John Coleman took charge of Rochdale for the first time on Tuesday morning – and he admitted it felt strange.
"It’s 13 years since I walked into a home dressing room that wasn’t Accrington’s so obviously it seems weird to me at the moment," said the 49-year-old.
"It’s an unusual scenario for me – different faces, different fans, different club and a different proposition – but it’s the one me and Jimmy (Bell) have now chosen."
And, even though it’s days later, it still doesn’t seem right that Coleman isn’t the manager in red of Accrington Stanley FC and is now Rochdale’s new gaffer in blue.
"It hasn’t sunk in and it will take a while," said Coleman, the Reds’ most successful manager who took them from the UniBond First Division into the Football League.
"It will be strange being in the Rochdale dugouts tomorrow but I don’t think I will have time to think too much about it as it’s a massive game against Bury."
That Coleman is thinking about the Shakers and not planning Stanley’s continued push up the League Two table against promotion rivals Gillingham doesn’t seem the correct order.
But it is now fact.
After almost 13 years as first player-manager and then boss of Stanley and three promotions, Coleman and Bell have left and it’s a new era for him and at the Crown Ground.
Coleman admitted the departure of himself and assistant Bell was ‘one of the biggest decisions of our lives.’
And he knows that his 13 years in Accrington were among the most special of his life.
"It was one of the hardest decisions – it certainly wasn’t easy. Even on Monday once I made the decision, I was wondering if it was the right one.
"But I like to think of myself as an intelligent person and it is a great opportunity for me and Jimmy. We weighed up all the options and had to do what was best for us.
"It was really emotional on Monday and it was so hard to say goodbye but sometimes, even though it is emotional, you have got to do what you know is right and the move to Rochdale is."
At Stanley, Coleman would have had a job for life while at Rochdale, he is on a 12-month rolling contract.
And, while he is ready for his new challenge, he can’t help but look back.
"I have loved all my time at Accrington – even the hard times as they make you stronger and you learn from them.
"And I don’t think I had taken Accrington as far as they can go – there is still another promotion in them and hopefully it’s this year for them.
"When I came to Accrington they had just been relegated and were in the UniBond First Division and now they are in the Football League.
"I have left a legacy that no one can take away from me or from the club.
"I remember when I had just taken over, sitting in the dugout at Netherfield feeling sorry for myself after a defeat and John Demaine said to me ‘you will still be here in 10 years’. I don’t think I believed him but it turned out to be true. My best memory, the one that will live with me the most, is the promotion in my first season back into the UniBond Premier Division.
"The 19-game unbeaten run at the end, the drama, the last game needing a win – it was fantastic, more so because I was playing.
"If I had to say my favourite season at Accrington it was that first one because I just loved playing football.
"But there have been some fantastic times but also some poignant ones. The death of our former secretary Phil Terry, a great fellow, was hard and the death of fan Anthony Cox.
"Then there have been all the trials and tribulations which have added to the spice.
"Accrington Stanley is a unique club in this country and the world and it is so special."
Coleman built up a good rapport with his fans and the countless number of players who he has signed during since 1999.
"How many football fans can say they played blindfold pool with their manager for a bet?" he laughed. "Not many but that was the kind of club it was and that’s what I will never forget.
"My best player is hard but one has to be Paul Mullin – fantastic guy and great player but then again I can’t rule out Gary Roberts, Ian Craney and Russell Payne and more.
"The players in the Conference winning season were fantastic but none of them were ever big-time.
"For all his talent, we could still wind Gary Roberts up and that played a big part of the side’s success – we were a team."
Despite his change of club, Coleman has no intention of changing his approach or whole-hearted attitude to the game.
"I still have my own way and I am still the same person and will still be that at Rochdale. I won’t change for anyone.
"And Accrington will go on without me. I could have been hit by a bus and they would have still gone on. It is raw and emotional at the moment but once the dust settles, as they say, the show goes on. The one thing that is close to me is that I made so many good friends there, so many I consider close friends that will stay with me for life.
"And my ideal scenario now is for Rochdale to stay up and Accrington to go up and see you next season!"
As Coley’s favourite saying goes ‘Keep the faith.’
- Born 12/10/1962
- Appointed Accrington Stanley manager 10/08/1999
- Brought immediate success as Stanley gained promotion as Northern Premier Division Champions in 99/00 season
- Won promotion again in 02/03 season after clinching the UniBond Premier championship by 16 points, losing just three games all season.
- Finished 10th in first season in the Conference in 03/04 season with a notable FA Cup run, reaching the third round as club turn professional.
- Returns Stanley to the Football League after a 44-year absence on April 15 2006 with a win at Woking.
- Survived threat of the drop back to the Conference in 06/07 with 3-2 win over Macclesfield
- Improved Stanley’s position every season during his spell with the club, culminating in reaching the League Two playoffs in 2011 after finishing fifth, losing out to Stevenage.
- Was third longest serving manager in English Football at time of his departure and longest in the Football League. In charge for 577 league games