The front-page masthead on the Bury AFC website reads ‘By The Fans. For The Fans.’ It is a dictum that speaks to the traumatic events of recent times in the town. Bury FC – formed in 1885 and one of the oldest clubs in the Football League – was cast into the wilderness in August last year following financial problems and a series of failed takeovers that cost them their place in Sky Bet League One. A recent rejection for an application into the National League system means their future remains unresolved despite the potential for re-entry into the pyramid in season 2021-22.

Out of uncertainty comes hope. The new entity has arisen, formed by Bury fans who spent last season without a game to watch in their hometown and, as such, drawing parallels with a 135-year lineage is understandable.

More than 1400 supporters have already purchased the new home strip which carries a badge not too dissimilar to the one worn by Bury FC while The Shakers nickname remains intact. That has drawn the ire of Steve Dale, the owner of FC, whose bizarre pronouncements on the club’s official channels – ranging from tirades about fake designer boxer shorts to the BBC’s decision to scrap slave era songs from the Proms – have given the rest of football an inkling as to the kind of turmoil that has been prevalent at Gigg Lane for the past couple of seasons.

But Dale’s rants have had another unintended effect. The buzz on social media seems to confirm that there will be interest beyond this corner of Lancashire when Bury AFC begin life in Division One North of the North West Counties League – the 10th rung of the Football League pyramid – some time in October. With just shy of 17,000 followers on Twitter and signs of a community pulling together, Adam McWilliam, a Scot, was announced as the club’s first ever signing last month. He says he is particularly excited about working under the Bury manager, Andy Welsh, the former Stockport County, Sunderland and Yeovil Town midfielder, who saw off 750 applicants for the post.

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When he switched jobs from Southampton FC to Manchester United, where he works as a school partnership officer, McWilliam was on the lookout for a new club having just left Totton in the Southern League. A 25-year-old attacking midfielder, who spent a “very brief spell” at Montrose before moving on to junior football, McWilliam says it didn’t take long for him to make up his mind after a chat with Welsh.

“I’m not surprised that Andy managed to get the role. He’s an outstanding coach, an outstanding manager and I think that is what the club needs, someone who is experienced, experienced with new starts. Me and Andy were on our UEFA A Licence together. He got in touch and was asking what my story was. I went along and was blown away by the club and everything that they are trying to do this season, by the fans and the impact it was having on social media and what the football club will bring to the people of Bury, and, it was a no brainer to be honest. I’m loving the start that I have had with Manchester United and Bury. Both clubs are incredible.”

McWilliam’s status as a history maker is apt. The town of Bury has a long association with Scottish footballers. Bury FC’s’s first specialist manager Archie Montgomery was a Scot, as was its first player-manager, William Cameron. When The Shakers won the FA Cup in 1900, Jasper McLuckie, a Glaswegian scored twice in a 4-0 win over Southampton. When they lifted it again, three years later following a 6-0 victory over Derby County, Hugh Montieth from New Cumnock kept goal and John Johnston, from Lennoxtown, lined up at right-half. The connections don’t end there. Trawl through a list of Bury’s past players and it carries a number of names familiar to those who follow Scottish football’s top flight. It was the club of Andy Goram’s father Lewis. The former Aberdeen winger George Buchan had a two-year spell at Gigg Lane and, more recently, David Hannah, Paul Caddis, Lee Erwin and a host of others have worn white and blue.

McWilliam says he has done his due diligence on his new club’s Tartan links and, as such, admits he feels an added sense of responsibility.

“Especially being the first signing for the football club,” he says. “At the moment I am focusing on the season and making sure it is a good one for all of us and especially the fans. But it’s perhaps something that when I retire and look back on being the first signing for the club it will be an incredibly special moment but, yeah, of course there is pressure. Whenever you are playing for a club, regardless of whether it is one fan or thousands, you are playing in front of people who want the best for the club. We are pulling together a squad that will hopefully be able to deal with that and – hopefully – give the fans more good times than bad.”

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Up until late last month the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions on fan attendance had been occupying hearts and minds at Bury, with the UK government’s decision to allow supporters to return this month meaning they can now press ahead with plans to start the season in October. Despite Dale’s attempts at provocation, McWilliam says his focus is playing his part in helping to fill a void in the town.

“The point of this football club is to give the people of Bury back a football club. They didn’t have one coming into this season and it is to give them one to go and support and that’s all I care about at the moment. Now whether that is the league that we are in, whether it is the Premier League, the aim of the club is to give the people back a club that they can love and support and it is now our job as players to make sure that is in the best league possible.”

Joining McWilliam as one of the club’s first signings was Liam MacDevitt, a presenter on BBC’s Match of the Day Kickabout programme while a number of players have dropped down two or three divisions to join the cause.

A first pre-season win – 5-0 over fellow Division One side Daisy Hill – and a 2-1 victory against West Lancashire outfit Coppull United point to reasons for optimism. Nevertheless, McWilliam

says there are no set expectations for the season ahead, especially after a more recent 3-0 defeat by Radcliffe Borough, who play in the league above Bury.

“We are no different to any other football club in the sense that we want to win every single game,” says McWilliam. “Whether that is going to be possible, we’re going to have to find that out ourselves but we know that with the squad that we are pulling together, if every single one of us perform, at the bare minimum we will be able to compete in every game we play this season.”