Who Are These Jobbers?
Well here it is, ladies and gentlemen, a league fixture against Accrington Stanley - and, oh boy, aren’t people excited about it. Yer da has been pacing up and down the living room for days hoping that his Twitter message to Stewart Donald has finally yielded a ticket for an open air terrace at the Wham (WHAM!) Stadium.
And he’s got a new catchphrase that he won’t stop saying - “Accrington Stanley, who are they? Exactly!” He keeps nudging you and laughing at his own jokes... he remembers the 1980s, you see.
This is, of course, a league fixture against a side that for the majority of their existence was only known to nation for being bodied by an advert for milk. As a young Carl Rice pulled his nose at the notion of drinking milk, fellow child actor Kevin Staine reminds him that Ian Rush drinks and should he not slurp a load of milk he will only ever be good enough to play for Accrington Stanley.
Rice, in that shrill Scouse tone that has echoed through ages, responds in a horrified manner as he retorts: “Accrington Stanley, who are they?”
“Exactly,” Staine responds.
There they were, little old Accy Stanley, punchline of a nation. However, the good people of Accrington have taken this in good spirits and wore it as a badge of honour. Such was the notoriety Black Cow Vodka (nah, I don’t know either, apparently Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall likes it) attempted to re-make the original ad frame-for-frame before it was banned.
The rise of Accrington Stanley has been nothing short of incredible considering both the size of the club, resources and surrounded by the larger beasts of Burnley and Blackburn Rovers. Reforming in the late-1960s, ‘The Club The Wouldn’t Die’ have soared from meeting at Working Men’s Clubs to playing our sorry selves in the third tier.
A lot of this success has been down to the downright insane managerial feats of John Coleman, who within his first 13-year stint at the club took them from the second tier of the Northern Premier League to League Two in just six years. He return in 2014 and guided Stanley to League One in 2018.
Last season’s promotion campaign defied even the wildest expectations of supporters and the affable owner Andy Holt, who took over from club stalwart Eric Whalley in 2015. Powered by McDonald’s and a community spirit that has united this diminutive town, Stanley’s story is one that can tug at the heartstrings.
So yeah, take that, the Milk Marketing Board circa 1980.
What’s The Ground Like?
It is a well known fact that when George Michael passed away, it was written into his will that he wanted his legacy to live on in the form of stadium sponsorship for Accrington Stanley. And thus, the Wham Stadium will forever be a shrine to Gorgeous George and those sultry vocal chords that could soothe even the most savage beast.
Originally named the Crown Ground it has also adorned the name of defunct coach company Fraser Eagle and courier service Interlink Express however, as we gave our hearts to Michael many Christmases ago, his will forever be at the Wham Stadium.
Stanley’s home since reforming in 1968, it is second smallest ground in League One (behind AFC Wimbledon) and only recently set its record attendance when 4,801 packed in to see Barnsley’s 2-0 win in November. Despite Stanley’s chairman attempting to give Sunderland fans more tickets than the home side, it is still hoped the record will be broken on Saturday.
Our lot will be housed in both the roofless Coppice Terrace and the shiny new Eric Whalley Stand, so enjoy the Heavens opening at precisely 3pm and lasting until 4.55pm on Saturday afternoon.
How Do I Get There?
“How do you get to the WHAM! Stadium?” I hear you ask in your excitable tone. I shall tell you, you little scamp. If you’re putting the pedal to the metal and driving to Lancashire then take the A19 down to Thirsk where you join the A168. Follow this until junction 49 where you exit for Dishforth Road following the signs to Ripon. At the junction take the exit for the A61 before moving onto the A59 at Harrogate.
On your way you’ll pass the delightful settlements of Skipton and Clitheroe before taking the A671 and descend into Accrington. Follow the signs for the Crown Ground and you’ll find the stadium. There is a small car park at the ground but your best option is finding a lovely spot of street parking.
Planning on getting lost, again? Pound BB5 5BX into your sat nav.
For what will now be the 39th time this year, there is a strike on Northern Rail services meaning Accrington is completely inaccessible by rail. There are a couple of alternatives, one is catching a train to Preston and then getting a taxi the rest of the way.
You can also get a train to Manchester and then hop on the X41 bus which goes direct to Accrington from Chorlton Street bus station. Services are every 30 minutes with a return fare costing £10. And because I’m such a top lad, I’ll even give you the timetable here.
A Love Supreme buses leave the Stadium of Light at 9am with return fares priced at £25. Book your place here.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
Regular readers of this column (I appreciate the pair of you, so much... you are the real heroes here) will be well aware of my burning desire to get relegated far enough to be able to drink in the social club of our opposition prior to a league match. While it is not quite The Jocky Wilson Suite, Accrington have got something that may resemble Family Fun Day at the Phoenix Club.
Yes, supporters feeling a little parched before the big game can head to the Stanley Redz Bar FanZone Marquee outside the ground. Accrington really are raising the bar in terms of pre-match entertainment with pints from just £2, live band The Beerkats and Ruff Trade Reggae rocking the goddamn house, a burger van, vodka and gin bar and so much more.
It is even open until 7.30pm after the match and has something called Winners Hour where pints drop to just £1. It stresses that this is dependent on result so if you’re a fan of quid pints you’ll want a firm hard bodying off the Stanley boys.
If you prefer your pub with a roof (ooh la di da) there are plenty of pubs in Accrington to take your fancy. Directly outside the stadium is The Crown on Whalley Road but should you find yourself in the town centre there are numerous options. Arden Inn on Abbey Street does git loads of real ale, a little further up the road is The Queens Hotel on Eastgate while The Peel Park Hotel on Turkey Street is a charming CAMRA pub close to the site of Stanley’s former ground.
Are you reprobate looking for something even cheaper than £2 a pint? Wetherspoons is on Church Street.
I’m Staying Owa, Is There Owt To Do?
Right former milltown Accrington, what you got for some handsome footballer supporters with a little time on their hands on December weekend? Turns out not much. However, the home of textiles once upon is surrounded by some pretty tasty countryside.
Embark on the Accrington Acorn Trail and explore this goddamn delightful panoramic of Lancashire hills and meadows. That not doing it for you? Well, you can visit Accrington Town Hall which has been here since 1858 and was built during the height of Accrington’s booming textile business.
Do a bit of Christmas shopping at the bustling Arndale Shopping Centre or get deep into some farmer’s market action at the 19th century Victoria Market Hall. Simply hours upon hours of carefree fun.