THE LAST decade has seen Accrington Stanley rise from the UniBond First Division to challenging for promotion from League Two. It's been the stuff of dreams and it is true to say, there has never been a dull moment at the club in the last ten years. John Coleman and assistant Jimmy Bell have been in charge during that time and them, players, fans and media give their ‘Accrington Stanley Team of the Decade.’
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JIMMY BELL - Assistant boss:
- Rob Elliott: Although he was only on loan, his performances in our Conference winning season were exceptional and spectacular.
- Peter Cavanagh: Fantastic footballer who has been an instrumental part of the club’s rise; comfortable on the ball and read the game well. During his time at the club, he was a fantastic captain.
- Steve Hollis: True competitor; strong in the tackle and with never-say-die attitute - and a sweet left peg.
- Phil Edwards: Although Phil is still only 24, it feels like he has been with us for ever; he is so consistent and reads the game well. Hope he will be in team of the decade 2010-2020.
- Jonathan Smith: Probably my hardest choice but Jon just gets my vote. He played with his heart on his sleeve. Was not the most gifted player but gave his all and scored some very important goals.
- Mike Marsh: Probably one the most influential signings of our time at Accrington. Me and Coley signed Mike in our local pub one drunken Saturday night. We all shook hands on it and I remember Mike telling me to tell our chairman to ‘get the ground ready cos we’re going in the Conference.’ We walked the league and Mike was at the heart of our team.
- Russell Payne: What an athlete, probably the best player I have seen running with the ball and the most likeable of people you could ever meet.
- Ian Craney: Fantastic footballer I likened him to one of my heroes Kenny Dalglish - an eye for a spectacular strike and a true competitor; a born winner.
- Lutel James: This was a close call as I very nearly put the gaffer -John Coleman - in but don’t think Accrington saw Coley anywhere near his best. Lutel - he scored some vital goals, there was an awe about him that demanded respect on and off the pitch.
- Paul Mullin: Without a doubt Accrington’s player of the decade; he was so consistent; gave his all every game and again scored some vital goals throughout the 10 years.
- Gary Roberts: Again a close call but Gary just edges it. Tricky, great ball control - all in all the poor man’s Georgie Best is what I used to call him!
PETER CAVANAGH - Captain for most of the decade
- Kenny Arthur: The goalkeeper spot had been something of a problem area over the years since Jamie Speare left. The two outstanding candidates were Darren Randolph and the flying Scot. Had Darren been at Stanley longer he may have got in, but I have gone for Kenny for his consistency. A good shot stopper and commander of his area and also the best trainer I have ever met.
- Peter Cavanagh: Having been the incumbant of the number two jersey for the majority of the decade I just made it! I would like to think I have played a big part in the club being where it is today, captaining two promotion winning sides and becoming the first international representative for the club in its new form.
- Leam Richardson: It might seem strange having a right back at left back, but you would not be able to tell Leam was right footed if you didn’t know and that is the biggest compliment I can pay him. Like myself enjoys getting involved in attacking just as much as defending and it was this that gave him the edge over Steve Hollis.
- Phil Edwards: If this fella was 6ft, I am sure he would be in the Premiership, it can be the only reason why no one has bought him yet. A natural defender, the lads christened him ‘the rash’. Quick and reads the game well. It’s probably a good job he is not taller as with his spring it wouldn’t be fair to the forwards as no one would beat him in the air.
- Robbie Williams: To be fair to the gaffer he has that great knack of realising when a player is on the wane and moving them on. The fact that Rocky was here for 10 seasons speaks volumes about his talent. He can play a number of positions but excelled at centre back. Strong quick, athletic and comfortable on the ball. A modern day centre back.
- Rory Prendergast: Rory wasn’t the best of team players and would drive you mad with his whingeing, but there has been no one better at hugging the touchline and getting crosses in from the left. Provided numerous assists - Paul Mullin missed him when he left.
- Gary Roberts: Gary up front was virtually unplayable but, on the right wing, his dribbling skills and beating players were also a joy to watch. Different to Rory as he likes to score as well. Playing on the right, Gary could cut in on his left foot a la Messi and cause havoc - something he does for Huddersfield now.
- Mike Marsh: One of the few old school players to make it into my team. Only played one season but was probably the main reason we were promoted to the Conference. He would just take games by the scruff of the neck and dictate the play, always demanding the ball and getting annoyed when you didn’t pass it to him. A superb holding midfielder.
- Ian Craney: In midfield, to compliment Marshy, I needed flair and so it came down to a straight choice between Ian and Simon Carden. Both had similar qualities but Craney could do the unexpected and often not be in the game but do something magic to win the points. It’s probably this talent which has got clubs like Swansea and Huddersfield paying in excess of £300,000 for him.
- Paul Mullin: What can I say about the big man that hasn’t already been said? Unbelievable servant, never missed a game, like a fine wine got better as he got older. His hold-up play is excellent and is great at bringing players into the attack. His finishing was always a bonus but he would still weigh in with 15 - 20 goals every season.
- Lutel James: Mullers and Lutel - these two put defences to the sword and plundered goals left, right and centre. Lutel could also play on the right and had great pace.
ROB RUSSELL - Long time Reds fan
- Kenneth Arthur: Edges out crowd favourite Jamie Speare but was the best goalkeeper this club has ever had. Loses friendlier first name ‘Kenny’ since Rochdale took his freedom.
- Peter Cavanagh: Most decorated captain in the history of Accrington Stanley so is the natural choice for captain. His five goals in the Conference winning season were five of the best!
- Steve ‘Reg’ Hollis: Owner of a mercurial left foot. Reliable and never let us down.
- Phil Edwards: Unbreakable, and relentless. Always there and plays hard and fair. In charge of booking end of season sunshine breaks as well.
- Jonathan Smith: Towering presence whether defending or attacking set pieces. Never afraid to get stuck in. Bandaged head version also available.
- Andy Procter: Has grown in stature throughout his career and is 100 per cent effort every week. Will save this team some money as he can double as physio.
- Andy Todd: The first version please. The Conference winning Todd was a delight to watch as he cantered down the wings. Needed a haircut though.
- Simon Carden: Beat more illustrious company such as Craney and Marsh to the Number eight shirt by virtue of his fantastic scoring record. The Frank Lampard of lower league football.
- Lutel James: Loooootellllllllll. The best strike partner that Paul Mullin had in his nine years service. Guaranteed you 15 penalties a season with his tricks and turns. Good penalty record as well as the floodlights glinting off his forehead put goalkeepers off.
- Paul Mullin: Let’s be honest, was the number 10 shirt ever going to anybody else? Watson, Ceraolo, Williams, Lee Buggie?
- Gary Roberts: Prendergast and Shirley were considered, briefly but Roberts was far and away the best 11 at Stanley since black and white days.
ANDY PROCTER - Stanley captain
- KENNY ARTHUR: A very good shot stopper and had great command of his penalty area.
- PETER CAVANAGH: A great outlet, always looked to get forward and a very successful captain.
- PHIL EDWARDS: Mr Reliable, makes the game look easy, sharp and a great spring for his size. Not seen many centre forwards get the better of him.
- JONATHAN SMITH: phenomenal in the air - could head it further than he could kick it. Always a threat from set pieces.
- LEAM RICHARDSON: Had his injury worries of late but an accomplished defender who rarely gave the ball away.
- RUSSELL PAYNE: A great dribbler, used to walk past full backs.
- IAN CRANEY: A real goal threat and possesses a great shot. Good technically.
- MIKE MARSH: Always available to pass to, composed, a great passer of the ball.
- GARY ROBERTS: Tricky, great balance, could play from either flank. Good ball delivery.
- PAUL MULLIN: My best mate got better with age, a fantastic target man and regular goal scorer.
- LUTEL JAMES: a real livewire, great pace, had a lethal understanding with Mullers.
DAN JEWELL - 2BR sport
- ROB ELLIOT: His incredible ability belied his youth. An integral part of the Conference winning season. Could easily have been Darren Randolph had loan rules been different. Has possibly the highest voice in football.
- PETER CAVANAGH: Established himself at such a young age to become an integral part of the side. Loved to gallop forwards and make things happen at the other end.
- JONATHAN SMITH : Rugged, dependable and the best header of a ball I think I’ve ever seen. Would run through brick walls for the team.
- PHIL EDWARDS: Has it all - pace, positioning and power. The most consistent player of recent years. Would be the perfect foil for the taller Smith.
- STEVE HOLLIS: Left footed and intelligent on the ball. Packed it in too soon. Every left back since has had to live up to his standards.
- GARY ROBERTS: Unplayable in the Conference winning season and first in Football League. Terrific dribbler and always had a trick.
- ANDY PROCTER: Mr. Reliable always covers every blade of grass...Now blossoming into a great captain as well as a great player. Banned from taking penalties!
- ROMMY BOCO: Secured his place in history with the first Football League goals. Gallic, moody and unpredictable but versatile and tireless.
- RORY PRENDERGAST: Bonkers but brilliant. Find me a better crosser and I’ll guarantee they're playing at a higher level. Also selected for entertainment value!
- PAUL MULLIN: How could it be anyone else? LEGEND.
- LUTEL JAMES: Like fish and chips, cheese and pickle or sausage and mash, Mullin and James just have to be served together. An almost perfect partnership with Lutel’s predatory instincts and Paul’s tireless work.
DANY ROBSON - Observer Sport
- Rob Elliot: During his loan spell from Christmas - May in the Conference winning season, he was outstanding. I remember a save he pulled off at Gravesend with Stanley winning 1-0 as the Reds closed in on the title - that was vital as the nerves jangled. Also saved six penalties in that time.
- Peter Cavanagh: The Reds captain for the majority of the decade. A lively Scouser who admitted he wasn't the quickest in the tackle but always willing to have a go; scored his fair share of goals from set pieces - the one against Torquay was key in the Reds battle against the drop. Enjoyed two promotions with Stanley and numerous pieces of silverware.
- Jonathan Smith: During Stanley’s non-league days, he epitomised the club. A superb header of the ball and, although wasn't always the best on the ball, he gave his all. He played one game with a bandaged head and also giving the referee his tooth to look after when it was knocked out during one game. Dangerous up front too.
- Phil Edwards: I remember a number of seasons ago, Phil played a game and then was dropped for the next match and was absolutely gutted. This would never happen now - pacey, strong, rarely makes a mistake and, with Paul Mullin gone, probably the first name on the team-sheet.
- Steve Hollis: The Reds regular left back from the early non league days. Left footed which was a good start; solid at the back and was dependable. Always had time for fans and a good character.
- Gary Roberts: When he signed from Welshpool everyone wondered who he was but he was quick to show his skills. Superb striker of the ball; made goals and scored them - the one at Torquay in his final game for the Reds sticks out.
- Ian Craney: A battling midfielder with tons of skill who could turn a game. I remember his goal at Millmoor in Accrington's 1-0 win over Rotherham - he could pull something out of nothing and turn a match in the Reds’ favour.
- Mike Marsh: His influence helped Accrington win the UniBond Premier Division. Steady in midfield, used all his experience, had bags of enthusiasm despite struggling with a knee injury which forced him out of full-time football and could also make a killer pass.
- Russell Payne: I probably didn't see enough of Russell but he was superb on the ball; was a constant threat on the wing and was a big part of Stanley's early rise up the non-league pyramid.
- Paul Mullin: Kind of goes without saying really. Stanley’s star striker, rarely injured; gave his all, scored goals, worked hard, fans’ favourite, record appearance holder and "the nicest man in football".
- Lutel James: Mullin and James were a formidable partnership. James had the pace and knew where the goal was but also had attitude which made him a strong player and character.
JOHN COLEMAN - Stanley boss over the decade
- ROB ELLIOT: This was a position that had plagued us and Rob made a big difference when he came to the club and helped win us the Conference. He helped us win a lot of crucial games, his handling was superb and he was very assured. The Exeter game stands out for me where he was superb.
- PETER CAVANAGH: A great servant to the club, a great footballer and instrumental in our rise up the leagues. He was blighted by injury but always bounced back and he is one of the reasons why we are where we are today.
- ROBBIE WILLIAMS: I don’t think Rocky got the credit he deserved from the fans. He had a lot of bad injuries but played many vital games for us, had pace which is something we lacked at the time and was good on the ball. If there was a criticism it was he did not talk enough at the back.¿If he made a mistake it tended to be punished which at times was harsh on him.
- PHIL EDWARDS; Jonathan Smith was pushing both centre-halves for a place but Phil gets the nod. He has been outstanding, he is Mr Consistency, played a lot of games for us back to back and you notice his mistakes because they are so rare.
- STEVE HOLLIS: Comfortable on ball, one of great left footers at the club - similar to Dean Winnard - but Steve won a couple of titles with us. He was steady, reliable, suited our style of play and probably didn’t always get the credit he deserved.
- RUSSELL PAYNE: "Russ will tear you apart again" - I remember that song! Russell was great although Jimmy and I used to almost come to blows about whether to play him or Mark Shirley out wide. Superb on the ball, two good feet and I remember the four goals he scored against Eastwood. My one criticism would be he didn’t score enough goals and we used to call him "paper ankles" because of his weak shots. He was also good defensively and people didn’t always notice that part of his game.
- IAN CRANEY: Fantastic player, bubbling over with enthusiasm, loved training and one of those players who always wanted to play no matter what. Some of his goals for the club were different class and he is definitely better than League Two.
- MIKE MARSH: Proccy is going to kill me as it was 50/50 with him and Marshy but Marshy just edged it because of the influence he had at the club. He came and lifted expectations and got the team believing they could win the UniBond Premier Division - and they did.
- GARY ROBERTS: What can you say about Gary? The more confidence he got, the better he got and his career has snowballed. When we pushed him up front he was different class as well. Fantastic player.
- PAUL MULLIN: Everyone knows what I think of Paul. Fantastic for the club, great lad to work with and I wish I could have 20 Paul Mullins at the club.
- LUTEL JAMES: It was between me and Lutel! No Lutel was enthusiasic, a great player and, if I ever dropped him, I always felt like he was going to strangle me! He always gave his all and had a steely determination about him which, despite him being small, scared defenders. Perfect foil for Paul Mullin. He was brave and strong, superb attitude.
JASON GRAHAM - Stanley fan
- JAMIE SPEARE: Loved his celebrations at the end of games as he made his way off the pitch, loved his kamikaze runs out his area, best shot stopper I have seen at Accy. Not the best keeper as I would probably go for Robbie Elliott but Jamo is in my team because he is a legend.
- PETER CAVANAGH: Forget £5 bets against ASFC, Cav was an integral part in the rise of ASFC, £5 accumulator is NOT a crime! Our greatest ever club captain and I would have him back tomorrow.
- PHIL EDWARDS: Has smashed his way into my all-time XI with his immense football ability and passion for ASFC, cemented forever with last month’s two goal haul at the Shrimps.
- JONATHAN SMITH: A local lad done good that saw all the great bits of our rise to the Conference. Reminds me a lot of Darran Kempson now. Yeah, Jonny couldn’t pass neither, but he was a giant at the back. The best header of a ball we have ever had. Spilt blood for Stanley famously; always impresses the fans that.
- IAN CRANEY: A real class act going forward in the David Platt role, scored bundles for Stanley and was a crowd favourite as he always led the dancing celebrations at the end of the game. Famously risked life and limb on the Town Hall balcony with the Conference Trophy.
- GARY ROBERTS: Excellent at free kicks, beats defenders and currently flying in League One. Also once bailed me out in a ‘No Lager’ situation in deepest Hampshire on a Tuesday night.
- ROMMY BOCO: Loved the lad, was talented as anything and would play anywhere. Just having his sophisticated accent and naivety around the place was immense. I remember him spending his Africa Cup of Nations money on champagne for press and fans in the Oaklea.
- ANDY PROCTER: It is testament to Proccy that a couple of months ago when I drafted this, Mike Marsh wore the Number 8 shirt for my legends side. There can be no greater compliment. Hope he stays as skipper for years AND years. Although the terrace do giggle at his ‘hissy’ fits at referee decisions!
- MARK SHIRLEY: My first real terrace hero. I loved his poise on the ball and his ability to beat the man and then do it again just because he could. A huge cheer went up when he returned from injury, his goal against Farsley was his crowning glory.
- JOHN COLEMAN: A powerhouse and 110db in the bar! His time as player-manager was a glorious one for Accrington Stanley and one for anyone who remembers it to cherish for decades. There will be no greater Accrington Stanley man than Coley. "Take that Burton Albion, not bad for a fatty!"
- PAU MULLIN: As much as I would like to leave the guy out, he was ace in Unibond, Conference and the League - he ripped my heart out when he absconded to Bradford City with Stanley in the middle of a relegation battle. But he must be in, as in the time he led the line it was joy after joy after joy. No coincidence and no greater gentleman to represent a Stanley Legends XI. You are forgiven Mullers...
THE best team of the decade also throws up a few other ideas. ...
LOAN TEAM OF THE DECADE: Elliot, Lees, Charnock, Antwi, Jacobson, Todd, Craney, Griffiths, Gornell, Kee, Symes
DIDN'T QUITE MAKE AN IMPRESSION XI: Bossu, N'Da, Morgan, Rodgers, Matty O'Neill, Grant, Fitzgerald, Banim, Jackson, Madin.