THE new season is a day away, and all is as it should be in the world of Accrington Stanley.
Boss James Beattie is standing beneath the main stand at the Store First Stadium, holding court on how he expects Stanley to be underestimated once more this season, when he is stopped in his tracks by a banging noise from above.
It is Bill Holden, taking a hammer to the roof of the stand, making some last-minute adjustments ahead of tomorrow’s opening game of the League Two season against Phil Brown’s Southend United.
In Holden the Stanley spirit of the late, great club chairman Eric Whalley, who sadly died during the summer at the age of 73, lives on.
It has always been make do and mend at Stanley, quite literally.
Holden is 70 now. He may be a director of the club, but he is doing this repair work voluntarily, just as he has always done.
“Just doing a little interview here Bill, give us two minutes pal!” Beattie shouts up affectionately.
The banging stops, and Beattie continues his interview. He is in mid-flow again when the noise resumes.
“Bill!” he shouts again, laughing at the absurdity of a moment that somehow encapsulates everything about this club. They will never be conventional, but they do what they can to fight against the odds.
With some bookmakers they are favourites for the drop this term, along with Morecambe.
There has barely been a season when it has been any different, despite the Reds’ impressive climb to 15th place last term after a nightmare start of only two points from their first 10 games.
“If we could get a decent start this time it would be great,” Beattie said. “If we’d done that last season we’d have been in a much better position, but towards the middle and end of the season the lads were tremendous.
“Already we’ve been written off again and that lies perfectly with the club, we’re used to it.
“There’s a definite determination within the squad to prove people wrong. I think we are underestimated by everybody but it’s great when teams do that.
“It gives you an advantage.”
Peter Murphy has left for Wycombe but the Reds have brought in former Oldham keeper Luke Simpson and young midfielder Connor Martin, as well as signing Adam Buxton after a loan spell last season.
“Hopefully there are going to be a couple more faces but it will have to be going to the bigger clubs and trying to ask them for a favour,” Beattie said. “But I’m delighted with the squad I’ve assembled. The spirit is spot on.”
Will Hatfield is an injury doubt for the opening game, while a calf problem means there has been no resolution yet on whether Brett Ormerod will sign a deal to return for a second spell. The 37-year-old has spent pre-season with Stanley.
“We’ll give Brett all the treatment he needs to get back fit, and then we’ll sit and talk about it,” Beattie said.
Interview done, the Stanley boss shouts up to Holden on the roof.
Briefly, there is no reply.
“Have you fallen off?” Beattie asks. He hasn’t, of course.
The banging starts again, the preparations for the first game resume.
Stanley will continue in their own inimitable way. So far it has worked just fine.