A HEAD of the 2005-06 season, John Coleman feared his side could be heading for relegation – instead they won the Conference!
A pair of tenth-placed finishes in the reformed club’s first two seasons in Non-League’s top tier hardly suggested Stanley would struggle.
But Coleman witnessed ominous signs on a pre-season trip to Scotland.
“I was really worried,” recalled the 57-year-old Liverpudlian when The NLP asked him about his memories of what turned out to be a momentous campaign.
“That summer we went to Scotland on tour. We didn’t play well against East Fife and I think it was Partick Thistle.
“We finished off with a game against Dundonald Bluebell. We won 2-1, but we were awful on the day – we struggled like mad. I had a crisis meeting with my assistant Jimmy Bell and coach Paul Cook – on that form we were going to get relegated.
“We then won our first two league games 1-0, but didn’t play well. Our keeper Stuart Jones retired through injury and we had a massive problem.”
Then came a moment of fortune that Coleman believes helped massively – the arrival of talented young goalkeeper Darren Randolph, on loan from Charlton.
“I was hunting away – I’d spent two days on the phone and we were getting faxes in those days as well. I’d get a handful of them in the morning to have a look at.
“Darren’s name came up, but we were told he was away with the Republic of Ireland U21s. It was a punt, but we said he could fly in to Liverpool on the Saturday morning and play for us in the afternoon.
“I agreed to pick him up at the airport and only had a grainy picture of him to go on. I thought ‘if he’s 5ft 9, I’m going to walk straight past him at the airport and leave him there!’.
“He played that afternoon and was a fantastic signing. He gave us such a lift and we seemed to have a real boost in confidence from there.”
After Randolph, now at West Ham, had notched up 14 appearances, of which Accrington won ten, in three months, there came a bombshell at the end of November.
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