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Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
Accrington rise from ashes
Accrington Stanley's former ground at Peel Park
Peel Park was one of the first grounds with floodlights
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By John Sinnott
BBC Sport Online

As the implications of the ITV Digitial crisis begin to be digested, those Football League clubs in danger of going out business can take heart from the story of Accrington Stanley.

The original Accrington Football Club were one of the 12 founder members of the Football League in 1888 but folded and left the league in 1893.

People were crying on street corners and they were devastated.
Accrington Stanley chairman Eric Whalley

Accrington Stanley became the senior club in the town and when the Third Division North was formed in 1921, football returned to Accrington.

Yet not all that successfully as - geographically sandwiched between Burnley and Blackburn - Stanley frequently had to apply for re-election.

It it was unable able to compete with its more illustrious neighbours, but the club still had it moments.

In the 1950s it was one of the first clubs to play under floodlights and under its Scottish manager William Galbraith, Stanley also achieved notoriety when they fielded 11 Scots in a league game.

But with gates dwindling and debts mounting Stanley eventually resigned from the Football League in March 1962.

Southampton striker Brett Ormerod
Brett Ormerod is a former Stanley player

The reserve team continued to play in the Lancashire combination league, but it was only thanks to the initiative of a former mayor of the town - Bill Parkinson - that the club was officially reformed in 1968.

Notoriety was again briefly regained in the 1980s through a milk advert featuring Ian Rush, but on the whole in the intervening years the club has kept a low profile.

That profile could be about to become much higher.

The former Football League club has fought its way to the top half of the UniBond Premier League and Stanley have also just won two cup finals.

In the last fortnight, Barrow have been beaten in the Lancashire Cup as were Bradford Park Avenue in the UniBond League Cup.

Along with Aldershot and Newport County, Bradford Park Avenue was another club to have dropped out of the Football League.

Australian wine

Club chairman Eric Whalley, who played for Stanley's A team in the late 1950s and was also a manager, now hopes to guide them back to the Football League.

The club's home is no longer Peel Park - now a derelict playing field - but Crown Park, which has 1,200 seats and a capacity of over 6,000.

The tidy stadium already meets Conference requirements and is close to meeting Football League regulations.

Whalley, whose budget runs to 100,000 a season, says the club have a chance of winning promotion to the Conference next season.

He bought the club eight years ago for a six-figure sum - "I can't tell you how much for as my wife would go beserk" - and now runs Stanley as a going concern.

Former Burnley chairman Bob Lord
Bob Lord helped to seal Accrington's fate

But he is not Stanley's sugar daddy.

"The business costs me nothing. We have a full-time lottery business and we sell merchanise to fans all over the world.

"We sell everything that Manchester United would sell just on a smaller scale. We've got pens, shirts. jester hats, flags, slippers even best red and white Australian wine."

Last year, former Stanley striker Brett Ormerod moved from Blackpool to Southampton for 1.75m, which secured the non-league club more than 200,000 via a sell-on clause.

Rock bottom

Yet Whalley can still vividly remember the effect Stanley dropping out of the Football League ago had on the local community.

"It was one of those scenarios where nobody thought it would happen. It was only for a measly sum of 40,000.

"Even though the club tried to rescind the letter of resignation after a group of businessman got the money together the Fooball League wouldn't let us."

The then Football League chairman was Bob Lord, who was also Burnley's then chairman.

"People were crying on street corners and they were devastated," says Whalley. "We still have die-hards from that time who come and watch us now."

The club historian Terry Slinger, who was 19 back in 1962, was one of those supporters who attended the final game against Crewe.

"For me it was my home club, but it was also somewhere to go on a Saturday afternoon.

"The football club was and is very important to the area. It put Accrington on the map. Everyone has heard of Accrington Stanley."

"It is fanastic to experience something starting from rock bottom. It makes you want to do things and I have now been involved with the club since 1970."

"After the club resigned I went to watch Burnley for a couple of years but it wasn't the same."

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