Here we are, talking to an Accrington Stanley fan - finding out about their club, discovering what they’re all about. If only there was an obvious, cliched way to begin this article.
So who are Accrington Stanley? They’re a club currently riding the momentum of promotion last season, a promotion which was fuelled by their chairman buying the players a McDonalds after they won a game. John Coleman resides in the dugout at Stanley, a seat he’s held for over four years.
Most importantly, though, they play at the delightfully compact Crown Ground (or WHAM Stadium, as it’s officially called) - a stadium that has stands with no roofs, lots of terracing and only holds five thousand fans. Saturday’s crowd is set to be a record one, as Sunderland roll into town.
To get up to date with this weekend’s opposition, we caught up with Josh Cook from Accrington Stanley fanzine Raw Milk.
RR: A McDonalds-powered promotion last season and going well in League One as we end 2018 - life must be pretty good at Accrington right now! How do you see this season playing out though and what, in your mind, would represent a good campaign for you?
JC: Life certainly is good! Winning games on the regular last year was quite a strange feeling for me. One that I hadn’t been used to since we were in the conference a decade ago.
There’s been a proper buzz around the place which has been great. New faces, better facilities, better football and not really losing any of Accy’s character. That’s what’s key for me. Keep it a hard place for teams to come and play, whilst giving it a lick of paint. How many times do you go to a new ground and think: ‘this is sh**e’ (Burton, I’m talking to you). Stanley still feels like a proper ground.
We’re in a bit of a barren spell and the good start to the season may have been us riding the crest of a wave so just to consolidate our position and stay in the league would be great for me.
RR: Your owner Andy Holt seems very open, genuine and has time for everyone (ed’s note - he even appeared on our preview Podcast this week!). Given that he’s got the club pushing for the Championship, I’m guessing he’s a pretty popular figure, but what else can you tell us about him? Is he just 100% popular or are there issues that those of us who don’t follow Accrington may not be aware of?
JC: He’s always there to speak to after the games should you wish to do so. It all seems hunky dory from a fans point of view but we know how that can change in a very short space of time in football.
There’s a training ground been promised in the future and he’s very community driven so he’s ticking all the boxes for now. You’ll have seen he’s a bit vocal on twitter which is not to a few people’s taste, but all in all it’s great to have him.
RR: It will be a sell out crowd on Saturday as well, with Sunderland bringing a big following and I’ve read it could be a record crowd! What kind of atmosphere can we expect and why do you think this game has piqued so many peoples interest?
JC: It will be a record for the Crown Ground. The people of Accrington have shown a little more interest in their club over the last three years or so and we’ve seen bumper crowds towards the end of last season. I know a lot of Burnley and Blackburn fans missing their fixtures this weekend to come and support Stanley which tends to be the case in games that feel like an occasion.
The fixture’s got people excited because it’s a culmination of the clubs hard work recently against a side who were in the Premier League up until last year. Like most of League One, we were all looking for you when the fixtures got released.
RR: Looking at the game, who should Sunderland be worried about in the Stanley squad? Anyone in a good run of form at the moment?
JC: Sean McConville has been our player of the season so far but has had a quiet month (as all the players have in all honesty). Keep an eye on Jordan Clark cutting in on the other wing, that’s a trusted tool of his and he’s seen the rewards a few times already this season.
As always, Billy Kee can produce a moment of magic if he gets any space on the edge of the box. We’ve seen him marked out of games a lot this campaign though, so if you have big lads at the back he might not get a sniff. Keep an eye on Dan Barlaser in the midfield too, he’s on loan from Newcastle so I expect he’ll be up for it.
RR: And in the Sunderland squad? Anyone in particular you’ll be keeping an eye on?
JC: Aiden Mgeady is on my radar, I think he’s class.
RR: How will manager John Coleman approach the game? How does he usually set up for games like this?
JC: John will be wary of what you can do to us. I expect we’ll try and get an early goal and manage the game from there.
We press high for 20 and then drop back a bit if we don’t get the breakthrough and invite teams on to us.
RR: Finally, can we have a score prediction please?
JC: I’ll take 1-0 Stanley please.
All the best for the rest of the year, chaps.