Accrington Stanley vs Leigh RMI 25/10/03 – F.A. Cup Fourth Qualifying Round
Scott Knowles gives his own unique views on another matchday programme from yesteryear.
The tragedy of Accrington Stanley’s ascent to being the sort of bog-standard League Two side that hovers around the middle of the table whilst occasionally tormenting their fans by threatening something better whilst never quite achieving it (a role Macclesfield Town used to be good at pre relegation) is that for a generation of football fans they might now be remembered as ‘that club who are always shown in the last fifteen minutes of The Football League Show’ rather than the club who got dissed by a couple of scouse pre-teens for an advert in favour of milk.
The story of Accrington Stanley is the sort that has in the past been referred to as a fairytale (though how many fairytales can you recall whose heroes include a bald former footballer who spend a season playing in Rhyl and Brett Effing Ormerod?). Disbanded in 1966 due to that familiar story of financial woe they reformed a couple of years later and gradually worked their way up the football pyramid before finally regaining promotion into the football league in 2006 where they have remained ever since.
The first thing you notice about the programme from their 2003 F.A. cup tie against Leigh RMI (spoiler warning – a 2-0 home win) is an aerial photograph taken of, presumably, the Accrington area. Quite why this was felt necessary is unclear – it’s not like Accrington is the beautiful island of Herrenchiemsee – but fans of murky looking towns made up of terraced houses and busy roads would clearly be in their element.
It’s endearing just how polite and needy the staff at the club are within their notes. Manager at-the-time John Coleman apologises towards the end of his column for the shortness of what he has written, explaining he had “a pile of test papers to mark”, whilst chairman Eric Whalley (whose poor quality photograph resembles something from a local newspaper accompanying a story about a man who has sexually abused chickens) speaks heartbreakingly of his efforts to get to grips with the internet, only to find that the comments on the club messageboard have mostly been of the ‘we’re crap’ variety. “.. if anyone has any comments, complaints or suggestions then please by all means come and make us aware of them.” he begs, “We are happy to listen!”.
At first the hefty programme seems to represent good value for its two English pounds but that’s before you turn the pages and discover there are 46 separate advertisements held within them! Whilst a lot of the adverts are well suited toward the football fan (pubs, butchers, chippy – classic ‘man’ zones) you have to ask how many people get to a game and ponder “I would really like to get rid of my extensive collection of corgi boxed motor vehicles. I hope that somewhere within the match programme there is a specialist who deals with the buying and selling of such things”.
Picking between the advertisements you find the usual array of statistics that nobody cares about (“Oh look! It appears we have lost by one goal on four separate occasions this season. My life is enriched immeasurably now that has been pointed out to me.”) and columns by increasingly unimportant people. Has any fan in the history of football ever bought a programme and rushed excitedly to the page written by their clubs ‘Lottery Manager’? No. Never. Sorry, Mick Schultz.
The main aim of a programme is surely to entertainingly distract the fan in those minutes prior to kick-off when the only other choice of entertainment is watching their team warm up and, in fairness, there was plenty to read within the pages of Accy’s effort. The question remains whether a detailed listing of each opposition squad members’ footballing journey so far (example – “Began his playing career in the Lancashire Amateur League before moving to Clitheroe for one season. This was followed by a period of just over one season at Ashton United in the Northern Premier League Division One.” etc) is going to be of more interest than watching a player fire a practice shot wildly wide of goal and hit an elderly gentleman queuing up for a pre-match pie. No contest really.
By the final page of the programme we are treated to a list of ground rules and regulations for the catchily named ‘Interlink Express Stadium’ which, amongst threats against the usage of “abusive language, likely to cause offence” (fans were restricted to chants of “Oi! Number seven! You’re clearly trying hard and we appreciate that sincerely but you’re clearly not up to the standard required of a player at this level!”) included a warning against the carrying of “offensive objects”. This was desperately disappointing for the Stanley fans who planned to wave a dildo during matches and thus change the course of the clubs entire history.
Liverpudlian boy #1: “Accrington Stanley? Who are they?”
Liverpudlian boy #2 : “They are the club whose fans frantically wave female sex toys above their heads during home games.”
Liverpudlian boy #1: “Oh.”
Thanks to Scott for this review. Follow him on twitter: @FragileGang