DURING a quiet moment in the office at the Manchester Evening News today, I found myself browsing the internet, when I saw what looked an interesting story about Bury manager Alan Knill.
“Manager Alan Knill has registered himself as a player with the Football League and will throw his vast experience into the squad for Saturday’s League Two encounter with Notts County,” said Bury’s official website.
I flagged this up to a colleague, who suggested trying to get an interview with Knill and run a story on it.
“Is there an injury crisis at Bury?” my colleague asked.
“No, it just seems as if he fancies a game now Bury are clear of relegation,” I replied.
A reporter on the sportsdesk was handed the job of phoning Bury to make contact with Knill. He was just about to pick up the phone when…
“How old is Knill?” my colleague asked.
A quick search. “Forty-three… Ah.” Only at that point did the light bulb finally go on in my head. We abandoned the plans to run the story.
Others, it seems, weren’t so lucky.
“We would like to thank the two newspapers and one radio station that ran the story this morning,” Bury’s website announced a little later on, the writer no doubt wiping away tears of laughter at an April Fool joke that went better than he could possibly have hoped.
Of all the April Fool jokes I have seen in the media today – and there have been many, many more than I could possibly have feared – Bury’s was definitely the best. The idea of Knill pulling on his boots and making a comeback is just about plausible . . . until you actually start to think about it properly.
What lifts it above all the other April Fool’s Day nonsense is that it’s a joke dripping with irony on so many levels.
For a start, Knill could not – to my knowledge – have registered as a player with the Football League at this stage of the season because the competition’s loan deadline passed last Thursday. There is a precedent for players being registered with clubs after that on an emergency loan basis (think Jimmy Glass going from Bournemouth to Carlisle in 1999, then scoring the goal that kept them in the Football League).
But in practice, the League has only ever allowed this with goalkeepers, and only then if there is an injury crisis.
So if Knill had played between now and the end of the season, he would have been ineligible. And Bury were chucked out of the FA Cup last season for fielding an ineligible player, having been deducted one point the season before for the same offence.
In those circumstances, to take the issue of ineligibility and turn it into an April Fool’s gag takes one impressive sense of humour.
But that’s not all. The idea of Knill making a playing comeback is patently ridiculous unless you’re half asleep. (Erm, yes. Oops.) But it’s no more ridiculous than having a club director resign because there have been complaints about the fact that he always wears shorts in the hospitality lounge on matchdays. Bury director Iain Mills did exactly that last month . . . and that’s a true story.
Fact really is stranger than fiction. I know what Bury’s media officer Gordon Sorfleet would say to me at this point – as he’s said it to me several times before: “Put that in your blog.”
I’ll put this in my blog: Bury FC are this year’s undisputed April Fool’s Day kings. If only I’d bothered to make a trophy…