The group behind a Bury AFC phoenix club have submitted an application to the North West Counties League, the ninth and 10th tiers of the pyramid, for a Shakers club to play in the 2020-21 season.

If this is approved and the club is formed, the NWCFL First Division North looks to be a likely destination.

Here is what Shakers’ fans can expect from the division.

A long road back

The NWCFL First Division North is the 10th tier of English football, meaning it would take Bury at least six seasons to get back into the EFL.

If this is the case, the Shakers will be looking to take inspiration from near neighbours Salford City, who were playing in the ninth tier as recently as 2010.

Since then, with a little bit of help from Gary Neville and co in between; the Ammies reached the Football League in 2019.

Graham Alexander’s side currently sit mid-table in their first season in League Two.

However, it may well be a tough route back into the league. Fleetwood Town and Accrington Stanley are the only other clubs who have played in the NWCFL since 1983 to have Football League status.

The Cod Army made it to the EFL for the first time in their history in 2012, whilst Stanley returned in 2006.

The next highest are AFC Fylde, who won the NWCFL Premier Division in the 2008-09 season. The Coasters currently occupy a relegation place in the Vanarama National League, having lost to Salford in the play-off final last season.

Apart from both being situated on the Fylde coast, what Fleetwood and Fylde have in common is a rich benefactor who’s been prepared to fund their respective club through the divisions. Given the Shakers’ recent past the emphasis for the phoenix group is more on community and simply ensuring football is played in the town when August comes around.

Local derbies

The geographical nature of the league means Bury will have plenty of local games to look forward to against sides that may not be too familiar to them.

The closest team to Bury in the 10th tier are of course Prestwich Heys and both meetings would represent big days on the football calendar in the borough.

Fans will have to travel to Oldham for another of their team’s local clashes, but not to face Oldham Athletic, instead their near neighbours, Chadderton FC.

The Chadders boast a 1972 Manchester Challenge Trophy victory as their most recent triumph and reached the fourth round of the FA Vase in 2014-15, their best ever run.

Other local fixtures include AFC Darwen (12 miles away), Daisy Hill (15 miles) and Atherton LR (16 miles).

However, not all fixtures will be a stone’s throw away and supporters may be forced to travel some not insignificant distances to watch other matches.

A potential trip to Cumbria is on the cards for a clash with Cleator Moor Celtic.

Notable names who have been at the club include former Bury goalkeeping coach Tony Caig and Manchester City’s former England keeper Scott Carson.

Big fish, small pond

In League One, Bury would have been competing against giants such as Ipswich Town, Sunderland and Portsmouth. At the level they could be plying their trade at, they will be the biggest club by a long way.

A crowd of 556 fans watched the West Yorkshire derby between Golcar United and Shelley Community FC this season, a big attendance by NWCFL standards.

To put this into context, the Shakers averaged 4,044 in their League Two promotion season, more than seven times that of the crowd that packed into Longfield Avenue.

In fact, the record attendance for the NWCFL was set in the 2005-06 season by FC United of Manchester, when 6,023 spectators turned out for their 1-0 defeat to Great Harwood Town.

The Shakers beat that in League Two last season, when 7,784 fans saw them beat Oldham 3-1.

Bury boast two FA Cups in their trophy cabinet, whilst only a handful of clubs in the NWCFL First Division North have made it to the first round proper.

Bacup Borough got to the third round 136 years ago in 1884, whilst Nelson FC have reached the second round on three occasions, most recently in 1951.

What about the cups?

A new Shakers will have to wait to play in FA-affiliated competitions for at least one season, meaning no FA Cup come August.

When they are allowed back in, Bury may have to negotiate their way through six qualifying rounds, all 184 clubs in the ninth and 10th tiers of the pyramid started their journey in the extra-preliminary round this season.

Aside from the famous trophy, The Shakers’ more likely route to Wembley would be in the FA Vase.

Teams below the fourth tier of England’s National League system all compete in the competition and all go into the first qualifying round.

If Bury were to go all the way to the final, they would have to make it through a mammoth 10 rounds.

Other competitions include the NWCFL League Challenge Cup, and the First Division Champions Cup, new last season and the equivalent of the charity shield where league and cup winners meet.

But it could be quite an adventure

For some Bury fans this might lay bare what has been allowed to happen to their club.

However, there is plenty of room for optimism. Starting in the 10th tier of English Football means Shakers’ followers would be able to embark on a non-league tour.

There will be plenty of new grounds to visit and games will be a lot more local, meaning Tuesday-night ventures down to the likes of Southend or Plymouth will be a distant memory.

Finally, the most important thing is that fans will have a football club to follow again and one that they own.

The road back for Bury is long and may seem daunting, but if it is where they end up, those involved are sure to embrace the challenge of raising spirits among Shakers.