The Original Accrington Stanley
Feature by Jaybee
Updated Friday, 2nd September 2011
A History of Accrington Stanley (Part One)
The beginnings of Accrington Stanley go back to 1878 and Accrington FC, who were founder members of the Football League, playing their first league match against Everton in 1888. They played for five seasons in the first division and then they were relegated to the Lancashire League and after two seasons, joined the Lancashire Combination and soon after folded.
In 1891, Stanley Villa were formed and two years later they became Accrington Stanley. In 1894, they joined the Accrington & District League and the following year, the North East Lancashire League. In 1900, they joined the Lancashire Combination, a league mostly containing football league reserve sides, but which also had a few professional first teams.
Accrington won the title in 1903 and were runners up the following season. In 1906, they won the title again and reached the first round of the FA Cup for the first time, losing to Bradford City, 1-0.
In 1919, following the end of the First World War, Stanley moved to a new ground, Peel Park that was to be their home for the next 43 years. They started the following season in the Lancashire Combination and won the Lancashire Junior Cup in 1921. That year the Football League, which had just two leagues was extended to three leagues with the addition of the Third Division (South) and the following year a Third Division (North) was added and Accrington were founder members.
Stanley had a fine first season, looking at one time as if they might gain promotion, but had to settle in the end for fifth, following the sale to Nottingham Forest of their leading scorer, Pat Nelis.
However, that proved to be the best pre-war season for Accrington and in 1927, 1938 and 1939 they had to seek re-election to the league, finishing bottom the last two years before the war. After the war things didn't greatly improve and the club had to seek re-election again in 1951 and 1953, but then their fortunes took an upward turn as in 1955, Accrington finished second behind champions, Barnsley. Sadly, in those days only the champions were promoted, so Accrington remained in the Third Division North.
The improvement of 1955 was maintained over the next three seasons as the club finished 3rd, 3rd and 2nd. In 1958, the two regional divisions were scrapped and a new third and fourth division formed. Accrington's second place finish in the 1957-58 season meant that they were placed in the new Third Division.
However, from then it was a quick downward spiral. With the club in a difficult financial situation, their first season in the new division ended with a 19th place finish and the following season they finished bottom and were relegated to the fourth division. In 1961, the club finished 17th; with no money they were forced to sell their best players.
The following season, 1961-62, was to be Accrington's last season in the league. Poor performances on the field were compounded by a worsening financial situation and Stanley played their last match at Crewe Alexandra on 2nd March 1962, losing 4-0. Accrington had debts of over £40,000 and with very low gates, it was felt little chance of paying them, though in view of the kind of debts incurred by teams in more recent times, it seems amazing that it should have led to the end of the club. The club were forced to resign from the league and were replaced by Oxford United.