Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Who Are They?

Was there ever a more ridiculous advert than the Milk Council's "Accrington Stanley" one of the mid-1980s? "Accrington Stanley?", bellowed a dreadful little Scouse kid, apparently spurred on By Ian Rush, "Who are they?". "Exactly!", spat his equally obnoxious little friend. I know that it was all just a joke, made partly because of Stanley's hilarious name, but as a supporter of a club as small as theirs at the time, I was indignant about it. As you may have noted, I still am. It was, I guess, the inherent snobbery of the top of the English game. The smaller clubs don't don't matter. They're an irrelevance. It would be better not to play football at all than to play for them. It's a large part of the reason why I cheer every time a small club dumps one of these supposed "giants" on their arse in the FA Cup.

So... a quick re-cap: Accrington Stanley were Football League members from 1922 to 1962. They became the first club in the history of the League to resign in mid-season, after a financial implosion (two more have followed - Aldershot & Maidstone United, in quick succession in the early 1990s). After limping on gamely for three years, they folded, and their ground fell to ruin. You can read more about them here. A new club, with the same name, were founded in 1968, and as you know, last season they won the Nationwide Conference to win promotion back into the League. With pleasing symmetry, they replaced Oxford United - the team that took their place forty-four years ago. In 1985 (which was, I think, the year that the aforementioned advert came out), they were promoted from the North West Counties League to the Northern Premier League. A somewhat higher level than any of us have ever played at.

I mention all of this because of something I was researching last night. I was reading about the quite fabulously bad East Stirlingshire (more on them later this evening), and it became apparent that their players earn a flat wage of £10 per week each. Now, whilst such a wage structure may not be particularly conducive to success, even in the Third Division of the Scottish League, it's certainly bold. One of my old bosses was a centre-half for Leverstock Green in the heady heights of the Herts Senior County League about five or six years ago, and even he got £40 a week. What I'm trying to point out is that you have to be reasonably good at football to get paid to do it, and that shows a fatal flaw in the Milk Marketing Board's advert.

Only good enough to play for Accrington Stanley? I wish.

East Stirlingshire to follow.


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