Accrington Stanley? Who are they? Exactly.
People of a certain age grew up believing that Stanley were a joke team, the punchline in a milk advert and the motivation for a generation of youth to guzzle the white stuff by the pint.
Even now every other mention of their name will draw the same comment, only now they’re not the butt of jokes. Now, they’re League Two champions elect and could well be set to face Sunderland next season as equals.
There’s all sorts of factors which have helped them spring the surprise of automatic promotion ahead of sides such as Coventry and Swindon. Sean McConville in midfield, a 29-year old journeyman who has driven them forward relentlessly. John Coleman in the dugout is a wily old manager, a master tactician and sympathetic man-manager.
Then, there’s the goals of Billy Kee.
The 27-year old has had a nomadic existence so far, a purple patch at Burton was sandwiched between disappointing spells with Torquay and Scunthorpe. A loan spell at Mansfield couldn’t resurrect his Glanford Park career and in the summer of 2015 he linked up with Coleman at Accrington on a free transfer.
This season, he hasn’t looked back. His 22 league goals have fired Stanley to the top of the table, but his contribution has been about far more than finding the back of the net. He’s created nine more, making him a rounded centre forward who can create and finish. That’s a vital commodity and perhaps a mitigating factor in him winning the award last night.
Of those 22 goals, eight have been penalties, but he shows an unnerving accuracy from twelve yards just as he does from anywhere inside the eighteen yard box. For every 159 minutes Billy Kee is on the pitch, he scores a goal and he’s the stereotypical ’20-goal a season’ man that fans clamour for every summer.
He’s a robust striker, combative but fair and he’s only picked up four yellow cards all season, testament to his dedication to fair play as well as his obvious strength on the ball. He’s played 40 league matches, meaning he’s only booked once every ten games.
Finally, something the stats do not tell you, was his honest admission of battling depression recently. Kee is a good footballer, a striker of some pedigree who will earn his side a justified promotion in a couple of weeks time, but he’s also a candid human being using his voice to help others. That, aside from any of the numbers, is further justification for his deserved award.
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