As they prepare for their testimonial match against Burnley, Stanley boss John Coleman has been reflecting that he and assistant Jimmy Bell could have lasted just a season at the club.

Just over 15 years ago the Reds won promotion from the Unibond First Division thanks to a nailbiting final day win over Farsley Celtic and the rest is history.

But Coleman thinks it could have ended very differently.

“We probably wouldn’t have survived if we hadn’t gone up!” he said. “We’d finished third for the two seasons before with Ashton United and ended up getting the sack. I think maybe with the way it finished and if it had all gone sour right on the last day Eric (Whalley) might have given us another year but you never know!

“When we first walked through the door if anyone had told us we’d get three promotions, stay in the Football League for as long as we have and make the play-offs they would’ve been laughed out of the building.

“Now and again you get the chance to reflect. Sometimes someone will bring a newspaper out that brings back memories or you might bump in to someone who played for you at that time. I’ve always said that the first promotion from the Unibond First Division, because of the way it transpired and the excitement of it all going down to the final day having been 17th at Christmas, will always be the highlight. I don’t think that can ever be beaten for me in terms of enjoyment and passion. Everything after that has been a bonus for me.”

Now the pair’s achievements and service to the club are being marked by a pre-season match with the club’s neighbours from Turf Moor.

“We’ve had some great games against Burnley and they have helped us out over the years,” explained Coleman. “The first time we were supposed to have our testimonial we had to put it on the back burner because the club was in financial difficulty and Burnley thankfully came to our aid with the SOS game which was much appreciated and a big reason why we are still here today.

“I have to thank them for that and I have to thank Sean (Dyche) for agreeing to bring his team this time. I asked him a few months ago and he readily obliged.”

But this will be no light hearted stroll – Coley is expecting a competitive test for his new look side against Championship opposition and above all is looking for the right result.

“I’ll still be unhappy if we don’t win,” he admitted. “That’s how you have to be. It’s what makes you as a manager and makes you as a person. We came in at half time against Nelson and I was going ballistic because we’d conceded a sloppy goal and it was 1-1. You’ve got to set yourselves high standards and you’ve got to aspire to reach those standards every time you play football.”

The John Coleman – Jimmy Bell testimonial, Accrington Stanley v Burnley. Store First Stadium, Accrington 18/07/15 Kick off 3pm
Admission prices £15 adults, £10 concessions & students, £5 under 17’s