New dawn for Stones

20th July 2016

Significant news released out of fortress-Vale today as Wealdstone usher in a new era with the appointment of former Accrington Stanley chairman, Peter Marsden.

The official press release finally brings about an end to months of deliberation, searching and speculation in what many have labelled as “the worst kept secret in football.” Marsden, meanwhile, who was spotted in the burger queue ahead of Wealdstone’s home defeat to Leyton Orient earlier this month officially begins life as Stones chairman today.

And he takes office spearheading a freshened up boardroom that earlier this month welcomed St Albans director Nick Archer, who joined as new vice-Chairman.

So just who is Peter Marsden and what will greet him when he officially reports for duty at Grosvenor Vale?

Phrases such as gentleman, nice bloke and top geezer are banded around the Accrington forum when, earlier this month, the League 2 club announced he was to step down from his position as Chairman. Some go one further than those everyday niceties, crediting him as the man who kept Stanley in existence.

Born and raised in London, Marsden, 57, made his money from property where he runs his own business – Peter Marsden Property Finance Company. But it was through his East Lancastrian roots that the unlikely marriage with Accrington Stanley unfolded some ten years ago.

It was 2006 when Stanley, still celebrating their first season back in the Football League, were drawn to face Watford at Vicarage Road in the much-maligned League Cup. It was here that Marsden, a local businessman who lived not far from Watford’s home ground, came about a chance meeting with some Accrington directors.

The story may have ended abruptly there as, despite exchanging numbers, Marsden says “in typical Accrington fashion they lost my business card” and so nothing materlised. Nothing but curiousity.

Within months Marsden, still curious, had read the book ‘Accrington Stanley: The Club That Wouldn’t Die’ and was hooked enough to pick up the phone to then-Chairman Eric Whalley pleading to get involved.

Fast-forward three years and when Accrington faced a winding up order in 2009, Marsden took his role alongside former-owner Ilyas Khan in the High Court as they fought to keep Stanley in existence. Between them the pair pledged to find the £300,000 required to pay the tax man, which they did, and Accrington survived.

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In the years that followed Marsden made a meteoric rise described as the quiet diplomat who sought to find a solution whilst others around him argued he was suddenly thrust directly into the limelight. “I never sought to be chairman but I’m very pleased” Marsden said following his appointment in 2012. But once he was, there was no doubting the success he made of the position – attracting significant investment along the way.

He was also an outspoken advocate for lower league football when he voiced his concerns over the multi-billion pound TV deal which was announced last year when he claimed the closure of Football League academies was inevitable in the wake of such an influx of money.

Speaking to The Mirror in February 2015 he said: “This new TV deal is killing the game, it’s killing clubs like us [Accrington]. You’re almost keeping your academies open as an altruistic thing to do rather than a way of generating money. More and more clubs will close their academies I’ve no doubt about that.”

Earlier this month Stanley announced he would step down as chairman with owner Andy Holt paying him the ultimate compliment: “Undoubtedly he kept the club afloat, deploying his skills, time and resources. The slogan ‘The club that wouldn’t die’ would not have been applicable had he not done this.”

Marsden retains a 10% stake in Accrington and continues to serve as an Honorary President a role which Holt says will “allow Peter to wind down more from the intense pressure and workload that his ten year stint brought him.”

Although the official transition to Wealdstone was kept under wraps, waiting on FA and league approval, Marsden hinted just a few weeks ago: “I also feel I have one more challenge left in my tank – perhaps in the world of non-league football closer to home.”

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So what next? Wealdstone will provide an undoubted challenge as the boardroom cartel that has existed for several seasons will undoubtedly be shaken up. One of the key early objectives will be to secure a lengthened lease, something which remains a top priority.

Claims that the budget is not significant but “10% better” than previous seasons seem justified as Bartlett has brought in six new signings so far (Oshodi, Benyon, Green, Kabba, Wellard, Hunt).

With this comes undoubted added scrutiny on Gordon Bartlett and his management team to deliver. With many supporters split down the middle, some suggest the manager, beginning his 22nd season in charge, will not be afforded the same level of tolerance that has existed before.

And what is eminently clear is the club will now be expected to build on their 12th and 13th placed finishes achieved in the previous two seasons.

If there’s a clue as to how Marsden might kick off his reign it’s from his words after he was installed as Stanley Chairman in 2012. Speaking then he said simply: “My job is a figure of unity, bringing people together and getting the best out of them.”

If he can unite the boardroom and strengthen the unity amongst the team and fans whilst, at the same time, develop the club’s links to the wider community and beyond, Stones could be on to a winner.

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