“People may think this sounds silly, but it feels like a bereavement.”

To paraphrase the late great manager Bill Shankly, some people believe football is a matter of life and death, but for the residents of Bury, it’s much more serious than that.

Having gained promotion to League One in April, the town’s football club has since faced uncertainty, postponements and, now, a possible expulsion from the league after 134 years.

For Helen Richardson, whose father so loved the Shakers that he bought a house a stone’s throw away from their Gigg Lane stadium, the anguish is almost too much to bear.

“I haven’t slept for weeks – I cannot believe where we are.”

She says she was delighted when the club got promoted last season, but admits that if they are expelled from the league and subsequently go bust, she “cannot see a way back”.

“I have friends who are market traders and if Bury do well, they do well.

“It will be terrible for the town.”

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Butcher Steve Maloney, who sells the town’s famous black puddings from his stall in its market, is not so sure.

While he agrees it would be “bad for the town as a whole”, he thinks it wouldn’t dent Bury “as a tourist destination or affect the market”.

“People forget football clubs are a business – if my business fails, I don’t expect the baker to bail me out.

“I have been on the markets for 20 years, so if I go out of business, it is my own fault.”

Sixty-year-old Dave Clarke is not so confident. Despite never having followed the club, he believes the fall of the Shakers could be also be devastating for the town.

“It will be a disaster if the worst happens.

“So many businesses, like the chippies and the pubs, will be affected.

“When Bury got promoted the atmosphere was electric, [but] I have got mates my age who have going to matches all their life and they have not renewed season tickets because they don’t know what’s happening.”

Seventy-five-year-old Tony Yeadon, who first stood on the terraces of Gigg Lane as a schoolboy, did have faith that the financial issues the club has faced in recent months would be sorted.

However, sick of the uncertainty, he took his season ticket back to the ground and asked for refund.

For him, it’s not just the problems at Bury that have sucked the fun out of his Saturday afternoons.

“I have had enough. Football is a mess – it is not just us, it is Bolton as well.

“I used to go with my son and my first game was in 1955. It is very sad, but I want a refund.”

Greg Edyvean’s connection to the club is just as strong, having spent his life joining the crowds at Gigg Lane, and says the “whole situation is surreal”.

“I just don’t know what I would do if we went out of the league.

“There are 40 members of my family who are fans.

“My son, who is autistic, keeps saying ‘when is the football coming?’ and my two-year-old daughter is singing songs. How do you explain to a child?

“How has it got to this stage? I just hope we have a new owner.”

Even in this, the darkest of footballing times, there is hope.

How did we reach this point? – BBC Sport analysis

At the end of April, Bury were celebrating promotion back to the third tier of English football, but they were already enduring a torrid time off the pitch.

Players and staff had often been paid late, while a winding-up petition filed against the club was adjourned three times before eventually being dismissed by the High Court on 31 July.

By then, creditors had approved a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) put forward by Dale, which was proposed to help settle some of their debts.

Furthermore, the EFL has been unsatisfied Bury have given enough evidence of their “financial viability”, leading to a string of postponed fixtures while the organisation awaited “the clarity required”.

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