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John Coleman and Jimmy Bell stake claim for Accrington Stanley return

Stanley are now looking for a new manager and Paul Cook’s predecessors have swiftly thrown their hat into the ring.

Former Accrington Stanley boss John Coleman and ex-managing director David O’Neil

Jimmy Bell insists he and former Stanley manager John Coleman are the right men to take over the Reds’ managerial reins once more.

The club was rocked by the departure of Leam Richardson on Tuesday, just three days after their final game of the season, to be reunited with former Accy boss Paul Cook as his assistant at Chesterfield.

Stanley are now looking for a new manager and Cook’s predecessors have swiftly thrown their hat into the ring.

Coleman and his assistant Bell have been regular visitors to the Crown Ground since being sacked by Rochdale in January, having moved to Spotland in January 2012.

And Coleman has spoken to chairman Peter Marsden this week about the possibility of a permanent return.

“We’re very interested,” said Bell. “We’ve spoken to various people at the club and made them aware that we’d love to come back.

“They have shown an interest in us and we’re hoping that within a few days we’ll know if we’re coming back or not.

“We’ll see what comes of it but I’m sure there will be a lot of other people interested in the job as well.”

In over 12 years as Stanley’s managerial duo, Coleman and Bell led the Reds from the Northern Premier League First Division into the Football League, reaching the League Two play-offs in 2010/11.

And although they were relieved of their duties after just 12 months at Rochdale – during which time they were unable to prevent relegation back into League Two – Bell believes they are ideal candidates for Stanley.

“They know everything that we can do,” said Bell. “We’ve shown the club a lot of good service.

“We took the club from a 200 fanbase to one that was challenging for League One status when we left.

“What’s happened at the club lately is a cakewalk compared to what we had to deal with,” he added.

“We had to deal with the club nearly going out of existence.

“We know the ins and outs. We know every pitfall there is at the club. We know how to get the best out of the players and we know how to put a team together. We tick every single box there is to be ticked.”

Since leaving Rochdale, Coleman and Bell have been at many of Stanley’s games, including Saturday’s defeat by Oxford and the crucial win at Bristol Rovers which secured their Football League status for another year.

Yet Bell revealed they almost returned in March, as Richardson’s side began to get dragged into the relegation dogfight.

“We nearly came back eight weeks ago to help the club out,” he said. “We offered our services and spoke to the club about coming back.

“They were dropping like a stone and they hit rock-bottom. They got a couple of wins and stayed up by the skin of their teeth so you’ve got to say that Leam did a good job, in the end, to keep them in the League.

“But from the state that we left them in, which was in the play-offs the season before and two points off the play-offs when we left, to see them fighting relegation again within 12 months was really hard for me to take.

“We were a team that was going forward, a club that was going forward, and yes, we do feel as though we’re a little bit to blame for the state the club was in 12 months later.

“It’s still hard to take for us, seeing a club that we love and support struggling down the bottom of the league. The 12 years we were at Accrington, it was a very progressive club so to nearly go out of the League was really hard to take.

“That’s why I personally was at every game, giving them my support and willing them on, because I couldn’t bear to see them go down after all the hard work that me and John put in to get them to be a League club in the first place.”

Their spell at Rochdale may not have been successful but Bell insists the experience has not dimmed their enthusiasm for the game.

“When we left Accrington it was heart-wrenching,” he said. “It was one of the worst decisions I’ve ever had to make. I was in a daze for the first month we were at Rochdale, thinking if we’d made the right decision.

“I’ve got a lot of great friends at the club and it was a home from home for us. It was really hard to leave Accrington.

“It didn’t work out at Rochdale. Not through what me and John did but through the club never backing us.

“We feel as though we’ve still got a lot to give. We are really hungry. First and foremost, we are massive fans of Accrington and we feel as though we’ve got a lot to offer the club.”

Bell is right to say there’d be a lot of interest from elsewhere, with around 20 serious applications having been received within 24 hours of Richardson’s departure.

While the club’s managing director, Rob Heys, confirmed Coleman had expressed his interest, he stressed an appointment wasn’t imminent.

“Everyone’s entitled to apply,” he said. “Some big names have already applied and for me to comment on speculation that somebody’s already got the job would be disrespectful to them.

“There’s no rush to appoint anybody. The last two occasions we’ve lost a manager it’s been in the middle of the season and because it’s been quite an important time, we’ve been keen to bring someone in (quickly).

“On this occasion we can take time, we can go through the CVs and all the applications we get. We can draw up a shortlist, do proper interviews and really make sure we get the right person for the job.”

Current assistant boss Paul Stephenson and first-team coach Paul Lodge took over first-team affairs immediately after Richardson’s departure.

The 33-year-old, who has a young family, signed a two-and-a-half-year contract as Stanley boss in November and the club have agreed a compensation deal with Chesterfield.

 
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