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Non League Football Under The Microscope

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Eastbourne Borough fans celebrate - August Bank Holiday Monday 2003                                Photograph by Sam Hicks

Accrington Stanley FC

Fraser Eagle Stadium, Livingstone Road, Accrington, Lancashire, BB5 5BX
Telephone: 01254 356950
Nickname: Stanley
Conference National champions 2005/06 - promoted to Football League Two

Note   The present Accrington Stanley FC was formed in 1968, although the name itself is over 100 years old. The 'Old Stanley' resigned from the Football League in 1962 and carried on until 1965 in the Lancashire Combination. However, the following year the old club, based at Peel Park since 1921 folded.  The site of the old ground is now adjacent to a primary school close by and the wall of the old changing room building still stands. There is also a rather nice painted mural commemorating the ground, the remnants of which were largely destroyed by a fire in 1972.

Fortunately there were sufficient people in the town who were determined that the club’s name would not die and who worked hard to fill the void caused by its demise. Their efforts bore fruit when, following a meeting at Bold Street Working Men's Club, the new Stanley was born. Yet this was just the start of years of hard work, and it was two years before the Club even began to play Competitive football at their present home - originally The Crown Ground, now The Interlink Express Stadium.

At that time the Crown Ground was pretty basic, and described by Kerry Miller as a “rough and ready place”, with wooden fencing enclosing it and a small cricket-style pavilion in use as a changing room and clubhouse. It had been built on the site of an old clay pit and used by the Ewbanks works team. A covered area was added down one side and another a few years later on the Brickyard side.

On the formation of the North West Counties League in 1982 Stanley were elected to Division One and in preparation spent almost £40,000 on the pitch, which the previous season had caused them to play several home games away from the Crown Ground. The pavilion was demolished and a new seated stand erected in 1989.

By the mid-1990s former manager Eric Whalley had obtained a controlling interest in the club and with his appointment as Chairman came the start of a new era. Ground improvements had been virtually nil for several seasons but the new Chairman immediately instigated development plans. By early in the 1995/96 season £50,000 of new terracing had been built as well as a new boardroom and medical room.

Since then work on the ground has continued apace with a new toilet block being built as well as an attractive cantilever new stand (sponsored by John Smith’s Brewery) with attractive metalwork along the length of its roof. This replaced the 1989 version and another area of cover, both of which unusually sat at an angle at either end of the pitch, whilst the dugouts were also to one side of the half-way line. The new stand increased the capacity to 1,000 seats and incorporates offices, club shop, sponsors’ lounge ... and the dugouts.

Along most of the other side of the ground is the old ‘chicken run’ type cover with the obligatory television gantry for Conference TV coverage in the middle. Both ends of the ground were uncovered at the time of my visit (September 2005) although there are evidently plans to address this, at least at one (probably the ‘home’) end, and development of an All-Weather Training Facility for the community. DB

NB. Part of the above adapted from Philip Terry’s club history on the offical Stanley website