that kick off had been delayed, although with tannoy announcements in this stand barely audible, then no one was quite sure why, although the reason soon became obvious as a number of Rochdale fans started to come in late to join their fellow fans in an already busy away section, which for this game had been extended to include the far end of the Main Stand.

The game eventually started at 3:15pm, and both sides looked up for it from the off. Rochdale were still within a shout of going up automatically, but it was Bury, playing for pride only who had the first few chances, Andy Bishop having one free-kick go over the bar, and a second shot saved by the visiting goalkeeper. It was the home ‘keeper who was next called into action after Rochdale surged forward on a counter attack, but a good double save from Jim Provett kept the scores level. On the half hour mark the visitors were reduced to 10 men when Nathan Stanton was sent off for a last man tackle on Elliot Bennett (on loan from Wolves) who was bought down on the edge of the box. Nothing came of the free kick, and with few further incidents, the scores remained 0-0 at half time.

In the second half, it was Bury who looked most anxious to score and they went ahead on 56 minutes. Nicky Adams had been played into the box thanks to a quick throw in and he took the ball forward and lashed it home past Tommy Lee in the visitors goal much to the delight of the home fans. The game seemed to play out after that with Rochdale resigned to their fate of the play-offs after Hereford had been confirmed as promoted in third place following their victory at Brentford, but it all blew up with 10 minutes left on the clock when there was an incident in the opposite penalty box. No one around me seemed to know exactly what had happened, and even the match reports seem vague, but Ben Futcher was sent from the pitch with a second yellow card to take both sides down to 10 men, and there was more drama as the game entered injury time when Rochdale won a penalty which substitute Adam Le Fondre despatched with ease. After that, neither side were able to grab a winner, so the referee finally blew his whistle at 5:10pm to send each side home with a point each.

Throughout the game there had been a really good atmosphere in the end where I was, partly thanks to the acoustics in the stand, but the home fans had certainly tried to create a bit of noise for what was a local derby, although their opposing numbers in the Cemetary End and Main Stand didn’t seem to respond, despite having travelled in good numbers themselves, bringing a good 3000+.

Staying to take a few more pictures and watch the end of season lap of honour from the Bury players, I eventually made my way back to the town centre, trying to avoid the trouble being caused by the hoards of burberry clad idiots from both sides (although the police seemed to have the situation sorted), before catching the metro back to Manchester and on from there.

Overall, it had been a pretty good day. The ground is a great venue to watch football in, and certainly a worthy place to finish the 92 at. Once having held over 40,000 according to Simon Inglis, it isn’t quite as grand as that these days, but it does have a real character to it and is very much a ‘real ground’, unlike the soulless out of town stadiums that are popping up all over the country (Shrewsbury being a prime example to compare with again), so with that said, I’d be glad to go back one of the days and would recommend a trip there to anyone.

As for completing the 92, it’s an odd feeling, not really one of accomplishment, and even writing a few days after the event, doesn’t really seem to have sunk in yet. I’m repeatedly having to check my records for a ground I’ve missed off, or a new one I’ve forgotten about, but it looks like I’ve finally done it, and five years of travelling have come to an end, or at least until next season when trips to Aldershot, Colchester and whoever else comes up are required!

Welcome to Bury

Outside the ground on Gigg Lane

The Social Club

The Club Shop

Rear of the Main Stand

Rear of the Cemetery End

Entrances to the Manchester Road End

Rear of the Manchester Road End

Rear of the Main Stand

The Cemetery End

The South Stand

The Manchester Road End

The Main Stand

The Cemetery End

The South Stand

Gigg Lane Panoramic 1

Gigg Lane Panoramic 2


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