NICKY Ajose believes Bury would be competing in the Championship now if the League Two promotion-winning side of 2010/11 had not broken up.
The former Manchester United player enjoyed two loan spells at Gigg Lane that season, returning from injury for the last nine games which ultimately powered the Shakers over the line.
His two goals in an emotional 3-0 win at home to Oxford United ended a run of four games without victory and helped to steady the ship after manager Alan Knill’s sudden departure to Scunthorpe.
And Ajose, pictured, believes the fact Bury went on to win six games in a row and clinch promotion with a 3-2 triumph at Chesterfield was a testament to the strength of spirit, talent and character in the squad.
“It was a really talented side for League Two level,” said the 21-year-old Edenfield-born forward.
“If that team had stayed together in League One I’m almost positive it would have gone up again.
“The team was that good.”
Ajose scored six goals in his second nine-game burst at Gigg Lane, finishing with 13 in total from his 28 Bury appearances that year.
It was his first run of games as a professional after he was protected at Old Trafford from the age of seven, where he featured at youth and reserve team levels but never broke through to the senior set up.
His performances in a Bury shirt triggered the offer of a four-year contract at Peterborough United, and Ajose became the first of the 2011 promotion squad to leave for pastures new.
And, after returning to Gigg Lane on loan last week following an unsuccessful spell at London Road, Ajose believes they would have all been better served staying together.
“I was privileged to have played with a lot of good players – Ryan Lowe, Kyle Bennett, Tom Lees – so I was lucky in that respect,” he said.