IN two spells at Peel Park, Joe Devlin saw Accrington Stanley in their heyday and on their darkest day of all.
To him the difference could be summed up in two words – Walter Galbraith.
Devlin was Galbraith’s first signing as Stanley boss, joining from Falkirk in 1953.
Galbraith would bring many more Scots to Accrington, tapping into the rich seam of talent north of the border to help the club thrive on a limited budget.
They reached the top three of Third Division North for four seasons in succession between 1955 and 1958 – still the highest finishes in the club’s history. But Galbraith quit in August 1958 and from there the decline started.
Within four years, and just weeks after Devlin’s return to the club after spells at Rochdale and Carlisle, an ailing Stanley opted to resign from the Football League.
“They never recovered from Walter Galbraith leaving,” said Devlin, who still lives in Accrington. “It was a big loss. He got the best out of players. The club couldn’t go out and spend money to sign players.”
Stanley’s demise in 1962 came a year after the PFA, led by chairman Jimmy Hill, successfully managed to scrap the Football League’s maximum wage of £20.
Like all players, Devlin was pleased with the change at the time but acknowledges it ultimately made life tough for the smaller clubs.
“At first it was 10/8, then it 12/10, then it was £15, then £20 and then they got rid of the maximum wage. I think that probably did make a difference to Accrington.
“The big clubs were getting the crowds, they had the money and it was hard for the smaller clubs to compete.
“It’s gone too far now, there are people on £200,000 a week now and that’s ridiculous.”