Having fought off relegation to League Two by a solitary point, Bury have a lot of room for improvement. Speaking to the Bury Times after their 1-0 defeat to Southend United on the last game of the season, manager Lee Clark promised an overhaul of his squad. "I know this league well, I know what it takes to be successful in it and I know what’s required.”
True to his word, Clark released 11 players - including Jacob Mellis and Hallam Hope - and out of the seven players on loan at Gigg Lane for the 2016/17 season, only 'keeper Joe Murphy will return after the summer, having signed a permanent deal back in March. Andrew Tutte and Craig Jones agreed new contracts and Paul Caddis' future is still being discussed, leaving The Shakers with 17 contracted players.
Unfortunately, seeing last season's top-scorer, James Vaughan, back in a Bury shirt in August is not guaranteed. The Bury players and supporters' player-of-the-season has said that he's enjoying his time at Gigg Lane, but with Championship sides certain to be interested in the 24 goal man, it'll be tough to convince Vaughan to stay in Greater Manchester.
However, a hat-trick of impressive signings by Clark have seen the Summer get off to a very good start. Jermaine Beckford, Phil Edwards and Stephen Dawson have all signed for The Shakers in a hectic week of transfer activity. Should Bury keep hold of Vaughan, an impressive strike partnership will be rekindled. Beckford and Vaughan's 23 goals saw Huddersfield escape relegation from The Championship back in 2012/13. Having scored the most goals in the bottom half of the table, Beckford will only add to an already imposing attack.
A leaky defence proved to be Bury's downfall last season. The signing of 31-year-old Phil Edwards adds experience to a defence which conceded 73 goals. The right-back played every single game for Oxford United since signing on loan from Burton Albion in August and Clark labelled his performance "outstanding" in Oxford's 5-1 thrashing of The Shakers.
And finally, Stephen Dawson will add some much needed energy to the Bury midfield. Having captained Scunthorpe United to the play-offs, the 31-year-old rejected a new contract from The Iron to return to Gigg Lane. Clark has labelled Dawson a 'huge signing' for the club, adding "this signing is another statement of intent of what we are trying to do."
It will certainly be an interesting season for Bury. Having moved into their Carrington training facilities (formerly owned by Manchester City) in February 2015 and with plans for a new stadium in discussion, The Shakers are a club on the rise. However, advancements off-the-pitch are all well and good, but failing to improve on 2015/16's 16th place finish shows on-the-pitch advancements need to start.
The good news is that it certainly seems to be heading that way. Despite having made three signings before the playoffs have finished, Clark has confirmed the club have more deals on the go and today told the Bury Times, “I want to put together a squad that will potentially be challenging at the top."