20 January ~ Accrington Stanley faced meltdown towards the end of last year as HM Revenue & Customs came looking for over £300,000 in tax debts. Now, only a couple of months later, things are looking far rosier at the Crown Ground as action on the field has become the centre of attention once again. A relative upset with last night's victory over League One Gillingham sealed Stanley a place in the FA Cup fourth round for the first time since 1959, seven years before the original club folded.
The win has set up a lucrative tie with Premier League outfit Fulham, with a reported £100,000 in prize money and television revenue the reward for their achievements so far. John Miles's late goal earned the 1-0 victory and the consequences were summed up well by the Sun's line, "Miles had Stanley's bank manager jumping for joy".
In what is undoubtedly the club's biggest game since their return to the League, manager John Coleman has urged supporters to pack out the Crown Ground. "I'd like to think there will be a full house," he said after just 1,322 fans had turned out to watch last nights encounter, a long way short of the capacity of around 5,000. Despite adult tickets costing £20, the most ever for a Stanley home game, Fulham's visit is sure to attract plenty of welcome attention for the club, while securing their financial stability for the future.
On the messageboards, fans have already been revelling in the apparent influx of money. "We can keep hold of our rising stars and strengthen, looking to move on and up," was one prediction, and a reasonable one, especially as the squad's average age of just 21 can rival an Arsenal League Cup side.
While a win for Stanley is unlikely, the prospect of a possible replay in the capital is an exciting one for the club and its owners. Fulham fans are even relishing the trip and are sympathetic with the Accrington cause, if not necessarily the financial one. "I am delighted, I feel for the supporters who have had years of mickey taking over the famous milk commercial," posted one fan. Chris Hasker