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When you look at the League Two table, there’s a familiar look beginning to take shape at the top.
Well supported clubs, big names sometimes still living on past glories, but look again. Sandwiched in the top 8 and going along very nicely are Accrington Stanley.
‘Accrington Stanley? Who are they?’
The infamous line from the milk advert is what most people would associate with this Lancashire outfit, and despite being overshadowed by near neighbours Blackburn Rovers and Burnley, Stanley are emerging once again.
Football League members in a former guise until 1962, a re-formed Stanley have taken a slow but steady route back to the promised land.
Stanley have a proud history that propelled them through the leagues to where they are now, but they are one of the worst supported teams in the league which means income must come from elsewhere to sustain a Football League club.
Only Morecambe average less for a home attendance showing Stanley are really punching way above their weight.
The Coleman effect
But how do you compete against those with a bigger fan base and deeper coffers? You can point to manager John Coleman and the success he has keeping Stanley competitive.
Now in his second spell at the Crown Ground, Coleman is a wily competitor and certainly sets his teams up to get the best out of them.
Stanley obviously can’t afford the big wages nor relocation packages so the scouting network must be set to pick up those discarded by the bigger clubs, unearthing the gems to be picked up in the non-league game or those who the fit the lower league profile of not expensive in terms of wages or a transfer fee.
Kee is one of those shrewd signings
Fitting into that category is striker Billy Kee.
Signed permanently in 2015 after a few years of bouncing around Leagues One and Two and a previous season on loan at the Crown Ground, Kee averages around a goal every 3 games and typifies the kind of player Stanley need to maintain their League status, gritty, hardworking, but one who knows where the net is.
Not to be outdone, Kayden Jackson has so far matched Kee goal for goal and having not just one but two goal scoring options up front gives Coleman even more options to accommodate formation changes more easily.
Good use of the loan market is very much an essential tool for League Two clubs these days and Coleman has used it well to supplement his squad, Hornby-Forbes and Dallison from Premier League Brighton and highly rated goalkeeper Max Stryjek from Sunderland should all make useful contributions throughout the campaign.
Can Stanley sustain a play-off push?
There’s reason to believe they can, joint top scorers show they can find the net regularly and having conceded not many more than the teams around them suggests they can cope defensively, their only obstacles possibly coming from injuries or suspensions, but that can hamper even the best of teams.
Stanley haven’t moved above League Two since their return to the Football League in 2006, there’s plenty there this season to suggest that might be about to change.
Written by Trevor Knell
Follow Trevor on Twitter @trevk37
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