At the beginning of the season, Accrington Stanley were not in the mentions for promotion, more likely to struggle to survive in League Two.
A club run on the joint lowest budget in the Football League, Stanley fans probably would have expected a mid to top half finish in the table given the improvement the club has made in the past few seasons. At the turn of the year they were 66-1 to win promotion.
But here is proof that footballing miracles do still happen.
With one game of the 2017/18 season to play, Stanley have defied more than footballing odds to win League Two and gain promotion to League One for the first time in their history and it doesn’t show signs of stopping there.
There are much bigger in name and support than Stanley in this division, namely Luton, Coventry and Swindon and this tiny Lancashire club has blown them all away.
They can’t quite hit the 100-point mark which would represent another marvellous milestone, but with a current six-point gap to Luton, Stanley fans will revel in this season’s efforts for a while to come.
Nearly 5000 crammed into the Wham Stadium to see their team clinch the title with a game to spare, a club very much emerging from the shadows of their illustrious neighbours Burnley and Blackburn.
The league table however doesn’t lie, and Stanley are worthy champions of this division. With a remarkable 17 wins from 21 games since New Year’s Day, Stanley have blown away nearly all before them, some by 4 goals, some by a single goal, but no one can deny they are the team of the season.
Billy Kee has rightly received lot of plaudits for his goal-scoring ability, 25 goals to his name so far this season, taken under the wing of manager John Coleman after his release by Leicester City.
His admission part way through this season that he suffers from anxiety and depression brought him warmth and support from the footballing world, brave enough to admit he has problems away from the game and something easily swept under the carpet in such a ‘macho’ world.
Coleman is in his second spell as Stanley manager and whilst winning promotion to the Football League back in 2006, this will be no doubt supersede that.
Having left the club in 2012 for Rochdale then in League One Coleman now has the chance to establish his side in that same division and it will be interesting to see if the budget will be increased for the club to be able to compete at that level.
Stanley will expect to be installed as the bookies favourites to go straight back down and they will delight in trying to prove everyone wrong.
With Blackburn looking well placed for promotion themselves and Burnley looking set for a return to European football, Lancashire can pat itself on the back for its footballing success of 2017/18, can 2018/19 see Stanley emulating the likes of Burton Albion or Yeovil Town and head for the Championship?
Time will tell………………
Written by Trevor Knell
Follow Trevor on Twitter @trevk37
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