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Sunderland’s Maguire reflects on his time at crisis-hit Bury

Just over a year ago, Chris Maguire couldn’t face the prospect of getting out of bed in the morning.

Dreams of beating defenders, scoring goals and having his name chanted by supporters wasn’t keeping his mind busy. Instead, it was worrying about how to look after his family and wondering if he was going to be paid that month.

This was the reality for the Scot and his team-mates as crisis-hit Bury struggled financially, a perilous position that has intensified to such a degree that the club could be expelled from the English Football League this Friday.

The League One side have had six games postponed this season already, while a proposed buy out was rejected on Tuesday.

Maguire, who moved to Sunderland last summer, spent a year at Gigg Lane during the 2017-18 season, a campaign he admits made him “fall out of love” with the game.

“The year I had before was probably one of my worst in football. I love the game but I was in a bad place,” the 30-year-old tells BBC Scotland.

“It’s no shock that it’s in the news just now. It was exactly the same a year ago with what went on behind the scenes. You shouldn’t be worrying about when you’re next getting paid, especially when you have a young family to look after.

“You are supposed to be paid at the end of the month but you’ve still not had it. Some boys have been paid, some haven’t. You are going into the next month still not being paid and then you are trying to play catch up.”

Maguire scored just twice in 19 appearances for Bury, but he insists the psychological impact of the financial uncertainty enshrouding the club took its toll.

“The fans expect you to come out on a Saturday and be firing on all cylinders, but it was a dark place for me,” he says.

“Every day I wake up and I love what I do. Getting up and kicking a ball, who wouldn’t love it? But two years ago I didn’t have the motivation to get up. I was thinking ‘I can’t be bothered going in’ and you arrive and everyone is the same.

“Thankfully I got out of there quick.”

Chris Maguire, left, was at Bury during the 2017-18 season

‘People probably forget about you’

It is difficult to believe Maguire has not played in Scotland for more than nine years, a loan move to Kilmarnock following six years at Aberdeen.

Spells with the likes of Derby County, Sheffield Wednesday and Oxford United followed but, under the leadership of fellow Scot Jack Ross, the forward believes he has found the right club to propel him back into the spotlight.

“To get the phone call to come here opened my eyes and let me fall back in love with the game,” he said.

“Before people maybe looked at it and thought I was lucky getting this move and I probably was. I scored a couple of goals but we got relegated to League Two, so you are probably thinking ‘nobody wants to touch me’. But then I got the call to come here and at the time I told Bury I didn’t want to be there.

“I feel this is a club I’d like to be at for a number of years to push on back up into the Championship, and who knows?”

‘I’d love to be involved with Scotland’

During his time at Aberdeen, Maguire was given his full international debut in 2008 against Northern Ireland with one further appearance following.

He admits it is still a burning ambition to get back involved with Scotland.

“I’d love to be back in the international fold,” he says. “There’s been opportunities before where I’ve been told there was maybe something going to happen then it doesn’t.

“You do get a bit disappointed when you look at the squad and certain players that have been picked. You think ‘I’m down in England, scoring goals’, but it’s out of my hands.

“Hopefully I keep my form going on the pitch and it’s enough to get recognised to get that opportunity.”

Craig Levein gives Chris Maguire his Scotland debut in 2008

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