It would be wrong to say there have been many easy days since Tom Miller’s career was thrown into limbo by the scandalous demise of Bury Football Club, but Saturdays are probably the hardest.

“I went and watched a couple of games to start with, but it became too difficult, just sitting in the stands,” says the former Carlisle United defender. “Now, I find myself watching Soccer Saturday, seeing results coming in, checking on friends at different clubs.

“I also look at clubs in League Two who might be struggling, if they are playing players out of position at right-back. You even find yourself looking to see if right-backs or centre-backs are coming off with 30 minutes to go, if they’ve had a bad game or an injury.

“I know it’s not nice – you don’t wish that on anyone. But that would create an opportunity, potentially, for me to get back in. At times my girlfriend just tries to get me out of the house, take the dogs for a walk and stuff. It is tough.”

These are frustrating and in many respects worrying days for Miller who, at 29, ought to be in someone’s first-team squad but is instead passing his afternoons “waiting by the phone” in case a new club calls. Mornings are spent training on his own in Manchester, and hoping.

“There’s a gym where I live, and there’s a field with a decent enough surface about two minutes down the road,” he says. “So I jog up there with a ball and some boots and go on there myself.

“I wake up every day with a positive mindset. I think, ‘Right, get yourself fit, work hard, keep yourself right for that next opportunity’. Then you see your mates on Instagram and Twitter, talking about matchday, videos of them on the team buses, and it becomes hard. You miss it a lot.

“To go from that environment to not being in it at all, and not knowing when you’ll get back into it…mentally, you could say it’s a bit of a rollercoaster.”

Miller is not the only out-of-work footballer in the country but is one of a small number thrown into this situation by grave circumstance. He was part of Bury’s squad that achieved promotion to League One last season but the club have since been expelled from the EFL, and may now fold completely.

The episode has shamed many of those involved, such as former owner Stewart Day, who saddled the club with heavy debts, and his successor Steve Dale, who failed first to convince the EFL that funds were available to see this season through, and secondly was unable to sell the club before the League’s deadline in August.

The collapse of the Gigg Lane club has devastated its football community. Talk now is of a phoenix club, while Bury’s players are scattered, either with new teams or, like Miller, still without.

He says he has not been paid for nearly eight months. “The PFA [Professional Footballers’ Association] have been brilliant and tried to do all they can, but it’s difficult because we had no warning,” he says. “We were training hard in pre-season, 20-22 lads were in, and then all of a sudden we were told: that’s it, you’re done. We had no contact from anyone, the club, the EFL."

Financially, it has brought anxious times. “The way football careers are, you know you can go certain periods without a club, so I’ve always tied certain outgoings, like cars and stuff, to the length of my contracts,” Miller says. "That means a lot of my money is tied up in those things. So to not get paid for months, when you’ve got bills to pay, is hard.”

Miller has been considering his post-football life for some time, taking his UEFA B Licence coaching qualifications and also studying for possibilities outside the game. He would like to explore property renovation and is taking night classes in plumbing, intending to follow this with electrician training.

This, though, was intended to be a longer-term project for when he retired in his mid-30s. “These were all about setting myself up,” he says. “I had a year left on my contract at Bury and the possibility of another, so in my mind I was thinking I would get to 31 and then look at things.

“I’ve still got a while left on the courses. The only way I could speed things up would be if I re-started them and did them full-time. But that would mean I couldn’t go back into full-time football – and that’s what I want to do.

“I still think I’ve got more than enough in me. I’m as fit as I’ve ever been, but waiting for the next opportunity is quite stressful. Your savings don’t last forever and there’s only so many days now I can keep getting up and working on my fitness. I might have to get a job. It’s always in the back of your mind, because time is ticking. We’re a quarter of the way through the season now and I haven’t trained with a club, let alone played.”

Miller, who also says his investment alongside others in a nutrition business is being held up by lack of wages, has not yet had to resort to borrowing money from his family, but knows former team-mates who have had to do this. A few, he adds, have had to put their houses up for sale, unable to afford repayments.

“Some of the Bury lads have had to sign at clubs where the money is not covering their bills,” he adds. “That’s something I’d be willing to do until January, to get back in, but you can’t keep it like that for long.

“At our level it is a good income, but you live to your means. It’s hard to get a lengthy mortgage due to the length of a football career, so you end up buying a property and having a 14-15 year mortgage as opposed to 25-30 years, which means your payments are a lot higher.”

Miller and his partner are settled in Manchester and he is reluctant to uproot to play in the south if the wages there are insufficient to cover his outgoings. Bitterness is not far from the surface when he explains that, in pre-season, he had League Two offers nearer home but rejected them, because he wanted to test himself in League One – and was assured that Bury’s problems were going to be resolved.

He had joined the Shakers in summer 2018 after leaving Carlisle and, while a fractured rib that punctured his lung made it an injury-affected season, he made 15 appearances and relished being part of good times as Ryan Lowe’s team finished second.

Problems became clear early this year when, towards the end of Day’s tenure, wages were not being paid, yet when Dale bought the club for £1 Miller says he and colleagues were given to believe the future would be more stable.

“When he took over, he promised us the world,” the defender says. “I remember one day early [into Dale’s reign] I was in an ice bath and he came in with an architect, saying he wanted to get all the facilities redone and build an indoor training facility. I think it was all a charade.

“When the problems were then growing, he tried to say he hadn’t known the wage structure and stuff. Surely there’s no way a businessman that’s owned as many businesses as him comes in without knowing the financial structure of everything.”

Miller said that, as the crisis unfolded, some staff, going without pay, were left in tears during meetings with Dale. The owner, this summer, told BBC 5 Live he had not even realised there was a football club in Bury, but before then had given hope of takeover – and salvation.

“There was one day that he came in during pre-season celebrating, saying, ‘It’s all done – I told you I was gonna do it.’ We were all in the gym, and I wasn’t too excited because I didn’t respect the guy for what he’d put everyone through. But inside I thought, well, maybe we can get our heads down and focus on the season now.

“The management team were telling us that everything was gonna be fine – everything was sorted and all that was needed was for proof of funds to be shown. There was no communication from the chairman but we were told not to worry about looking for other clubs.”

A takeover did not, in the end, materialise, one bidder pulling out at the eleventh hour, and in late August the Shakers were kicked out of the League. The EFL were adamant Dale had not provided enough financial information whilst the owner always insisted otherwise, accusing the organisation of “ill-truths and spin”.

Dale, plainly, is despised by supporters and players, who have been advised not to talk too openly about their experiences while attempts to retrieve lost earnings are ongoing.

Miller says some of the stories that will eventually emerge from the saga are scandalous. With what he feels able to say, he is scathing. “He [Dale] is going under the radar at the moment and I hope he doesn’t,” he says. “I hope he doesn’t get away with what he’s done to people at the club and the fans.

“They’ve lost their football club. You can imagine if Carlisle United was lost, it would be devastating up there. It’s like that here. It’s a community that spent every Saturday for years and years, watching Bury play.”

The club’s former players share accounts of their changed lives via group chat, and the PFA’s assistant chief executive Simon Barker is in regular touch, but Miller adds: “Nobody ever hears from the EFL. I think they’ve been terrible in it.”

In what way? “They could have at least communicated with us. They knew Steve Dale wasn’t giving us any information – they knew that relationship had broken down. They should have offered us some kind of help.”

Miller does not set much store by recent reports of other, unnamed businessmen who want to revive Bury. “You read so much of this stuff but nothing ever happens,” he says. “Personally, I think the best thing is for Steve Dale to pay back everything owed, and – I know it’s sad – the club liquidates and the fans can start working on a phoenix club and rebuilding that way.

“There was a legends game the other day, and there was a good turnout from fans who wanted to watch some form of Bury Football Club play. That showed everyone a phoenix club is possible.”

It did not help players like Miller that Bury, founded in 1885, were expelled from the League three days before the summer transfer window closed, by which time other clubs’ squads were almost full. The defender was recovering from a pre-season foot injury at that point but is now ready to resume his career – if he and his agent can find a taker.

“When you’re young, wanting to be a footballer, it’s all you want to do,” says Miller. “You get to where your ability allows you, which for me has been League Two, and work as hard as you can – and then all of a sudden it’s taken away from you like this. It blows your mind.”

Before all this, Miller enjoyed three “really good” seasons at Carlisle, where he made 106 appearances and scored nine goals after joining from Lincoln. He keeps in touch with old Blues team-mates like Mike Jones, Hallam Hope and Danny Grainger and says the latter, now Workington manager, offered Miller the chance of games in the Northern Premier League North West Division.

The 29-year-old wants, though, to remain at a professional level and hopes, in terms of football employment, he can beat the ticking clock – and his inevitable worries. As we speak, his agent has mentioned a possible opportunity with an interested club and Miller desperately hopes this is the one.

“In six months’ time,” he says, “I want to be sitting and saying, ‘Oh, God, remember that time when I was without a club and any income?’ and smiling, because I’m now in a better position.

“Right now, though, it feels a long way away. Some days are better than others but I’m just trying my best. That’s all I can do.”