John Coleman and Jimmy Bell will celebrate 1,000 games as a management team at Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup Second Round tie at home to Cheltenham Town.
The pair, who played together, started out managing at Ashton United in the 1996/7 season before linking up with Accrington Stanley in 1999 and taking them from the UniBond First Division into League Two in their first spell in charge.
They joined Rochdale in 2012 before then going onto Southport and Sligo, returning to the Wham Stadium in 2014 and guiding the Reds into League One.
“We are proud to reach 1,000 games as a management team,” said Coleman. “It is an achievement. I don’t know if I ever wanted to be a manager, I just wanted to be in football full-time as myself and Jimmy never had the chance to be professional players.
“I remember our first game at Ashton, playing Burton in the FA Trophy. We got absolutely pummelled but we won 1-0.
“At that stage, we never thought we would be managing in League One and facing teams like Barnsley and Sunderland.
“It’s been a rollercoaster but it’s a fantastic job. If I gave up here tomorrow there would be a queue down Livingstone Road for this job.
“There have been a lot of highs. Farsley Celtic in that first promotion year, winning on the last game of the season in 1999 and scoring.
“For pure emotion, Luton last season with Billy Kee’s winner. I think with that goal, we knew we would win the league. It was euphoria and a great feeling.
“Lows included the Stevenage draw where we didn’t go up automatically in 2016 and, when we were at Rochdale, we were playing one of our relegation rivals Walsall. We were 2-0 down, we turned it around to score what we thought was the winner with 10 seconds to go. Walsall kicked off and scored an equaliser. We went from complete euphoria to desolation in ten seconds and I think we knew we would be relegated then.
“It’s amazing for two friends to be together for so long. We have done well to get to 1,000 games without ripping each other’s heads off or our own heads exploding!”
Read more of John Coleman’s interview in Saturday’s matchday programme.