Vikings and Phil Collins

FAN'S EYE VIEW; No 109: Accrington Stanley

"We know that there's more atmosphere at Accrington Stanley than there is at Ewood" - Fan's Eye View No 108: Burnley, by Paulinus Barnes, news editor of The Universe, the national Catholic weekly.

Even in this, Stanley's worst season for years, the atmosphere at the Crown Ground has been as frenetic as always. But what else would you expect from the most famous club in non-League football?

Our gates may have dropped to around 400 from their customary 600-700, but even this level of support is one that many better-placed clubs in the Unibond Premier League - and a few in the Conference - would be happy with.

We've not enjoyed the cup runs of the last two seasons which culminated in memorable matches against Crewe and Scunthorpe. However, we did play a friendly to celebrate our centenary against Blackburn Rovers in front of 7,500.

We've a thriving fanzine, The Barber's Pole, which, judging from the letters page, seems to be read all over the country. And our Norwegian supporters' club numbers well over 200, many of whom have made the trip. Their invasion of Buxton, complete with Viking helmets, caused quite a sensation.

Merchandising is another area where we've made our mark. The club mailing list includes around 400 names from outside the area and sales from this list hit the four-figure mark over Christmas. Others have not been slow to recognise the publicity and profit potential of our name. There's the Milk Marketing Board commercial ("Ian Rush says if I don't drink my milk, when I grow up I'll only be good enough to play for Accrington Stanley"). We don't mind insults when there's a five grand pay-out in it! The Old Fashioned Football Shirt Company, which in its catalogue of 126 vintage replica shirts includes just one English non-League club. And Phil Collins is our vice-president, and kit sponsor for his lookalike, Ashley Hoskins.

What of the club's playing fortunes? It's been a difficult season with some atrocious performances, but we've avoided the drop and we're returning to winning ways under an ambitious new chairman, Eric Whalley, and an equally go-ahead manager, Stanley Allan.

Like fans everywhere, we're looking forward to next season with undiminished optimism. However, there's one more major event for Accrington Stanley before then. The lads are off to Barbados at the invitation of the authorities over there to play a series of matches against the island's leading teams. Where are Burnley going this summer, Paulinus?

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