THE surroundings are not too dissimilar to how John Coleman left them.

Changes are mostly cosmetic. There is a roof on the Clayton End and there are seats in the cow shed. There is a new main sponsor for the Crown Ground (currently the Store First Stadium).

But there are plenty of familiar faces, from the boardroom to the kit room to the groundsman’s hut, which has been a second home to Martyn ‘Buzzer’ Cook since Coleman took the club back into the Football League in 2006; plucked from Hyndburn Borough Council’s parks and gardens by former Reds chairman Eric Whalley.

Accrington Stanley’s pitch is certainly one area of notable improvement since Coleman’s last spell in charge.

It is Buzzer’s baby. His pride and joy.

Through the support of chairman Peter Marsden and former manager James Beattie, in recent times it has also been his refuge.

Coleman is not the only one to be relishing a new beginning. It is a fresh start for Cook too, but in life rather than football.

For the 43-year-old is a reforming alcoholic, sober for 12 months this Tuesday.

The addiction first took hold around eight years ago. Three years ago he was told he was lucky to be alive, let alone still capable of doing his demanding job as groundsman.

“It was creeping up, drinking a bit more and more – a bit at home, a bit on the cricket or football,” he said.

“I was generally having a few more than I should have been but not thinking that it was a lot.

“Cans of Carling. Nothing else.

“I’d be having about 10 a day, so they usually say if you say 10 cans it’s really 12 or 14, which is quite correct.

“But I was still working. I was still functioning.”

Cook speaks with a sense of trepidation. The father-of-two is understandably nervous about sharing his story, particularly in the dog-eat-dog world of football.

But he hopes that by opening up, and spreading the word about the service that saved him – Inspire CRI (Crime Reduction Initiative) – others might also find help.

“It doesn’t matter what you are or who you are, it can take hold of you,” he said.

Cook is married with two children and had a stable job, but his life – certainly his drinking – had started to spiral out of control.

“The job was getting on top of me. It was hard work and you start worrying, so I’d have a drink to appease the situation and face it the day after,” he explained.

“I had two months off with stress, which led to drinking a bit more. I was worried about not being there and it got to a stage where I was thinking ‘I wonder if someone else is doing my job’ and it was paranoia at that stage, which grew and grew.”

There were other significant triggers too.

“My dad was diagnosed with cancer around that time and it was a thunderbolt,” he said.

“To see such a healthy bloke go like he did, that didn’t help.

“He passed away in April 2013.”

Cook drank to numb the pain, but in the process put his health at serious risk.

Persuaded by wife Gill to go to the doctors (he went to “tick a box”) blood tests revealed a Gamma GT level for liver function of 2,368. It is meant to be between 0 and 65.

He was referred to Inspire.

Cook went there too, but still wasn’t convinced he had a problem. Instead, it got worse.

“Instead of spending seven hours at the club I would come in and do 10 – seven hours working and the other three hours in my container drinking,” he said.

“My key worker at Inspire more or less told me I shouldn’t really be here. My liver count was off the chart.”

But despite the cold, hard facts, the drinking still did not stop.

Home life was hard. But together the family unit persevered with Gill, his wife of 16 years, taking the lead and going to Inspire herself to get advice from FACT (Family and Carers Together), a facility aimed at people who are living with addicts.

But Cook had to help himself, and a catalogue of events one weekend last August led to him wanting to seek it.

“I was drinking 16 cans a day – day in day out – and not eating a lot. I was supplementing my appetite just by drinking.

“I was a broken man,” said Cook, who went back to Inspire CRI, on Eagle Street, Accrington, of his own accord.

“It is unbelievable how addiction does take you – professionals, people with families. It can get anyone. But the core facilitators at Inspire were fantastic.

“If it wasn’t for them – and the support that my wife and my mum have given me – I wouldn’t be here now.

“Family life is brilliant now. I’ve got everything back that I thought I’d thrown away.”

Cook, who runs Ossy Rangers Under 15s football team, is grateful to his football family too.

“I told the Accrington chairman, Peter Marsden, right away and he has really supported me,” he said. “James (Beattie) knew and respected everything that was going on with me. He’s been great.”

Cook, or Buzzer as he is more commonly known – after former Manchester United manager Sir Matt Busby when Martyn was shortened to Mart, and then adapted to Matt when he was eight, so that his friends could tease the young Liverpool fan, is a reformed man.

“I feel absolutely fantastic,” he said.

“It’s the best I’ve felt for years.”

He will spend the next week preparing for Coleman’s second home debut as manager, for the visit of Plymouth.

The returning boss did not find that the grass was greener on the other side.

But for groundsman Cook, it definitely is.