Steve ‘Hacker’ Halford admits he may have been a touch ‘hot-headed’ during his time at Accrington Stanley!
The defender was part of the Stanley team which, in 2002-3, clinched the UniBond Premier League title - at the time this was club’s highest finish since reformation in 1968, finishing on 100 points and scoring 97 goals.
Steve played every game that season, all 54 of them, a no-nonsense committed centre half who admitted he wore his heart on his sleeve.
The season after, Stanley’s first in the Conference, was definitely one to remember for the wrong reasons for the former Bury player as he was sent off four times during the campaign – the Football Association believed the record in a season was five sendings-off by a Torquay player.
“I was sent off at Ebbsfleet earlier in the season and then was sent off against Burton in the FA Trophy and the game after was Colchester, the FA Cup third round game at their place, and I was shown a red card for two bookable offences – protesting their second goal was off-side late on.
“I remember it was all kicking off and I wouldn’t leave the pitch and had to be escorted off by police. I smashed up the dressing rooms too. I was a bit hot-headed!
“Then I got sent off at Hereford not so long after and I must have missed around 15 games that season which cost me a lot of money and ultimately cost me my place in the team as the gaffer (John Coleman) brought in another centre half, Mike Flynn.
“I nearly broke an FA record with sendings off and to be fair, it killed me.”
Steve, who has since been a non-league manager with Ashton, Stalybridge, Glossop and Buxton, enjoying five Play-Off campaigns in seven years as gaffer, signed for Stanley from Chester in January 2002.
“I remember getting on the coach for my first away game and, it was when the fans used to travel with us as well, and there was a man sat at the front with a can of strong beer, drinking it at 8am.
“My first thought was ‘what have I come to’, my second thought was ‘this is great!’
“To be honest the team spirit Coley and Jimmy (Bell) fostered at Accrington is something I have taken into management. The singing on the bus, the togetherness, the having a laugh and a joke, playing cards. That’s something which I took from them.
“It was a good crack, a real family club.”
Despite only being with the Reds a couple of seasons, he loved his time there.
“I remember one of the games during the FA Cup run we stayed at the Dunkenhalgh overnight. I always roomed with Paul Mullin, he hated rooming with me as I didn’t sleep, I was up all night!
“I had a slight injury and I took some strong painkillers. I remember I woke up and I was comatosed. Mullers had to prop me up in the shower. I still played 90 minutes, no idea how I did that!
“I also remember Paul’s header at Bournemouth in the 1-1 draw and I was near him and tried to claim it but he wasn’t having any of it.
“I did score at Burscough, they were going well at the time, and in the Altrincham game where we won promotion.
“I remember I had signed in the January initially, in 2002, and then they wanted me to sign again in the summer and Eric Whalley and Coley told me to keep it under wraps but we were signing Mike Marsh – we went on and won the league.
“My first full season, we had the likes of Russell Payne, Mark Brennan, Robbie Williams, Peter Cavanagh, Si Carden, Paul Mullin and Lutel James.
“The second season in the Conference it was Andy Gouck, Steve Flitcroft, Jon Smith, Andy Procter, Gordon Armstrong, Paul Cook, Dean Calcutt, Jon Durnin – it was a great team spirit.
“I struggled to get back in the team, my red cards didn’t help and then I broke my leg. I had a year left on my contract but, in 2004, the gaffer said I could go out on loan, go out permanently or stay and fight for my place.
“I wanted to play so I joined Droylsden in 2005 and won the Conference North title again.”
Steve, a window cleaner, is hoping now to get back into football management after a bit of time away.
“I love it and I have been successful. I tell the lads that played under me, that I was hot-headed and being like that hit me in the pocket and cost me my Accrington career. It was my own stupidity. I realise what a nightmare I must have been for John and Jimmy now!
“But, in seven years as a manager, I have never been sent off so I might have learnt my lesson!"