Cricket legend David Lloyd was bowled over by his true sporting love at the tender age of seven. Sitting on the doorstep of his childhood home – 134 Water Street, Accrington – the young Bumble watched eagerly for his team of heroes to appear at the top of the road.
But it wasn’t the likes of Ashes stars Len Hutton and Typhoon Tyson the lad was waiting for . . . but Accrington Stanley’s 1954 line-up of footie stars. Revisiting his old house and fond memories, Bumble says: “This is where it all started; I used to sit on this step as the crowds were coming up from town. The football ground was way up there somewhere, and most importantly, I used to wait for the footballers who actually lived in the next street. I still vividly remember the lads walking up this street with their football boots under their arms.” The team of the day was even closer to home for Bumble’s auntie Edith, who had the mammoth task of managing them all . . . OFF the pitch. “My auntie was Accrington Stanley’s housekeeper at this huge place on Avenue Parade,” he recalls.
“You can imagine the scene – lots of young chaps – and all in need of being properly kept with food, washing and cleaning. It was a bit like Upstairs, Downstairs.” Bumble adds: “Even today at the age of 69 my ﬁrst love is football. “My business of course is cricket – that’s what people know me from – but nothing takes the place of my beloved Accrington Stanley.”
These days, after a long and illustrious career playing, coaching and commentating on cricket, ‘Bumble’ as he is aﬀectionately known, admits not only is he an ‘Accy Stanley’ super-fan – he would have bought the club if he’d had the cash. Now an unoﬃcial brand ambassador at ASFC, he likens his undying passion for ‘The Club That Wouldn’t Die’ to the famous football magazine series and subsequent book, ‘When Saturday Comes’. “That’s me,” he laughs. “When Saturday comes, nothing else matters. I’m watching football wall to wall. My work takes me out of the country for long periods, so if I’m not at the match and in Mumbai or Cape Town, the ﬁrst thing I do is get out the laptop or iPad to see how Stanley has gone on.”
Established in 1891, Accrington Stanley played in the Football League between 1921 and 1962, when the club became only the second ever to resign from the League mid-season. Says Bumble: “I remember vividly going out of the league. It was heart breaking for me and for lots of people in the area. The club was dormant for some time – but stubbornness brought it back into existence.
“Accrington people are stubborn, determined and get things done. There are a number of people here who were instrumental in getting things going for the club again; none more so than Eric Whalley, former chairman and manager Jimmy Hinksman who had a vision.”
In 1966 the club went into liquidation and the former management and team took their painful departure from the Peel Park ground. Today the pitch is a primary school sports ground. Surveying the former ﬁeld of dreams, Bumble sighs.
“The memories come ﬂooding back,” he says. “I’ve seen 15,000 people on here. And the fabric of the old place is still here; the skeleton of Accrington Stanley Peel Park.” Pointing to the far part of the former pitch Bumble adds: “You’ve got the old railings here now, but years ago and back in the day there’d be turnstiles all the way along here, your changing rooms, pie huts, you could get a bag of chips and then there were the changing rooms and opposite, where the bank of trees are, that was the old stand. It was a huge thing, an enormous stand, which they’d bought from a racecourse and it actually crippled the club; they couldn’t recover ﬁnancially from paying for it.”
So what are Bumble’s thoughts on the club as it lives and breathes today in the Wham Stadium at Livingston Road?
“What we are up against at Accrington Stanley in that the ground is piecemeal,” he says. “There’s a bit here, there’s a bit there and it’s not a collective. We need to bring it up to date; the players need better changing facilities. We need to be in a position that we can oﬀer better facilities for the supporters, and perhaps we can get better players – bringing us closer to that dream of moving on to division one.”
Plastic box boss and ASFC fan Andy Holt came to the rescue in 2015 after discovering club coﬀers were so drained they couldn’t aﬀord to stock the bar with beer. Having heavily invested in the club Holt has steered ﬁnances from red to black. Yet, there is still a long way to go in terms of investment admits Bumble: “Finances are really tight, and that’s where it needs a kick start.
“Just talking about the facilities of the ground and the changing rooms, they’re very modest. When we had a cup game against Fulham in 2010, the then manager Roy Hodgson took one look at the changing rooms and decided to go back to the hotel and change there. There wasn’t enough room and he was dead right. We need to improve that, and it’d be nice if Mr. Hodgson could help in some way!”
With supposedly the Football League’s smallest budget, second lowest average attendance, and in a constant battle to keep its best players – you’d think it would be tough for the clu
b to hang on to the manager too.
“I can’t praise John Coleman enough,” says Bumble. “He’s brought us from non-league football, through all the stages, back in to the football league.
“It is astronomical is that – to do that for a little town like Accrington. It is my passion and I passionately believe that a town needs a football team that they can identify with.
“With Accrington Stanley the community shares in the good times and also shares in the heartaches. You know, the real poor times when things are not going well – we all pull together.”