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Accrington Stanley: The club that wouldn't die by Phil Whalley

Release date: 16th March, 2007
Publisher: Sports Books Ltd

List Price: £16.99
Our Price: £11.21
You Save: £5.78 (34%)
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How appropriate that as two big-name, big-money, FA Cup replays are on the horizon, we should review a book about Accrington Stanley, one of the few clubs where the entire squad once took a collective pay cut to reimburse the club with the £10,000 lost following an unexpected Cup exit.

This is a heart-warming story of one of the Football League's 12 founder members who were also to become the first club to resign from the League when, in March 1962, the directors thought their financial problems insurmountable. Although the club continued in the Lancashire Combination until 1966, they were finally forced to fold.

Phil Whalley, a long-term fan of the club, has produced what can only be described as the definitive history of football in Accrington, aptly sub-titled, "The club that wouldn't die". For this is a story of a small group of individuals who refused to let the name of Accrington Stanley disappear, re-building a club, a ground and a tradition from scratch until on Saturday, April 15th, 2006 they achieved their dream when they won promotion back to the Football League.

Whalley opens by examining the circumstances surrounding Stanley's exit from the League in 1962. The troubles began following the purchase of the Aldershot Military Tattoo stand in 1958, a bizarre move even in football circles, one which proved to be a massive financial millstone. However, it seems that the club's directors acted in haste when resigning from the League. None of the creditors, most of whom were local suppliers, were banging on the door for their money and financial help for the club was at hand.

When an attempt was made to withdraw the resignation, Football League secretary Alan Hardaker and Burnley chairman Bob Lord conspired to see that there was no way back.

What follows is one of the most astonishing tales in football history. After folding in 1966, a group of enthusiasts got together in 1968 and re-formed the club. They found a piece of land to play on, (still the club's Crown Ground site) and despite a myriad of desperate problems and heartbreaking setbacks, began rebuilding Accrington Stanley.

Quite apart from the task of acquiring a team, the ground itself was constantly beset by drainage problems, which took the best part of two decades to solve. In addition, these pioneers also faced an apathetic town that seemed uninterested at the prospect of hosting a football team again.

Through the Lancashire Combination, Cheshire League, Northern Premier League and Vauxhall Conference, the club rose like a phoenix from the ashes. Whalley is very strong on the machinations of non-league football with constant wheeling and dealing, fund-raising and fall-outs littering the pages.

Against this background came some negative publicity, such as the infamous television commercial for milk in 1989 which many saw this as an affront to the club and the town, although others used it as a powerful marketing tool and a way of fostering an atmosphere of loyalty.
The key figures in Accrington's story have been chairman Eric Whalley and manager John Coleman. They have guided the club through the Unibond Leagues to the Conference and into the Football League. They can be justifiably proud of their achievements. "Accrington Stanley? Who are they?" Even though they're out of the Cup and struggling in the league, theirs is a name that everyone knows.


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