AFTER seven years of working together Stanley chief executive Rob Heys says Eric Whalley still had the knack of making him feel like the apprentice.
Perhaps that was because the chairman who followed Blackburn as a youngster had carried the Reds in his heart for over 50 years since playing in the Stanley reserves.
Heys is relieved that the delays caused by a £300,000 debt to the Inland Revenue have finally been sorted out, with Dave O’Neill taking over the reins and former Stanley manager Whalley stepping aside.
He said: "It’s been great working with him. They say that Alan Sugar is Britain’s most belligerent boss, but it’s Eric. You could not work alongside anyone better. People joke about him being tight but that’s the way you’ve got to be."
Despite taking the Reds from obscurity into the promised land of league football in 2006, Whalley has faced increased pressure from certain sections of the fans in the latter stages of his 14-year chairmanship.
Heys admitted: "There have been one or two dissenting calls from a very small minority of people and anybody who is up there is there to be shot at. I think the takeover was always on the cards and would happen sooner or later.
"It has been a very difficult year but it’s fantastic that Eric got the club that I support to where it is now.
"You spend more time with your work colleagues than your friends and family and the best thing about Eric was he was always looking to have the best interests of the club at heart. Stanley fans everywhere will admire him for what he has done. At his age perhaps he deserves a rest and to travel to a few different places."
John Coleman has become one of the country’s longest-serving managers after Whalley brought him to Stanley a decade ago, and is in no doubt as to his former chairman’s legacy.
He said: "He has done an absolutely magnificent job for the club. When things go wrong people try and blame anyone and unfortunately Eric has been getting the blame. But you get that at any football club."
But he added: "I'm sure Eric will still be around the place."