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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 April 2006, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Accrington complete their fairytale
By Sam Lyon

Accrington Stanley manager John Coleman
Coleman has written himself into Stanley's history books
Accrington Stanley's return to the Football League completes another chapter in one of the most remarkable stories in football.

A tale of highs and lows, unmatched by many others in the sport, reached another astonishing mark when Stanley's 1-0 win at Woking on Saturday confirmed that their 44-year long battle for league football had been won.

It completed a remarkable turn-around for a Lancashire outfit made famous to recent generations for their mention in a 1988 milk advert, but which went out of business in 1962.

Accrington Stanley were formed in 1891 with the name of Stanley Villa, which was later changed to Accrington Stanley in 1893.

They were co-founders of the new Division Three North in 1921 with 13 other clubs.

A few second-place finishes under Walter Gilbraith culminated in a position in the new National Third Division in 1958, but their league stay turned sour all too quickly.

Accrington Stanley's former home Peel Park
Peel Park harbours ghosts of Accrington's past

Gilbraith resigned soon after, crowds dwindled and the club's better players were sold due to huge financial problems that were only deepened with the purchase of a new stand from the Aldershot Tattoo.

In 1960, with the crowd total standing at a low of 925, Stanley were relegated to Division Four and within two years the club had resigned from the league and folded with debts of over 40,000.

"Everybody was devastated. They didn't think it could happen, but it did," current chairman and former Stanley youth player Eric Whalley told BBC Sport.

"People thought that someone would come along and bail them out. It was a big shock and a big story at the time."

However, their brief stay in the League had captured the town's imagination and, in 1968, a group of supporters re-founded Accrington Stanley.

I don't know how we've done it
Stanley chairman Eric Whalley
From there they began their long haul back into the top divisions of the English set-up.

Earning promotion through a variety of leagues, eventually they won the Unibond League in 2003 to win promotion to the Nationwide Conference under long-serving manager John Coleman.

A 10th-place finish last season gave little indication of what was to follow this term, but Coleman soon set about masterminding what Stanley fans and Whalley have yearned for for so long.

A mixed start to the season was followed by a stunning five-month unbeaten spell between October and March that spanned 23 matches and fired Stanley back to the brink of League football.

Now, with three games to spare, they are back in the big-time.

Accrington fans disaplay a "Bouncebackabillity" sign
Accrington fans show what they think of their club's overdue return
"I don't know how we've done it," admitted Whalley. "But you have to believe it. It's a fact, not a fantasy."

And the journey does not stop there, insists Whalley.

"Who knows, in 12 months' time we could be talking about going a bit further," he said.

"We want to get as a high as we can and realistically we can go to Division One."

As Carl Rice asked in that 1988 advert: "Accrington Stanley, who are they?"

Now everyone at the club will proudly state they are the newest member of the Football League.

"Exactly!"




SEE ALSO
Accrington thank milk advert star
09 Mar 06 |  Lancashire
Coleman cautious over promotion
08 Feb 06 |  Accrington Stanley
Accrington stadium plans go ahead
22 Nov 05 |  Accrington Stanley
Stanley's fairytale is not grim
04 Oct 05 |  Accrington Stanley


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