by Stuart Pike
MORE THAN five thousand fans turned out for a charity match at a sodden Turf Moor to swell the coffers of the Save our Stanley fund.
Over £30,000 was raised by Tuesday night’s hastily arranged fixture between the Reds and Premiership new boys Burnley, watched by 5,301.
Stanley bosses held a press conference and fans forum at the club last Friday to launch the SOS campaign, bidding to save the club from folding for the second time in its history.
The League Two side owes the taxman £308,000 and has been given until 24 October to pay off a “significant” chunk.
The Clarets had been hoping for a bigger crowd on the night, but as it proved the weather gods weren’t smiling on Reds owner Dave O’Neill.
But it was still an important and emotionally charged night, with fans of both clubs joining together in solidarity.
O’Neill said: “They were expecting 7,000 fans and I think that would have been achievable, but you can’t pick and choose the weather around here. As far as the fans that turned out in that sort of weather are concerned it was a tremendous achievement. Monies are coming in from all over the world. It’s really humbling and heartwarming.”
Chief executive Rob Heys described the gesture of Owen Coyle’s Clarets as “magnificent”.
He said: “We are indebted to Burnley Football Club for their gesture of help. Last Wednesday we were facing the winding up order and had never felt so low but since then we have had messages of support from all over and many football clubs, including Burnley. We don’t feel like we are on our own anymore but feel like everyone is helping us and every bit of support is appreciated.”
A pair of anonymous donations of £5,000 apiece from Oswaldtwistle and the United States got the ball rolling as fans digested the news of the club’s eight-week tax deadline.
The club has already been overwhelmed by offers of help from both inside and outside the footballing family.
The Stanley supporters group the Ultras collected £700 in Accrington town centre last Saturday morning and, at the Bury match, took their total to a staggering £3,500 through bucket collections alone.
Another £1,000 cheque has been contributed by a US-based Stanley ex-pat while one fan closer to home strolled into the club offices and handed over £100.
A further boost will be provided if an expected 400 Bury fans attend Stanley’s match tonight against Darlington, which could be a rare sell-out at the Crown Ground. In 2001, the Reds held a charity match when Bury were cash-strapped so the Shakers are repaying that favour. Stanley office staff, players and stewards are doing their bit too by giving up today’s wages and donating it to the fund.
Another weighty donation was made by an Accrington accountant, who wished to be known just as a long time supporter “from behind the net”.
He handed over two bulging bags of change in the Victoria Flower Shop on Whalley Road.
Stanley Ultra John Timmins, who was collecting money in Accrington town centre last Saturday morning, said: “The florist came up to us and told us to come up to the shop at midday. We went up and this man had two massive bags of change that he was going to take to the bank but instead gave to us. There was about £300 in them.”
He added: “Then there was a young lad at Bury who nipped back into his house and emptied his piggy bank into the bucket and there were old women in Accrington town centre who were dropping fivers into our buckets and one lady told us to wait, went to the bank and came back with £20. There was a brilliant response.”
The Reds have set up a dedicated telephone service that will collect a one off donation of £1.50 from the caller. The number is 0907 706 4648 and donations can be made through the www.saveourstanley.co.uk website or by texting “Accrington” to 80777 to donate £5 or “Stanley” to 79988 to donate £10.
Other Premier League clubs from the North West have offered help to their lower league neighbours.
Bolton Wanderers will assist Stanley in a cross-promotion partnership with Belle Vue Speedway, with details to be finalised.
And Blackburn Rovers coach Damien Sweeney, who also coaches at Accrington’s Spring Hill Primary School, has donated two Rovers tickets for Saturday’s game at home to Wolves.
A sealed bid auction for these will take place with parents and staff.
The school is targeting a further £300 from a non-uniform red and white day and raffle today (Friday).
Headteacher Stephanie Grimshaw said: “The pupils are keen to help as they have received so much help from Accrington Stanley coaches to improve their football skills.”
Also today, the Oscar Bears Nursery is holding an SOS-themed football day with children donating money to come in wearing their favourite club strip.
Next month Reds manager John Coleman and owner Dave O’Neill are going to walk 16 miles to Rochdale with Stanley fans ahead of the local derby. Stanley octogenarian Jack Barrett, who walked to Liverpool to try and save the club back in 1962, has pledged to accompany him on the first mile.
“The club will be seeking to tap into the goodwill of all who support Accrington Stanley, whether they be supporters who regularly come to our home games, people who live in and around the town and want to see their local club survive, or people from further afield who have an affection for our famous club and perhaps follow other sides but see us as their second team.”