STANLEY can look back on their 2008/9 campaign as a "what if?" season.
What if they had been able to sign striker Terry Gornell until the end of the season after he started hitting form but was then recalled to Tranmere ?
What if they had converted all of their five penalties and changed games instead of missing four of them?
What if they hadn’t to spend money on seats and could invest in the out-and-out striker they so badly needed in January?
What if they hadn’t conceded those last ditch goals against Bradford, Brentford and Wycombe?
Okay, some Stanley fans were just relieved that the Reds secured a fourth season in League Two and finished in a higher place of 16th - continuing John Coleman’s trend of bettering himself ever season since he took over 10 years ago.
But, deep down, Coleman knows it could have been so much better.
They could relax more at the start of the season with Luton deducted 30 points and Rotherham and Bournemouth losing 17 points each.
Not that the management ever said they felt safe. And the way the Millers and Cherries clawed those points back showed that a big points deduction, while a hurdle to promotion, doesn’t guarantee relegation.
Coleman would have felt reasonably pleased with his signings as the more experienced heads of Colin Murdock and John Mullin were added while Jimmy Ryan and Chris King were unknown quantities - but proved to be finds.
The Wolves Carling Cup clash was a huge game - probably the most exciting game of the season from a Stanley point of view as they jangled the nerves of the now Premiership newboys.
Paul Mullin took the lead, Ian Craney made it 2-2 in extra-time and it was a fantastic night at Molineux - apart from the narrow loss.
And the start brought optimism with wins over Port Vale and Macclesfield which tempered Craney’s move to Huddersfield.
But a seven game winless run got the Reds in the bottom half of the table - and they were never to move out of that.
Signings came and went - Kallum Higginbotham couldn’t make his mark; Jamie Clarke wasn’t the prolific goal scoring machine Coleman needed while injuries started to hamper the Reds.
However Kieran Charnock’s signing from Peterborough proved a big hit as he helped to tighten up a shakey defence and his partnership with Phil Edwards in the heart of the backline proved a massive bonus for the season.
And the same could be said for some of keeper Kenny Arthur’s wonder saves. Wolves boss Mick McCarthy was full of praise for the Scot and many League Two manager’s followed suit.
Gornell came and, after some bedding in time, was just beginning to get to grips with his partnership with Paul Mullin when he was recalled and the Stanley goals from the frontmen dried up.
Thank goodness for Jimmy Ryan whose 10 goals from midfield rescued points in vital games.
He perhaps will volunteer for penalty service after Andy Procter, John Mullin and Peter Cavanagh all failed from the spot.
Probably the best football of the season was the 3-0 win against Bournemouth when, in the first 20 minutes, the Reds were unstoppable and scored all the goals.
The hardest defeat to take was the 3-2 loss by Bradford - 2-0 up with 80 minutes gone and then there was an almightly collapse.
Goal of the season went to John Miles against Rochdale but Rostyn Griffith’s wonder strike against the Cherries was memorable as was Jamie Clarke’s hat-trick against Grimsby - just for the fact a Stanley player had grabbed three in a game in the Football League.
The biggest loss of season was the 5-1 defeat at Lincoln but that was a freak game with Arthur injured but carrying on and towards the end, every attack seemed to lead to a goal.
The Rochdale derbies had the usual fire with Adam Le Fondre scoring his customary penalties against the Reds while Bury’s last day win was memorable for the fancy dress conga.
For Coleman clean sheets were top of his list - he "took one for the team" after promising to have his backside fired at by the players on Sky if they kept ten blanks in a season.
That was a positive - and Coleman will hope the "what if’s" can be turned into certainties next season.