Bury manager Ryan Lowe is one of thirteen in League Two who were appointed to their role during the last twelve months. Theoretically, he is also the only player-manager in the division, although it is unlikely he will make too many appearances at the age of almost forty.
Although inexperienced in terms of management, Liverpool-born Lowe has a good working knowledge of lower division football after an eighteen-year playing career spent mainly in the north-west. After spending his formative years on the books at Liverpool, he drifted into non-league football with a succession of clubs until he began to make his name with Burscough at the turn of the century. Having scored 34 goals (including three hat-tricks) in helping the Linnets to reach the Northern Premier League Premier Division in 1999-2000, Lowe was finally signed by Third Division Shrewsbury at the age of 21 after trials with Everton, Tranmere and Rochdale.
His time at Shrewsbury was largely marked by struggle until the Shrews were finally relegated from the Football League in 2003. Their stay in the Conference was to be very brief, with an instant return to the elite through a play-off final win over Aldershot Town at the Britannia Stadium. Strangely, despite being the team’s centre-forward, Lowe did not take a spot-kick in the penalty shootout. He had a quiet season as the Shrews finished 21st in their first season back, with Lowe contributing just three goals from thirty-four appearances. The five years he spent at Shrewsbury were to prove his longest spell at any club, as he was destined to bounce around a number of clubs for the rest of his career. Towards the end of the 2004-05 season, he moved on to Chester City after scoring 37 goals in 194 games for the Gay Meadow club.
His stay at the Deva was to last just over a season. Having scored seventeen goals in a poor side in 2005-06 and effectively keeping Chester in the League, he was on the move in 2006 to League One Crewe after disagreements with manager Mark Wright. After a relatively undistinguished two seasons at Gresty Road, he was on his way back to Chester in the summer of 2008 after a brief loan period at Stockport. Unfortunately, his return to Chester coincided with their descent from the Football League, and at the end of his first season back at the Deva, he found himself relegated from the Football League for the second time in his career. Having scored an excellent eighteen goals, it was inevitable he would stay in the League, and he signed for Bury in June 2009 for the first of his three spells with the club. In 2010-11 he enjoyed the best season of his career as his 27 league goals fired Bury to promotion to League One. During that season he set a new Bury club record when he scored in nine successive league games. He also had the distinction of scoring the promotion-winning goal against champions-elect Chesterfield in April.
After scoring seven goals in the first seven games of 2011-12, he was on the move to Sheffield Wednesday for an undisclosed fee (rumoured variously to be between £100,000 and £1 million). It proved another productive move, as his nine goals helped Wednesday to automatic promotion to the Championship. To everyone’s surprise, Lowe was immediately sold to Milton Keynes Dons back in League One. Having become their top scorer as the Dons narrowly missed a play-off place, he was on the move again to Tranmere on a free transfer during the summer of 2013. Despite another 20-goal season, Lowe suffered the third relegation of his career as Rovers lost their place in League One after a 2-1 home defeat by Bradford on the final day. Two weeks later he was back at Bury on a two-year deal and found himself starting the season with a new club for the fourth year in a row. It proved another good move as Bury won automatic promotion from League Two, the third promotion of Lowe’s League career. Ironically, promotion was secured on the final day at former club Tranmere, who were relegated from the Football League.
Goals were harder to come by in League One, and in November Lowe joined League One Crewe on loan for his second spell at Gresty Road. He signed for them permanently during the summer of 2016 after Crewe were relegated to League Two, but he was on the move back to Gigg Lane for the third time when he was appointed player-coach in January 2017. With his playing career winding down in his late thirties, Lowe was appointed caretaker manager of Bury in October 2017 when Lee Clark was sacked with the club second to bottom of League One. Chris Lucketti was appointed permanently to the position in November, but results worsened further and Lowe took over as caretaker once more when Lucketti was sacked in January 2018. He was unable to prevent relegation, but Bury handed Lowe the job on a permanent basis on 10 May 2018.
At the end of a very good lower division playing career which has so far produced an impressive 214 goals from 703 appearances, Ryan Lowe is at the juncture many retiring players face: can he make the step-up to management? Bury were relegated last season with very few points, and he faces a huge task in reversing the downwards momentum. Club chairman Stewart Day does not hold Lowe responsible for relegation, blaming that on poor recruitment last summer and some poor attitudes from certain players.
Ryan Lowe has already won promotion from League Two with Bury on two occasions as a player, but can he make it a hat-trick from the manager’s office? History is not on his side: Bury have never bounced back at the first attempt after relegation to the bottom division, and this is the sixth time that has happened. With the majority of last season’s poor squad retained under contract, Lowe has a real task on his hands in his first full season as a manager.
P = Promoted; R = Relegated; SF = Lost in play-off semi-final; F = Lost in play-off final; PO = Won play-off final; D = Demoted.
Figures are league games only; cup matches and playoffs are not included.
League position shown is either the position at the end of the season or the position at the time of departure.