Accrington v Pompey: The Insider

Accrington boss John Coleman
Accrington boss John Coleman
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Every season Accrington are the bookies’ favourites to get relegated. They are used to it.

However, presently they are 22 points off the drop zone – instead sitting in play-off positions.

It is beyond everybody’s expectations, although perhaps not the manager.

At the start of pre-season John Coleman was publicly telling players that if they don’t want to win the league or get promoted then there’s the door.

It raised a few eyebrows but installed a winning mentality early on and developed into a really refreshing campaign involving a very young team.

Coleman has a core of 15-16 players and their form throughout has been absolutely terrific.

Accrington most likely possess the smallest budget in League Two, well it’s between them and Morecambe for that claim.

Yet Coleman hasn’t focussed on what they haven’t got, he is all about what strengths they are blessed with.

I would imagine tomorrow’s back four will have an average age of 20, with around 50 Football League appearances between them.

My age is 29 and there are only two players in the squad older then me – Andrew Procter and Anthony Barry. Neither of those start regularly either.

Coleman has this ability to give people an opportunity when no-one else would, especially young players.

Take Billy Kee as a great example. He did really well with Burton and then didn’t make the grade with Scunthorpe, also struggling during a Mansfield loan spell.

Coleman knew the striker from a previous loan stay with Stanley and snapped him up. He has now scored 10 goals in 22 league matches.

There are a string of players recruited from similar circumstances. It’s like a footballing Battersea Dogs Home!

This month has seen Matt Crooks and Josh Windass sign for Rangers on a pre-contract agreement after resurrecting their careers at Accrington.

Crooks was disastrously bad in the early days of his time at the club, while Windass was working on a building site and playing non-league football when recruited by former boss James Beattie.

They will remain at the Crown Ground for the remainder of the season, however.

The pair have been two of the most high-profile players during the campaign. Windass is very eye catching and has little moments of brilliance, while Crooks has transformed from a rubbish centre forward to an excellent holding midfielder.

To get replacements for the pair would have been difficult, obviously.

Although having said that, considering the talented squad of players at the club, the manager didn’t have too many worries.