The Forgotten Fifteen

How Bury triumphed in British football's worst year

Frank Casper

Frank Casper

The Burnley connection that player-manager Martin Dobson wrote through Bury Football Club like a stick of rock in the 1984/85 season didn’t just encompass players such as himself, Leighton James, Kevin Young and Terry Pashley. Dobson also ensured that his management team had been schooled in the Turf Moor way too, as he recruited Ray Pointer as his coach and Frank Casper as his assistant. And with Frank still being an incredibly fondly-remembered player in that particular corner of east Lancashire, he proved relatively straightforward to find.

It was Burnley’s former player association who passed Casper’s number on, like they did with so many others who played for the two clubs. I called Frank to arrange an interview and without a hitch we planned to meet at a pub in rural Lancashire.

The obstacle-free course to the interview stopped there. After settling down with a pint each, I began to unpack my research for Frank to look at as well as the other bits and pieces I needed for each interview. My voice recorder, a fairly crucial bit of kit owing to my not knowing shorthand, was nowhere to be seen. I apologised to Frank for the delay in starting the interview and instead placed my battle-worn, creaking iPhone 3GS on the table between us with the voice memo recorder running. It wasn’t a feature of the phone I’d ever really used before but needs most certainly must on this occasion.

Frank told some fascinating tales about his time at Bury, including how his son Chris would enjoy training with the players of 1984/85 as a boy, before becoming Bury manager two decades later. He told how the club stretched its budget to pay for essentials like balls and kit and as we parted in the warm summer evening air, the lost voice recorder hadn’t felt like much of an issue.

I looked in the stored voice memos section of my phone but there was absolutely nothing there. Not even a second of Frank Casper’s rich, deep voice had been committed to my phone’s memory.

On the trip back to Bury, I thought I’d review the interview all over again. I looked in the stored voice memos section of my phone but there was absolutely nothing there. Not even a second of Frank Casper’s rich, deep voice had been committed to my phone’s memory. As we drove past Fitzpatrick’s Temperance Bar in Rawtenstall, it felt like a situation when one of their refreshing dandelion and burdocks could never compete with a stiff brandy.

The following day, after a panicked sync of my phone with iTunes still yielded nothing, I summoned up the courage to call Frank and tell him what had happened. Taking a deep breath, I explained everything. He laughed, called me a daft bugger (which, in fairness, I absolutely was) and agreed to do the interview again. A week later, in the same pub, that’s exactly what we did.

When I spoke to Wayne Entwistle, he told me how reassured he felt to look over at the bench and see Frank Casper there in his shades. The striker felt that the assistant manager was obviously a very cool man. After the way he generously dealt with my ineptitude, I can only agree with him.