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1962 – Diary of demise

A TIMELINE chronicling those fateful last few months.

Monday 19 February

The crisis began with the arrival of a letter, dated 18 February, from the Football League, asking for clarification of Stanley's financial status. The board called in vice-president Sam Pilkington to help.

Tuesday 20 February

Club president Sir William Cocker and Sam Pilkington appealed to the public in the Observer. Sam Pilkington revealed the involvement of Bob Lord, chairman of Burnley. Lord was quoted as saying that he would do what he could to help Stanley. The Mayor, Wilfred Wallwork, called Stanley's levels of support "deplorable".

Wednesday 21 February

At Bob Lord's behest, Sam Pilkington asked six Stanley directors to resign from the board. They agreed but Lord's typically blunt manner generated much ill-feeling.

Friday 23 February

Sam Pilkington met League secretary Alan Hardaker and assured him that Stanley would be able to continue.

Saturday 24 February

Stanley went down to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Rochdale in front of 2,650 fans, an improved attendance, in what turned out to be their last home game.

Tuesday 27 February

Stanley travelled to Doncaster and battled for a point in front of fewer than 2,000 spectators. Stanley was not the only club struggling to survive on insufficient support.

Saturday 3 March

After a quiet week in which the club prepared accounts and continued its efforts to raise money, the team lost 4-0 to Crewe Alexandra.

Monday 5 March

At a meeting of creditors at Peel Park, the club's accountants revealed the extent of Stanley's debts, which totalled £62,000. Some of this debt was commonplace in football, such as the bank overdraft of £9,000 and the £3,000 owing in transfer fees, and as such was expected. Around £4,000 was required in the short-term and £400 was needed immediately to pay a utilities bill.However, some of the debts were intolerable and revealed the dire state of the club's finances in the final few months. The club had neglected to buy national insurance stamps for its players all season. On hearing the scale of the club's debts, Sam Pilkington withdrew his help. Bob Lord told the remaining four directors that resignation was the only option. Stanley's solicitors concluded that the club was bust and would go into liquidation.

Tuesday 6 March

Given the statements of Pilkington and Lord and the opinion of the club's solicitors, the morning press announced the passing of Accrington Stanley. The midweek edition of the Observer mourned: "STANLEY - THE END". The remaining four directors sent a letter of resignation to the Football League. The only question surrounds the haste with which the club resigned before they knew the reaction of the town. Then again, past appeals had revealed little interest - why would it be any different now?

As the players turned up for training, they were told the news of the club's resignation. Press photographers captured the moment and the decision of the players to train on the pitch merely heightened the poignancy.

Wednesday 7 March

Immediately, significant offers of financial help emerged from concerned parties. For the first time the club's leaders had reason to hope that the town might yet save the club.

Thursday 8 March

At Peel Park, a man walked into the boardroom and placed a bag on a table. He told a startled member of staff: "I don't want to see this club go under." In the bag was a life-saving £10,000 in cash.

William Cocker went to the press and told them that Stanley would fight for its Football League life. He indicated the club had raised the cash needed to guarantee the fulfilment of its commitments until the end of the season.

A meeting of directors and legal advisers, chaired by Cocker, met in the evening. Stanley sent a second letter to the Football League, asking that the original letter of resignation be withdrawn and the club be given three weeks to finalise a rescue plan. The Football League issued a statement confirming that it would consider the facts.

Friday 9 March

Articles in the national press continued to appear. William Cocker used the opportunity to emphasise that Stanley were now in a position to continue at least until the end of the season.

Sunday 11 March

Stanley chairman George Clarkson and club solicitor Harry Disley presented Stanley's case to the League Management Committee. Disley could point to a significant amount of new money in the Stanley coffers.

Monday 12 March

As secretary of the Football League, it was in Alan Hardaker's remit to call an Emergency General Meeting of the 92 League clubs and put to them whether Stanley should be allowed to continue. Instead, Hardaker and the League Management Committee decided to accept Accrington's resignation, and on Monday afternoon the decision was relayed to the club. There was little that Stanley could do; they had tendered their resignation, after all. William Cocker thought that Stanley should get another chance because of their role in pioneering the game. Hopes flickered for another couple of weeks as the club sought to sue the Football League, but as the football season continued without them it became clear there was to be no reprieve.


Stuart Pike
Deputy editor specialising in politics
Alex Bell
Bethany English
District reporter
Beth Abbit
Court reporter
Jon Macpherson
Kate Watkins
Reporter specialising in communities
Garth Dawson
Photographer and columnist