A Quarter of a Century and 10x as many Tales to Tell - Brent Peters

Wed 21st September 2022 | Bacup Borough
By Jay Cooper

Brent Peters is a name synonymous with Bacup Borough, and it has been for many years - as it should be. Brent recently hit the milestone of 25 years involved with the club, a feat rarely achieved by anyone at any level of the game, and certainly a tenure with enough longevity to have you considered a club legend.

Having joined up with Borough in late 1997, to say he has some stories from his time involved at Brian Boys' West View is quite the understatement, as I found out in a phonecall with Peters himself last weekend.

Of course, 25 years at Bacup is the headline, but Brent's is a name associated with the history of both Rossendale Valley semi-pro sides, as well as having dipped his toes in the waters of EFL football.

"I started working with the late Ray Pointer at Bury FC with the B-team, and thats when I did my coaching qualifications. I knew where I wanted to go in football, and I believe the manager and coach are very different roles, and I always fancied being a fully-fledged manager rather than coach.

"Rossendale United, who I used to be a ball-boy for and who are close to my heart, their reserve manager got offered to go to Bacup Borough as manager. They took some of the Rossendale lads with them to Bacup, and that was an opening to Rossendale United to contact me, so our remit was to build a reserve side to challenge the first team. In 2 seasons, we had the reserves lifting 6 trophies!

"I was interviewed for Glossop North End. They had a lot of ambition at the time, with a flamboyant chairman, and it appealed to me, so I took the job and brought a lot of the Rossendale lads with me. We won our first major trophy in 16 years, which was what would now be considered the NWCFL Division One title. I saw that through for a season, but the old regime came back after that so I left and went back to Bury as chief non-league scout. This time included conducting the first team warm-ups at Old Trafford for an FA Cup fixture.

"Back at Rossendale, I addressed some wage issues in order to bring in ambitious players, and the board agreed. That season, we got to the Challenge Cup final, back at Gigg Lane, and we won against St Helens. We finished 2nd in the league that year, but came second to Atherton LR. Unfortunately, a few people came back to the board looking for previous investment returns, and the board voted to cut my wage bill for the players. I stepped down becuase of that.

"Up next was a turn as director of football at Accrington Stanley, but a real mix up led to me leaving Accrington for the Ashton job, but then I didn't get that either. I wasn't in limbo for long, becuase Doncaster rang me up. They were struggling near the bottom of (what is now League 2), and the role I was offered was to be assistant manager, but "the contracted manager acts a coach, and you'll act as manager." I took the job, and our remit was to keep the club's EFL status - we did it!"

Quite the CV, then! So when Bacup, struggling to stay afloat as a club, came calling, Brent took on a role as manager, and steadied the ship on the pitch in his first season. Good start, but behind the scenes, Borough as a club were hanging on by a thread. They needed a saviour, and Brent decided to do what he could.

"If I'm honest in my committing, then I'll see a project through. Once I stepped foot in Bacup, my career hit a buffer a little bit. I stayed committed to the club becuase I didn't want the club itself to go under. I tried my best to hold the club together, and being in my role that I am means I miss out on some of the matchday experience, and I do miss that.

"If someone had headhunted me, I would've been open to it, but prior to 2010, I didn't feel I could leave the club becuase the structure wasn't there. We secured our lease in 2010, and once we had that structure, I knew I could've left for something I was interested in. Maybe that won't happen now, clubs often go for younger managers, but I've also kept my commitment to this old, established football club."

A lot of personal time, effort and resources came from Brent's own pocket in order to keep the club and surrounding community ticking over - it's often overlooked just how important a club can be, not just to the players and staff involved, but the fans and volunteers that do their bit week in and week out. And a football club at any level is always a massive operation, and with that can come some struggles for those at the centre of it all.

"During that time prior to 2010, everything was difficult to do. They say Rome wasn't built in a day, and thankfully now I've got some great staff, but when you're asking for volunteers, there's some people who you can do a better job yourself than them. We've now got responsible people in responsible positions. If someone came to me tomorrow with a new, interesting challenge, I could leave Bacup in a great place in other hands.

"Unfortunately it has led to me not being able to progress my career on some other fronts. I remember a chairman from a higher league ringing me for advice, and he said "I've watched your career before and whilst at Bacup - you've always done well with unfashionable clubs with no money, and I thought you'd have been ideal for our job, but you were too involved at Bacup." I said "if you'd rang me, you might've been surprised". It made me think of what might've been. However, on the flip side, if I hadn't been as committed to Bacup, the community could have lost the club."

That said, there's always bound to be some high points from a tenure so long, be that on and off the pitch. Peters has seen some special moments come and go in the recent history of Bacup Borough, as he mentioned to me, but also takes a sense of pride in what he has given to and received from the club as an individual.

"Having gone through what I have, including a bankruptcy, for the club - I always knew that I could rise from the ashes, but the club wouldn't be able to, so I took that hit. I was working for a salary that went to building Bacup Borough back up. Securing that lease secured the business.

"In the early days, I was fighting for the information from the previous occupiers, despite their legal and non-legal issues. Because of all that, no one was interested in Bacup, so invested to stop the club going down the pan. Once I'd done that, I didn't want to leave and see them lose their status, so I fought on through the costs to save the club, and I rose from the ashes.

"Most people will tell you about their footballing greatest achievement - in my 25 years, we've won a championship, gained promotion, been to 5 Cup finals, won 3, got a play-off final, but, to keep the the team afloat and keep them being a team that people want to watch - I think I've done remarkably well."

Whilst there have been plenty of great moments to watch from the stands, there's also been one or two that were able to be seen on the TV. Brent told me an incredible story from 2004 when his Bacup Borough signed David May - a '99 treble winner with Manchester United. 

In a conversation with Sky Sports freelancer Peter Smith, who was running a story on May's signing, Brent brought up an old friend from Rossendale - then-90-year old physio, Syd Parkinson. 

"About four weeks later, out of the blue, my phone went - it was Peter Smith. He said that, following our conversation about Syd Parkinson, he had done some research and asked me if I fancied being 1 of 5 nominees needed to bring Syd before the Queen for his services to football. The other nominees were Sir Alex Ferguson, Sam Allardyce, Peter himself and Duncan McFadyen, a player who knew Syd well. 

"I put my name down, and I'm happy to say that myself, Peter Smith and Duncan McFadyen all travelled with Syd to Buckingham Palace, where he was awarded an MBE by HM Queen Elizabeth II, and, with it, the title of world's oldest physio."

With all of this in the rear view mirror for Brent, there was no harm in looking forwards, too. Bacup are an established NWCFL side, and certainly much more stable now than they were when Brent came on board, but where does it go from here?

"Well I have my successful business, with good people working there, and as long as that stays how it is through the tough climate, then we keep on keeping on. And it's the same for Bacup.

"We kick on, we take the days as they come and keep working hard. Who knows the future? I know I'd love to lead Bacup Borough out at Wembley, but thats a dream. Will it happen? It'd certainly be the icing on the cake after 25 years - we are in the Vase on Saturday.

"Every manager will tell you they'd want to do something like that - I've done it against teams who were divisons above us, done it at the Reebok, and when I won my first league title, it was 56 years since their last one. We've won the Challenge Cup twice, and I'm the only manager to win the Cup with both senior Rossendale Valley teams, so I've already achieved a lot - we'll see what's to come."

Thanks so much to Brent Peters for taking time out of his day to speak to me!

Image credit: Twitter - @Bacupboro

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