The current Accrington Stanley FC are the second club to carry this famous name from the textile town in East Lancashire. The legend starts way back when the original club of Accrington FC were formed following a meeting in a local public house in 1876.
'The Owd Reds' played at Thorneyholme Road, the home of Accrington Cricket Club and became one of the twelve founder members of the Football League in 1888. In their third season they finished sixth in the table, but their spell didn't last long. They were relegated in 1893 and rather than play in the League's Second Division, they resigned and played non league football. Financial troubles hit the club as they continued, but in 1896 the club folded after a 12-0 defeat to Darwen in the Lancashire Cup.
A team called Stanley Villa, because they were based at the Stanley Arms pub in Stanley Street, changed their name to Accrington Stanley in 1896 and joined the Lancashire Combination. They reformed in 1921 and joined the Football League's new Division Three North, playing home games at Peel Park.
Stanley finished runners up in that division on a couple of occasions in 50's, but only one side were promoted to the second tier at that time. Persistent financial troubles were a constant around this time and were not helped by the building of a new Burnley Road Stand in 1960. On 12 February 1962 Edwin Slinger, the chairman resigned from his post as he revealed the club owed up to £8,000. He persuaded the other directors to also resign as he worked to get the Burnley chairman Bob Lord involved in buying their shares and saving the club.
Peel Park in 2011 above
Stanley lost 4-0 away to Crewe Alexandra on 2nd March 1962 and a couple of days later it was revealed that the club also had a further £40,000 of unsecured creditors. Lord and Sam Pilkington, a driving force of the club, decided enough was enough so they tendered the clubs' resignation to the Football League. Their secretary Alan Hardaker accepted so Stanley left the League on 11th March with their results expunged.
Stanley continued at Peel Park for four seasons in the Lancashire Combination before they called it a day with dwindling attendances and large debts.
In 1968 a meeting at the town library led by Stanley Wotherington began the revival and the rebirth of Stanley. By 1970 they had found a new home, The Crown Ground on Whalley Road behind The Crown pub with their first match against Formby saw 620 fans attending in the Lancashire Combination. A few games were played at Peel Park, owing to the poor pitch at The Crown, but a full time return was not to be.
In 1982 Stanley became founder members of the North West Counties League as a sizeable amount of money was spent on their pitch. Around this time the club found fame through a Milk Marketing Board advert. To view it, click below:
In 1985 floodlights were installed as the club moved into the newly formed second tier of the Northern Premier League. By 1991 they were in the Premier Division following the resignation of South Liverpool as attendances grew.
In 1994 Eric Whalley who had a previous spell at Stanley, returned first as team boss and then general manager to move the club forward. The ground was continually improved and in 1997 Stanley received a huge boost with the transfer of Brett Ormerod to Blackpool for £50,000. After a few managers tried to push Stanley on to the next level, Liverpudlian school teacher John Coleman was appointed after they suffered their first ever relegation.
Coleman succeeded in his first season and began to introduce many youngsters into the side as crowds continued to improve along with the development of the Crown Ground. In 2003 they lifted the Northern Premier League title to join the Football Conference. In their first season they reached the FA Cup third round before going down to Colchester United after a replay. The team consolidated in the league until the 2005-06 season saw Stanley run away with the championship, with League football returning to the town after a gap of forty four years.
On its return to the League there were some memorable occasions for the club such as defeating Nottingham Forest at the Crown Ground in the League Cup, but generally the team struggled initially. Coleman's side gradually found their feet with more youngsters getting their opportunity, some of which had been released from larger clubs and some coming through the clubs' youth system.
Stanley were defeated in the 2010-11 play off semi finals by Stevenage Borough. In January the following season Coleman left the club as more promising players were sold to make ends meet. Paul Cook and then Leam Richardson had spells in charge of team affairs, before James Beattie took over in the summer of 2013.
Accrington Stanley FC will compete in Football League Two in the season 2013-14.
Accrington Stanley 1 Rotherham United 1 (Tuesday 13th September 2011) Football League Two (att: 1,486)
I had a couple of days off work after my night shifts so I decided to plan an expedition away from London. After checking out the fixture list and the cost of trains and hotels I plumped to head to East Lancashire. The plan was to go to watch Stanley, visit clubs in the area during the day on Wednesday and then find a game that evening, with Manchester City v Napoli my preferred choice.
I arrived in Accrington around 5.30pm after changing trains from London at Preston and set out to see some of the town. I was staying in Burnley that evening, but rather than book in first and return to the game, I wanted to visit the site of Peel Park in daylight. It quickly became obvious that the town centre was in a dip as I climbed through the many similar terraced streets, including Stanley Street where I went past the Stanley Working Men's Club. A few minutes later I was in Turkey Street behind where the Main Stand once stood.
It was a wierd feeling, despite there being no real evidence that there was ever a decent sized stadium there, although the shape remained. A pitch was marked out so the signs were it still got used on occasions. I retired to the Peel Park Hotel for a top class pint of Tetley's and enjoyed a warm welcome and the assorted sporting memoribilia adorning the walls. The locals were in full conversation about the issues of the day in that lovely rich local dialect.
I set off to find the Crown Ground using my pre printed map. En route I came across a sign for Accrington Cricket Club, the home of David 'Bumble' Lloyd and where Shane Warne was a young club professional once upon a time. I went down the path at the end of Thorneyholme Road for a quick look and to take a couple of photos.
I continued through the post war housing estate and soon found myself on Livingstone Road by the stadium entrance, just as a coach full of Rotherham fans and their team coach arrived. I bought a programme from the young seller who asked me as to the form of The Millers. I explained I was a Scarborough Athletic fan there to watch Stanley. He seemed overjoyed at the news and hoped I enjoyed the game. It's little things such as this that make the day out that bit more special and more was to come.
Some steps behind the stand led up to the clubs' own pub, The Crown. I was aware in advance that they didn't have handpumps on, but I made do with Newcastle Brown. It was a smashing pub with plentiful helpful staff and lots of seating, plus the football club got the money. Even better, it served warm pies! I programme from a 1949 clash between Hull City and Stanley at Boothferry Park caught my eye, along with lots of other Stanley mementos. Pennants and scarves of some visiting clubs were also on display.
I got chatting to some knowledgeable away fans about all manner of the game and then some very dry local gents who were a comedy show waiting to happen in between passing on their views of the club.
I went past the programme seller who said hello once again and paid my £16 for the home end. The Crown Ground was not the greatest venue ever to stage League football, but has obviously been built when finances have allowed. I was in the Walley Road or Sophia Kahn Stand. This was originally an open terrace before a roof was added, and then seats at the front to meet regulations. Tpo the right there's the main seating, which looks like one stand but is actually two (the Main and Thwaites Stands), with a roof joining them. The seats are cleverly angled to give patrons the best possible view. The away fans were on the far open Coppice Terrace with the players entrance in the corner. The final side was the narrow Whinney Hill Stand, which also had seats fitted to comply with League standards, with open terracing either side.
Rotherham looked the better side throughout the first half without finding a breakthrough. The bloke in front of me was nearly bursting with his constant advice of "make a tackle McIntyre" aimed at the nervy Stanley full back, and "you are a clown liner" towards the near side linesman or assistant referee as they became ludicrously titled. Everyone gave 100% support to their side in my section. Men, women and children gave it their all. A drummer banged away constantly with the singers around him attempted to raise their troops.
Just before half time United took the lead when skipper Ryan Cresswell headed home unmarked from a corner. I decided to beat the rush and enjoyed a 'meat n tatie pie and a bovril as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina's continued to whirl around the hills.
Rotherham continued to boss but gradually the tide changed. Roared on attacking our end Stanley, with their mix of loanees, free transfers and kids iled forward. They got more and more of the ball and began to pressurise the defenders. I had to laugh when a bloke beside me gave the 'liner' and all the opposition players real hell in a rich local accent. I turned to see a man I would have marked down as Indian!
The home side got a free kick about twenty five yards out with seven minutes remaining. Veteran Sean Hessey got permission to take the kick quickly from the referee and while Rotherham were lining up a wall and generally wasting time the ball was plonked into the bottom corner of the net, much to the annoyance and protests of the South Yorkshiremen.
Stanley continued top press but couldn't find a winner, while United also missed a late sitter. A draw was just about the right result.
I walked back down into town in time for the 10pm train to Burnley Central where I checked into the low budget but friendly Keirby Park Hotel and enjoy a couple of pints in The Boot to read the programme and reflect on my visit.
I have heard and read of football fans who have no time for Stanley. They claim they've pinched a history that isn't there's and get by with a romantic notion about themselves. They say they shouldn't be allowed in the League with their ground and lack of finances, and that the loyal John Coleman's teams are a bunch of cloggers who play horrible football. Well I must disagree vehemently.
Fans maketh a football club. There are still fans at The Crown who were at Peel Park. They kept the flame alive in the same way fans of Scarborough Athletic, AFC Wimbledon, Berkhamsted and many more clubs fans continued to promote football in their respective towns. It's how the fans feel that matters and not someone with no connection with the club. Stanley fans are some of the friendliest, loyalist and most partisan I've ever come across. It's just there's not many of them, but who knows in time? Maybe if Blackburn or Burnley have slumps, the locals, especially the touth of tomorrow will choose their local club?
The Crown was no Old Trafford, but it met every criteria demanded by the Football League and
John Coleman consistently continued to produce a competitive team on a ridiculously low budget, giving many youngsters a further opportunity to move to bigger clubs and progress.
Good luck to Accrington Stanley and all of its supporters. I had a lovely time and wish them well.