Bury braced for interest from rivals

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Bury Town manager Richard Wilkins admits Lowestoft Town’s promotion could 
provide the Blues with some difficulties this summer.

The Trawler Boys — who beat AFC Hornchurch in Monday’s Ryman League Premier Division play-off final to secure a place in Conference North or South next season — have been long-time admirers of some of Bury’s key players, including goalkeeper Marcus Garnham and captain Tom Bullard.

Although Wilkins is aware his star men may attract interest from their Suffolk rivals once again, the Blues’ boss believes there will be pros and cons to Lowestoft’s promotion.

“The ambitious players may be tempted who haven’t in the past, but the travelling may knock out a few players already there,” said Wilkins, who added: “They have been interested in a few of our players in the past so the higher division may entice one or two, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

Chris Henderson, Lee Smith and Danny Cunningham — although the latter is now back at Bury — are three players who have made the switch from west to east Suffolk in recent seasons.

The Blues opened talks with their existing squad this week and some decisions are expected ‘within the next few days’.

Chairman Russell Ward said: “We have spoken to several players and are waiting to hear back from them now.”

n Tickets are still available for Bury’s presentation evening in the Ram Meadow clubhouse tomorrow (7.30pm) — call Ward on 07712 108067.

n Two former Bury Town players could meet one another at the home of English football, if they can both come through their Sky Bet League Two play-off semi-finals.

On-loan York City goalkeeper Nick Pope and Southend United left-back Ben Coker begin their quest to reach Wembley this weekend.

York face Fleetwood Town in their first leg on Saturday (7.30pm) before Southend travel to Burton Albion on Sunday (12pm), with the second legs the following Friday and Saturday respectively — with all matches live on Sky Sports.

“Every kid dreams of playing at Wembley and it would be a real buzz to receive the chance to do that,” said Pope, on loan at Bootham Crescent from Championship outfit

Charlton Athletic. “I have never played at Wembley before so I am really looking forward to the play-offs as they are the games you want to be playing in.”

Ironically it was a 2-1 win away to the Cod Army, who finished fourth in League Two, in February that sparked the Minstermen’s 17-game unbeaten run to haul them from the lower echelons of the table into seventh — the final play-off spot.

While Town may have finished higher than City in the league, the Wicken-based former King’s Ely and St Andrews Primary School-educated shot stopper claims his teammates have nothing to fear from the big-spending Lancashire outfit.

“We are not too disappointed with getting Fleetwood as we beat them away and because of the run we have been on I don’t think teams will have been wanting to play us as no-one wants to play the team on a late charge,” said 22-year-old Pope, who was nominated for the League Two player-of-the-month award in April. “Fleetwood have been up there all season and it may be that they are frustrated in only reaching the play-offs so it could be that they have taken their foot off the gas a bit.”

With Saturday’s fixture set to be a sell-out crowd, Pope will have his own set of personal supporters in the crowd in the shape of his mum, dad and brother Josh, who plays in goal for Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division side Mildenhall Town.

“Mum and dad have been great supporters of mine throughout my career,

however far away I have played, while Josh has watched me when he can,” said Pope, who dislodged

Marcus Garnham from the Blues’ number one spot for a handful of games during their Ryman League Premier Division title chase in 2010/11. “They all have their tickets

for the first leg and mum and dad have already booked a hotel for the second leg as they were not going to miss that one.”

Meanwhile, Coker — part of Bury’s Southern League Division One Midlands title-winning team in 2009/10 — will head into Southend’s clash with Burton having received the club’s players’ player-of-the-year award.

The Shrimpers beat the Brewers 1-0 on the final day of the season to set up a repeat tie in the play-offs, where Coker — who was also named in BBC Late Kick Off East’s team of the year — is set to make his 52nd and 53rd appearances of the season.

Speaking to Southend’s official website before

Saturday’s win over Burton, the defender said: “I’m

delighted to have played so many games, it’s actually a

bit frustrating that I’ve

missed just one through suspension.

“Fifty games in one season is great and I’m buzzing to have reached that figure, but I’m hoping there’s still another four to add to that.

“I don’t think it bothers us who we get in the play-offs. We’ll be confident and of the belief that we can get to Wembley.”