By Tony Leighton
Accrington Stanley manager James Beattie has pulled off his most important transfer of the season - and it had nothing to do with the January window.
It was a mental manoeuvre by the rookie boss that turned round what seemed to be a relegation-doomed season for his Sky Bet League 2 team.
After 12 games of the campaign Stanley were stuck firmly to the bottom of the table with no wins and just four points from 36 to their famous old name.
Ex-England striker Beattie, in his first managerial job after a playing career spent mainly in the top flight, was reckoned by some pundits to be out of his depth.
But he told football-league.co.uk: "If you ask anybody who knows me they'll tell you that I've never had a problem with self-belief - and I had belief in my team.
"Their performances in that early part of the season were there or thereabouts, so it was a question of transferring my own belief into the players.
"I knew I was doing things the right way, but the players had to believe in themselves if we were going to turn around a position that was looking dire.
"Getting our first win was the turning point, because at last it wasn't just me saying they could beat teams but they'd experienced it for themselves."
That first victory, against Bristol Rovers in late October, was the start of a run that now stretches to eight wins and five draws from the last 16 games.
That points return is promotion form and has led to speculation that Beattie could be set for a move to managerless but third in the table Oxford United.
But ahead of his team's Friday night clash with second-placed Scunthorpe United, he insisted: "There's been no official approach from anybody.
"I've spoken to the boys - they were a bit worried that I was going somewhere, but my commitment is to them and it has been from day one."
Beattie will be expecting that same commitment from his players as they look to complete what would be a notable double against the promotion-chasing Iron.
Stanley won 2-0 at Glanford Park in mid-November and Beattie said: "That was an excellent away performance and it was a real confidence booster.
"But Scunthorpe haven't lost in the League since then and so this is going to be a very difficult home game that we've got to be absolutely ready for."
Beattie's 19th in the table boys will also have to be absolutely ready for a run of arguably more important games that follow the meeting with Scunthorpe.
Still only four points above the relegation zone, Stanley's three outings that follow Friday night are all against teams that currently lie below them.
Wins against Bury (21st), Torquay (23rd) and Portsmouth (20th) will surely go a long way towards ensuring another season in The Football League.
But Beattie warned: "It's not just these last few matches in February that are vital, we've got some huge games coming up next month as well.
"So although we've done well over the last three or four months, we can't let ourselves get carried away because we've still got a lot of work to do.
"But the lads know what's required and what I demand of them - and with the mind-set that's in the squad now, it's what they also demand of themselves."
For all the latest news on Accrington Stanley please click here