For the benefit of at least several readers, let us offer a tale of much admir’d adversaries: Accrington Stanley. Not for the first time in recent seasons, they are punching well above their weight in League Two. It’s got to a point it’s likely we have now seen the last of them for one term; maybe even more. You might be sitting there, however, thinking that’s no bad thing. But we don’t know what you’re thinking. And we’d rather not know.
Accrington Stanley: Who Are They? (Not an intentional gag… Ed.)
The Club That Wouldn’t Die (TM) is the town’s third football club. First came Accrington FC in 1878; a founder member of the Football League and a true trailblazer in naming terms. That club went under in 1898, quitting the League in a strop five years before that because they didn’t want to play in the Second Division. They did have a change of heart after one season in the Lancashire League. Their re-election bid was not successful.
The ‘second’ club was already in existence by the time Accrington FC succumbed to money problems. Stanley Villa was the name and had been around since 1891. With the name ‘Accrington’ now unclaimed, Stanley took the town name for themselves. It took around 25 years and two Lancashire Combination titles, but the town’s place in the Football League was restored in 1921 as founder members of Division Three North.
In the mid-1950s, *that* Accy got into their stride; finishing second, third, second and third again in Div Three North. Promotion eluded them, however. From runners-up in 1958 to 19th in 1959 and bottom the year later; money problems started to mount and – in March ’62 – the ‘Owd Reds found themselves quitting the League. For three more years, the club continued in the Lancashire Combination but couldn’t see out the fourth.
Us And Them…
And so we come to this Accrington Stanley, formed in 1968. Joining the Lancashire Combination in 1970, the club rose up through the non-league pyramid over the next three decades. By 2003, they had made it up too the Conference; narrowly missing out on the 100 goals/100 points double in their Northern Premier League title-winning campaign. Now, they were within one single promotion of a “return” to the Football League.
In both of their first two seasons in the Conference, Stanley finished 10th. And in both of these two seasons, us and them traded wins. We each won 2-1 to start with, before it all went golazo that second season; 5-0 to Boro’ and 1-4 to them. The third? Well, we won 3-1 indoors and took a point from their gaff. A four-point loot was no mean feat given that Accrington were on their way to winning the Conference title by 11 points.
It had taken them just three terms to pass up through the Conference; not the first to conquer the summit of non-league football in a short space of time. And not the first to irritate us by finding it so simple. It took five more years before we caught up with them, with Accy finding their feet in the League all the while. They recorded finishes of 20th, 17th, 16th and 15th between them winning the Conference and, er, us winning it.
And Then What?
Our first season in League Two was their first breaking out of the shackles of the bottom half. All you need to know is that we gatecrashed the 2010-1 playoffs on the last day, setting up two extra games with our friends in the north. And we were decent over the two legs, keeping our heads as Accrington lost theirs in the second leg. This time, it would be us not hanging around as we leapt ahead of them into League One.
So came another hiatus in relations; three years the gap until our relegation made our stars align again. Since then, we’ve played eight and lost twice. Annoyingly, both defeats have been in our last three encounters. But we did get a 0-0 draw at theirs on the final day of the 2015-6 season. It stopped them going up automatically, with AFC Wimbledon doing for ’em in the playoffs. We’re not sure they’ve forgiven us. We’re not sure we care.
One thing seems certain this time. Accrington will have their moment in the sun at the end of this campaign.
Accrington Stanley: Boro’s Record
P18 W8 D5 L5 F29 A24 – League Points: 23, Cup Meetings: 0, Win Rate: 44%
• BoroGuide’s Accrington Stanley club profile – for old time’s sake…