With Forest Green Rovers set to host Bury for the first time in the club’s history this afternoon, we caught up with vice-chariman Phil Butterworth, who is Bury born and bred, to find out just how he got the nickname ‘Pitchfork’…
I grew up a few miles from Gigg Lane, attended school in Bury and supported The Shakers from the age of eight. My childhood favourites were Bob Stokoe, Ray Pointer, Colin Bell, Terry McDermott and Derek Spence. I left home at 18 but still watched the team in action whenever I could.
In 1995/96 we were in the old third division, but about to embark on successive promotions up to Division One. In the League (Coca-Cola) Cup that year we beat Chesterfield and Sheffield United and headed to play Reading in Round Three at their old Elm Park stadium. We started the game in confident mood having just beaten Mansfield (5-1) and Torquay (2-0) on the road. After only 20 minutes we were 2-0 up and looking forward to a juicy Fourth Round tie.
It had been drizzling from the start, but a fairly heavy downpour shortly after our second goal encouraged the Reading players to hound the referee to take the teams off. Soft southerners! John Kirby gave in very quickly. After about 10 minutes, two ground staff emerged with the smallest forks I have ever seen. They half-heartedly tried to remove the couple of puddles that had formed.
When their pathetic efforts failed, the referee abandoned the match. There were furious scenes on and off the pitch as Bury felt cheated by the Reading players and ground staff. Shakers fans sang “We shall not be moved” for a good 20 minutes. Eventually the club secretary, Neville Neville (Gary, Phil and Tracey’s Dad) persuaded us to give up our protest.
Never wanting my club to be embarrassed in this way, I sent £10 to Gigg Lane to buy a couple of decent forks. The local paper, The Bury Times, heard about it and did an article on the Gloucestershire Shakers fan who bought the club pitchforks. I was fairly active on the Bury forum at the time and I was persuaded to change my name to ‘Pitchfork Phil’.
When the match was replayed two weeks later, the Bury players Gary Kelly and Phil Stant ran onto the pitch clutching a pitchfork each. Amazing ignorance of health and safety. The Royals had the last laugh, winning 2-1. I started watching Rovers home matches later that season and kept the name ‘Pitchfork’ when I registered on the FGR forum. Some 9,000 posts later, I am still way behind the legendary Tommo.
On Saturday, I will be sponsoring the match, but have no split loyalties. I’m a dedicated Rovers fan, enthusiastic about the club’s ambitions and totally in tune with its values. My guest is John Hudson, a well-known local writer and fanatical Bury fan. You will see his car parked, it has the registration plate almost matching the famous Gigg Lane.