KEVIN Blackwell has urged the Bury board not to disregard supporters’ concerns after a stormy fans’ forum at Gigg Lane on Thursday night.
More than 150 people attended the meeting, just hours after the club announced it had been forced to loan out one of its best players – left-back Joe Skarz – in an emergency cost-cutting measure.
With the League One club deep in relegation trouble and struggling to find the cash to pay its players, Blackwell and chairman Brian Fenton were always going to be in for a rough ride as they faced up to questions from angry supporters.
The Bury manager was strongly criticised for disparaging and inaccurate comments he has made about the club since taking over last September, as well as his side’s style of play and team selections.
But Blackwell won a lot of fans round with his straight talking on the night and, while he has vowed to act on the points raised at the meeting, he has also urged the Bury board to do the same after serious concerns were expressed about the way the club is being run.
“I thought the fans were fantastic,” he said.
“I thought they asked all the right questions. If it’s difficult for you it’s difficult for you, but you don’t fool the fans and I thought they were sharp, spot on, and as a club we’ve got to start listening.”
There was a clear reaction in the stands during and after Friday’s spirited 2-2 draw at home to Crewe, with none of the “Blackwell out” chants prevalent at recent matches.
The result did little to help the Bury cause, though, with the club staying second-bottom in the table and slipping to seven points from safety with six games remaining.
The Shakers face a tough trip to play-off chasing Leyton Orient today with only 16 fit players, but Blackwell said he and his side remain determined to give their long-suffering fans something to cheer.
“The numbers may not be great, but the passion in that group of fans is phenomenal,” he said.
“We’ve got as good an away support as anybody else and it frustrates you as a manager when you can’t achieve what you want to achieve for them.
“They go back to work in the week and they want to have something to hang their hat on. That’s all you want to do as a manager, therefore you want to have the tools to allow you to do that and that’s been the frustrating thing for everybody.”
Blackwell is fully aware, however, that Russell Slade’s Brisbane Road outfit, who are five points outside the play-off places with five games remaining, will be tough to beat.
“Orient are a good side,” he said. “They have real firepower, with four strikers to choose from that could get in any other team.
“They’ve been very good this season at home so we know it is going to be a tough game.
“But we’ve got to keep going, stay positive and work hard.
“They (the players) are doing everything they can, but when they see players like Joe leave it is a blow to them.
“I said to them, that’s life and when one door closes for somebody it opens for somebody else.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t got a left-back at the club so Wozza (winger David Worrall) has to go from the right side to the left and I thought he was terrific on Friday.
“If that doesn’t show people that the lads care then I don’t know what does.”
Full-back Carl Regan remains a doubt after missing the last two matches with an ankle injury, while Blackwell could continue to rest goalkeeper Trevor Carson in favour of Cameron Belford, who performed well in his first appearance for Bury this season in the draw with Crewe.