Two Big Cup Dates For Accrington Stanley
Returning to the Football League hasn't quite been the exciting adventure that Accrington Stanley fans might have expected when the Lancashire club topped the Conference by a distance in 2005/06.
There's been an ugly betting scandal involving some players, crowds that have rarely reached the break even figure and finishing positions in League Two of 20th, 17th amd 17th. A few weeks ago the club almost went bust again.
Much had changed in the 42 years that Stanley were outside the Football League. Already a relatively small borough (only 36,000 live in the town ), the club suffered because in the intervening years so many football fans had become drawn to the glamour of the Premiership.
Blackburn is just down the road and it is only just over 20 miles to Manchester. It's been no easy task persuading the youth of the Hyndburn area that they should switch allegiance to a struggling League Two side. The recession has put many off the idea of watching a Premiership club and Accrington in alternate weeks.
For the moment the financial crisis has been staved off- partly thanks to neighbours Burnley who generously played a friendly to raise funds.
It's still a precarious existence though but help could be at hand from a traditional source for lower division clubs. Stanley are involved in two cups which might offer the potential for life-saving cash.
This weekend the club have a home FA Cup tie with Barnet whch could get them through to the Third Round and a chance to draw a plum tie with a really big club. The revived Accrington Stanley have only reached that stage once since they began competing in the FA Cup again in 1971/72.
Two weeeks later Stanley play in the last eight of the Johnstones Paint Trophy. An away tie at high-flying Leeds United is about as tough a draw as possible but after three excellent wins over Oldham Athletic, Shrewsbury Town and Bury, the Stanley players can enjoy the experience.
The Barnet game offers more chance of success and most Accrington fans would settle for beating their visitors from the south; but the Leeds game will attract a decent crowd and there is the hope that the Johnstones Trophy might not be high on Leeds' priorties.
Accrington deserve some good fortune becuse a lot of people worked very hard to get them back to League status and they do have a very loyal, if modest fan base; plus, manager John Coleman believes in playing a measured passing game .Quite a few neutrals will be wishing Accrington well in these two encounters.