April 13, 2018 / 6:00 PM / 3 months ago

Soccer: From the wilderness, Accrington Stanley on verge of promotion

(Reuters) - Since coming into existence 125 years ago in the heartland of English soccer’s working class, Accrington Stanley’s trophy cabinet has merely gathered dust.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - FA Cup First Round Replay - Accrington Stanley vs Guiseley - Wham Stadium, Accrington, Britain - November 14, 2017 Accrington Stanley's Sean McConville celebrates with team mates after he scores his sides first goal Action Images/Craig Brough/File Photo

Not only have the club won next to nothing of note, they resigned from the Football League in 1962 and were twice wound up before re-emerging in the amateur ranks and having to wait until 2006 to regain their league status.

No wonder the home page on their official website accringtonstanley.co.uk says: 'Accrington Stanley - The club that wouldn't die'

They have never been higher than the fourth tier and have lived almost invisibly in the shadow of nearby clubs such as Blackburn Rovers and Burnley.

But all that will change this weekend if Stanley, named after the pub where the players met in the 19th Century, beat Exeter City at the snug Crown Ground, which is now called the Wham Stadium after the club’s sponsors.

Victory on Saturday will earn Stanley promotion to League One and would go a long way to making sure they do so as champions — which would be their first Football League title.

A party atmosphere is expected at their 5,057-capacity ground where the club’s beer Stanley Pilsner and Accy Lager will be flowing and The Stans will be belting out pre-match classics.

These are heady times for the club whose manager John Coleman must keep his players’ minds focused on the task in hand, especially after the heartache of two years ago when they agonisingly missed out on automatic promotion.

Exeter are in fourth place with a great chance of going up themselves but Stanley are on a roll, having won nine home matches in succession.

"There is pressure on both teams tomorrow, both us and Exeter, and we expect a big crowd who believe they are coming to have a party," Coleman, in charge since 2014 told the club's website accringtonstanley.co.uk on Friday.

“But we have been there before two years ago, although it’s not as sudden death as then with six games left.

“There has been a lot of attention on us but all publicity is good publicity as long as it’s positive and people love a David v Goliath story. The size and structure of us, we will always be seen as the minnows.

“It will be tense, I never enjoy Saturday’s as I just want us to win, but hopefully I will be smiling by the end.”

Coleman knows victory would help wipe away the heartache of two years ago when promotion slipped through their fingers.

“I am still getting over it,” he said. “It was a bitterly disappointing day and the circumstances around it, with us hitting the post in injury time and then Bristol Rovers scoring a late, late goal at Dagenham to go above us and go up.”

The rigours of managing a club on a shoestring budget have not been positive for Coleman’s hair — but should Stanley clinch promotion he might even get a new look, thanks to a local hair transplant company offering him a free treatment.

“I thought it was a joke, but apparently they mean it,” he said. “Not sure what the lads will make of it, mind, if I suddenly go full (Antonio) Conte on them,” he added, referring to the Chelsea manager locks.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - FA Cup First Round Replay - Accrington Stanley vs Guiseley - Wham Stadium, Accrington, Britain - November 14, 2017 Accrington Stanley Manager John Coleman Action Images/Craig Brough/File Photo

Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Ken Ferris

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