FOR Peter Marsden, his rise to chairman of Accrington Stanley has come by accident rather than design. His involvement could have been over before it had even begun, had it not been for a curiosity about the club that refused to die.
Born and raised in London, where he runs the Peter Marsden Property Finance company, the 53-year-old’s family connections to East Lancashire had always given him a fascination about Stanley.
But it was only a conversation with Reds directors at a Carling Cup tie at Watford, in the club’s first season following promotion back to the Football League in 2006, that tempted him to become involved – and even then it almost did not happen.
“I met some of the Accrington guys at Watford and I was telling them about my links with the town and said, ‘Can I join you?’” Marsden recalled.
“I gave them my phone number and then in typical Accrington Stanley fashion somebody lost my card, so nothing ever happened.
“But a few months later I had been in the area on business and I came up to the ground one Friday.
“It was 5pm and Rob Heys was just shutting the shop.
“I said, ‘I’ve come all this way, can I look around?’.
“All I had in my wallet was £20 and I thought, ‘What can I buy with this £20?’.
“I bought the first programme back in the Football League and the book ‘Accrington Stanley: The Club That Wouldn’t Die’. I spent the next few days reading it.
“It got me so hooked on it that I rung up Eric Whalley to say that I’d like to get involved with the club and put a bit of money in.
“I think he thought I was a bit of a crank because people used to regularly do that to him and not deliver, so I had to convince him that I was genuine.
“But I only thought it was going to be a very passive involvement.
“If you’d told me that years later I’d end up as chairman I’d have thought you were mad.”
But Marsden’s contribution to the club has grown since then.
Travelling north to games with his faithful dog Nelson, he played an important part in Stanley’s narrow escape from winding up proceedings in 2009.
Not a publicity seeker by choice, Marsden was the quiet diplomat in the background attempting to find a solution as others argued.
Eventually, and crucially, he was by the side of Ilyas Khan in the High Court, pledging to help find the money required to pay off a £308,000 tax bill.
From there he has worked with Khan, who became chairman after first offering the role to Marsden.
Reluctant at the time, he has now agreed to take it on after Khan insisted that he wanted to step down and give away his stake in the club following a share issue.
“There have been generations of Marsdens who have lived in Abbey Village,” he said.
“My father, grandfather, great grandfather were farmers and owned a small quarry, which sounds very grand but I think in those days it was a tough existence.
“My father then headed to London in the 1920s, so although I was born in London I’ve always been very conscious of my East Lancashire roots.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the history of Accrington Stanley.
“From a young age I was always thinking, ‘What was this club that died?’.
“Accrington Stanley is a national institution. If we weren’t a football club we would be a national charity, like the National Trust.
“I just want to keep it ticking over and make sure that we’re in no danger of getting relegated and in no danger of going bust.
“Anything after that is an achievement.
“I’m quite honoured to be chairman but slightly embarr-assed as well because things like that don’t normally happen in my world. I’ve been the associate director, director, vice president, president, God knows what.
“I won’t be hands on because I’ve got my own business and my own family. I’m getting on a bit as well!
“My job is a figure of unity, bringing people together and getting the best out of them.
“I never sought to be chairman but I’m very pleased.”
Having been installed in his new role, Marsden is bringing in new investment with a number of businessmen about to join the board – raising £150,000.
“I think there are about 10 or 11 people,” he said. “Everybody is putting money towards it.
“The money is not mega bucks but at the same time it is still decent sums of money. Most of them are local people, there is somebody from abroad but with Accrington connections and somebody I know in London.
“Some of the people coming in are people who bought the recent ‘C’ shares.
“The club’s actually on fairly stable lines already but having money in the bank and new people on board meant Ilyas didn’t have to give the time commitment and the financial commitment.
“Nothing dramatically differ-ent is going to happen, it just means that we build upon it.
“My aim is that we’re not a problem to the Football League or the town of Accrington.
“We just want to be a nice steady business that everybody is proud of in the town.”
Marsden was heavily involved in the decision to appoint Paul Cook as boss in January.
“I like Paul for all sorts of reasons but number one he’s very well connected in the game with the people he can ring up and say, ‘Loan us a player or what do you think about him?’” Marsden said.
“And he knows how to work within a budget.
“I think Paul is a good manager. He’s got lots of ideas.
“I genuinely am very optimistic about the future.”