ACCRINGTON Stanley were bracing themselves for the shock departure of star midfielder Ian Craney to League One side Swansea City.
The 24-year-old had talks at the promotion-chasing Swans on Wednesday and was set to agree terms yesterday (Thurs) on a loan deal with a view to a permanent move in January, with the loan transfer deadline ending at 5pm yesterday.
Stanley were hoping to talk Craney out of a move and persuade him to stay at the FES yesterday, But, boss John Coleman was fearing the worst and preparing for life without another of his star names.
"It is a blow but I have just got to concentrate on the players who are here," said the boss. "The chairman and I are upset but we couldn't stop him going for talks.
"Ian had an escape clause in his contract which he signed in the summer which allowed him to talk to clubs if they offered 'X' amount - and Swansea have. If we hadn't put that escape clause in, he would have gone in the summer.
"I would have liked him to go to a Championship club as it is only one step up, albiet to a big club, so that is a bit frustrating but we hope things go well for him if he goes."
Chief Executive Rob Heys was battling to keep the player at Accrington. He said: "The deal could still happen but we're not going to let a team from a division above take away one of our best players and we won't let Ian go without a fight."
If Craney does go, it will stun Stanley fans who are still reeling over the loss of another top asset, wingman Gary Roberts to Ipswich on loan a month ago. Roberts, 22, has been winning the praises of ex-England manager Bobby Robson with his performances for the Championship side.
"Gary, Ian and Rommy (Boco) are our three most influential players and all three of them are unavailable to me so it is hard but I have just got to concentrate on the players I have got here," said Coleman.
And the move couldn't have come at a worse time with Stanley currently going through their worst run of league defeats - four games - since 1998.
However, the Reds chief has moved quickly to try and block the huge gap left by Craney with the addition of two loan players from Cardiff City. Joe Jacobson, a talented left back, and left sided midfielder Curtis McDonald have signed up for the Reds cause on loan.
Coleman was also hoping to sign Liverpool's 21-year-old midfielder David Mannix before the deadline and a central defender from Crewe, believed to be Adam Dugdale. It means Stanley will have a new look squad tomorrow (Sat) with recent signings Shaun Whalley and striker Leighton McGivern also set to start at struggling Grimsby which Coleman describes as "a massive game."
Stanley are down the bare bones with Peter Cavanagh out for three months with medial ligament damage, Boco sidelined for at least another month with his back and Jay Harris suspended for three games.
Add to this the fact striker David Brown has gone on loan to Conference side Burton and, this week, winger Sean Doherty, who only signed in the summer, has gone on loan to Southport in a surprise move, it has left the Reds battling for numbers.
"We want to give Shaun Whalley a run in the side and we don't want Sean sitting around and not playing," said Coleman. Goalkeeper Francois Dubourdeau, who has yet to make a Reds start, has also teamed up with Southport.
Coleman is currently suffering his worst run of league losses in his seven-year reign at Accrington. "We can't feel sorry for ourselves. We have just got to get on with it - we have just got to keep working hard. Grimsby is a massive game for us," said the manager.
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