Bury academy manager Mark Litherland says it has been “heart-breaking” to tell the club’s youth players they have been let go after the Shakers’ expulsion from the Football League.
About 140 children, some as young as eight, no longer have a club after Bury lost their place in the EFL on Tuesday.
Litherland told BBC Sport it had been “gut-wrenching” to see the youngsters’ reaction to the news.
“I couldn’t look some of them in the eye,” he said.
“We have had some boys with us for six or seven years and they don’t want to go anywhere else.
“They have had offers from big, big clubs and have refused. They just don’t want to go and want to stay here.”
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Litherland said he expects many of their youth players to be picked up by other academies but said he is “fearing” for those who are not.
“I will be doing everything I can do to find our players new clubs but that is really difficult because all clubs have their new intake of players for the start of the season,” he said.
“Some of the boys may have to relocate and move away from their families.
“It is devastating for them.
“It will be challenging going into a new football club, to establish themselves where it is really cut-throat and to kick on and have new careers.”
Litherland said one of parents he has spoken to since the club’s expulsion is “worried” about her son’s mental health.
“She broke down crying on the phone and to be honest I did too,” he said.
“We had a bit of a chat and all I could do was apologise.
“Her son was with us for five years. He is devastated.
“She is worried about his mental health if I am honest with you because you don’t understand the implications of what going through children’s minds when such severity has happened.
“It has been very sudden. All of the club, including myself, thought the club was going to survive, but ultimately it hasn’t so it is devastating.”
Staff, players and parents offered psychological support
It is not yet clear what will happen to the club, its staff and players or the stadium after Tuesday’s decision by the EFL.
Litherland said emotions around the club were still “raw” and players, parents and staff had been offered support from the academy’s psychologist.
“We don’t know what the implications are going to be,” Litherland said.
“It could be scary.
“There are some staff members who have worked at the club for 37 years.
“In a week or two when the club is gone what effect will it have? I don’t know.
“I have been receiving texts at 12 o’clock at night asking me to ring parents up.
“I haven’t got the answers. I am in the same predicament.
“I am going to be losing my job but also I want to do the right thing for all of the boys who have been committed to the football club. I want to help them out.”
‘Not enough money to buy kit’
Bury’s academy is highly regarded within football with 25 players progressing to earn first-team debuts in the past five years.
A string of youngsters who have recently come through the Bury system are also now in Premier League sides’ development squads.
Litherland says that success came despite the academy operating with a recruitment budget of £5,000.
He also claims the academy has not been given any of the money the club received from £2.5m of academy player sales, or the funding it had been given from the EFL designated for the academy.
“We never saw that money,” he said.
Litherland also claimed the academy has had to cancel training sessions in the past because the club had not paid to hire facilities.
“We haven’t had new kit,” he added.
“It is a football club, it needs footballs but we have no money to buy equipment for our players.
“Some of the balls have been flat and we’ve been having to pump them up every time. There has been zero investment in the academy.”