Accrington Stanley Season Preview

The Football Lab interviewed Accrington Stanley supporter Sarah K ahead of the new season. You can follow her on Twitter @SarahK9500. Sarah discusses the impressive job manager James Beattie has done, the club’s development of young players, and whether last season’s goalkeeper, Marcus Bettinelli, may be hard to replace.

The football club has had some sad news this summer; ex-chairman Eric Whalley, the man who many feel began the rebuilding process at Accrington Stanley, has passed away. What sort of affect do you feel this will have on the club as a whole?

Eric Whalley was a respected business man and a great chairman at Accrington Stanley, he will be sadly missed. He was dedicated and forward thinking for the club’s future and worked hard in securing our place in the football league. I don’t think his death will have any effect on the club as he hadn’t been on the board for quite some time, but it was very sad news nonetheless and the work he did as Chairman will never be forgotten by the club.

Accrington looked likely to go down in October last season, when 6 points off safety. How well has James Beattie done to turn things around?

James Beattie has shown great leadership qualities since becoming Manager at Accrington Stanley which I’m sure will have been quite a transition for him, from originally joining the team as a player/coach in 2012. He showed his expertise as a player/coach then and since being appointed manager he has not only worked hard to keep the team in the league, but he has also been very generous when the club faced some financial difficulties in August 2013. The 2013/2014 season was James’s first management role and he soon built a team consisting of some young players, but through his experience he has been able to develop a very good team which secured a place in the league for this next season. His management style is one of encouragement and positivity towards the team, some of the early results last season were unfortunate, but he continued to be fully committed and positive, obviously seeing the potential of the team. For this coming season we have been able to keep the majority of the team and it is looking to be a very good season for Stanley with the signings he has made.

Goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli’s loan from Fulham has expired. Are you likely to get him back? And if not, could he prove hard to replace?

It would be great if we could, and there is always hope James will be able to arrange for Marcus Bettinelli to return to the club but of course it will depend on what the manager at Fulham has in mind for him. From the articles I’ve read, Marcus enjoyed his time at the club and given he played at every game apart from when he got called back to Fulham shows James opinion of his abilities. He was liked on and off the pitch by the fans and yes, he could prove hard to replace.

Defender Peter Murphy chipped in with 9 goals last season, from 47 appearances. Do you suppose he left due to budgetary reasons, rather than footballing ones?

It is a shame Peter Murphy will not be on the team this season, and it is hard to say what the reason was behind the decision. The financial difficulties the club has faced is no secret and this may have been behind his decision, or it may just have been he felt the need for a change of club… who knows! His performances during the last couple of seasons, especially the essential last minute goals he has scored for the club, will not be forgotten and this season’s team will need to be mindful of this when playing Wycombe Wanderers!

Adam Buxton signs on a one year deal. What did you make of the defender in his earlier loan spell?

I’m pleased that he has signed a year’s deal with the club as I was very impressed by his performance whilst he was on loan to us. He was a good and active team player, as he would run with the ball getting it up the pitch and not afraid to defend hard, which is what we need, and I think he will do well for us this season. It was evident at matches that the fans liked him and from comments I’ve read since his signing, they are pleased to have him back at the club.

23-year-old Tom Aldred was an ever-present last season. Is he one of the best young defenders in the league?

Yes, I feel Tom is one of the best young defenders in the league and I’m pleased that he will be staying with us for this season. Tom and Dean Winnard played particularly well together last season.

How would you assess your current midfield options?

Although we don’t have a big selection of midfielders, what we have are good midfield players. Will Hatfield had a really good season last year and shows great potential. The captain of the team Luke Joyce is a good solid midfield player, and Piero Mingoia may be one of the smaller players on the team, but he certainly makes up for this with his speed and skill on the ball.

21-year-old James Gray impressed in the closing stages of last season. Are you pleased to have him tied down for another two years?

Yes I’m pleased to have him with the club for the next two years. James Gray has definitely shown his abilities during this last season which I feel will only continue to develop and improve as time goes on. Along with other players, James is much liked by the supporters.

Your most-used striker last season, Odejayi now of Tranmere, started just 26 times. Would you say there has been too much rotation in this area?

During the season, I think there may have been too much rotation in this area and it was a shame we were unable to sign Odejayi. I feel there needs to be more consistency, as strikers need to develop a variety of skills and techniques to score goals.

With an average age of around 23, you seem to be favouring younger players. Is this the right approach?

Yes, I think this is the right approach to develop young players but unfortunately, given the clubs finances, we are unable to retain some of the players Stanley develop. The Football League as a whole need to invest and develop young talent these days.

With most bookmakers, Accrington are at around 5/1 for relegation. Where will you finish?

The bookmakers have had us down for relegation ever since we got into the second division and it’s good to keep proving them wrong. We may be a small club with one of the lowest budgets, but people shouldn’t underestimate all the hard work, dedication and determination of all the people in the club at all levels, as well as the supporters. The club has gone through a period of instability this past couple of seasons because of financial difficulties and with the changes of managers. However, since James Beattie was appointed as manager the club seems to be more stable. I think Accrington Stanley’s future looks brighter than it has for this past couple of seasons, and of course the ultimate aim of the club this season is to move up, which is most definitely achievable.

The Football Lab’s Verdict

Accrington were in good form after October last season, but the absence of an established goalkeeper remains a major concern. A challenging year ahead. 20th

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