2020/21 Preview – Accrington Stanley

Host of Express FM’s Football Hour and pundit on Pompey Live, Jake Smith profiles each League One club ahead of the new season

Intro: Accrington Stanley are well known outside of the football community thanks to a 1980s advert involving two young Liverpool fans discussing Ian Rush, who supposedly told one of the boys that if he did not drink his milk, we would only end up being good enough to play for Accrington Stanley who, at the time, played in non-league. “Accrington Stanley, who are they?” becoming the humorous tagline which has been remembered so fondly in British households even to this day.

The club were formed 52 years ago in 1968 after the original Accrington Stanley, created in 1891, went into administration and dissolved in 1966.

Neither of these clubs are officially affiliated with the Accrington side formed in 1878, went on to become one of the 12 founding members of the Football League in 1888, before dissolving in 1896, although fans of the current club hold the history of the previous football teams in Accrington with a sense of pride.

Home Ground: Crown Ground (also known as Wham Stadium for sponsorship purposes), Lancashire, 274 miles (by car) from Fratton Park – Capacity: 5,057

2019/20 Table Position: 17th (League One) – 40 points after 35 games with an average of 1.14 points per-game.

Overall Head-To-Head Record: Accrington Stanley Wins: 3 – Draws: 5 – Portsmouth Wins: 4

Previous Meeting With Pompey: Accrington Stanley 4-1 Portsmouth, 14th December 2019, League One

2020/21 Fixture Dates:

Saturday 2nd January, 2021 – Crown Ground Saturday 8th May, 2021 – Fratton Park

Manager: John Coleman (since 18th September 2014).

The 57-year-old Accy boss has overseen many seasons at the helm of the club, this current reign is his 2nd since he retired from playing 21 years ago.

Coleman was first appointed as manager of Stanley on the 1st of May 1999, having previously spent his first 2 seasons in management as player-coach of Ashton United, where he accrued a respectable win percentage of 58.2.

The Liverpudlian is somewhat of a cult hero at the Crown Ground, having lead Accrington Stanley’s charge up the leagues and back into the professional game.

Coleman was in charge of Accy when they were crowned champions on four separate occasions: Northern Premier League Division One in 2000, the Northern Premier in 2003, the Conference Premier in 2006 and League Two in 2018.

John Coleman has overseen over 900 games as manager of Accrington Stanley, an achievement greatly admired, and rightfully so, across the English game!

One To Watch: Sean McConville – The 31-year-old midfielder is a consistent performer in a Stanley team which lacks a big-name player. He is likely to wear the number 11 shirt this season, if previous campaigns are anything to go by.

McConville first joined the club in 2009 from non-league side Skelmersdale, before jumping ship to Stockport County, whom he nearly signed for before Accrington came knocking, two years and 76 appearances later.

The makeshift winger returned in 2015 having picked up valuable playing experience with the likes of Rochdale, Barrow and Chester in the four years he spent away.

Since re-joining, McConville has netted 42 goals from over 190 games and always seems to cause problems for the Blues when they go up against him, so expect him to do so again in 2020/21.

Signing of the Summer (So Far): Central defender Cameron Burgess joined Accy on a 3-year deal earlier this month, having been released by League Two outfit Scunthorpe United when his contract expired in July.

The 24-year-old spent the majority of last season on loan at league newbies Salford City, where he made 35 appearances and contributed toward a strong EFL Trophy run, helping the Ammies reach a final in which Pompey still await when fans are eventually able to return.

Burgess started his career at Fulham and has experience playing in all three tiers of the English Football League, as well as boasting international appearances for Scotland at Under-19 level before switching allegiances down under, running out for the Australian Under-23s further down the line.

Season Expectation: Having won promotion as champions of League Two in 2018, Accrington have spent their first two seasons in the third tier with the aim of securing their League One status for the following campaign.

Stanley achieved their goal of surviving comfortably on both occasions, last season’s 17th placed finish after points-per-game following on from their 14th position in 2018/19.

Based on the club’s solid debut campaigns in League One, John Coleman’s should be able to mount a push for the top-half, however must not be complacent in doing so, all four teams coming up from League Two this season look strong enough to stake their claim and avoid relegation – we know far too well how easy it can be for a mid-table side in this division to be sucked in to a late relegation battle.

My Predicted Finish: 21st (R)

The Stanley View – Top Half Finish Predicted

Long standing supporter Rob Russell, who has been following Stanley since the North West Counties League days in the 80s, is predicting a top half finish.

Fan expectation is anywhere above relegation. Club ambition will be to consolidate in the top half. However, Coley’s (John Coleman) expectation will be to win the league and a Wembley win thrown in too.

My actual prediction is 12th. A decent run somewhere in the season will raise expectation but ultimately we’ll probably tail off in the last ten (games).” – Rob went on to say.

When discussing Accrington’s 2019/20 finish, Rob emphasised what needs to change in the forthcoming season to avoid a disappointing final finish:

“Too many chances wasted last season cost us. IF our strikers could convert more, we’d have a real chance of upsetting some accas.

“Goalkeeper errors also cost us a few points last time out and whilst *some* are an occupational hazard, most last season were as a result of stupidity.”

The implementation of the salary cap at the start of August became one of the first, and arguably biggest, controversies of the new EFL season, but Rob is not too fazed by the prospect and its effects on his club:

“The salary cap should make us an attractive proposition for some of the guys who would ordinarily have gone elsewhere purely for more cash.

“With us, they would only be in a shop window and playing, if Coleman thinks they’re worth it.”

You can follow Rob on Twitter – @RobRuss92409479

Photo: Daniel Chesterton

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