Football had been played in Fleetwood before a more definite picture emerged in the 1880s. Fleetwood Rangers was the first of a number of incarnations. There have been three grounds and periods of success interrupted by the effects of two World Wars, the 1927 Flood and continuing financial pressures. Defeat in the 1985 FA Vase final at Wembley failed to dampen the spirits of over 7000 fans who made the journey. For many of them, there would be another chance to head to the capital nearly thirty years later.
The club reformed as Fleetwood Wanderers in 1997 and became Fleetwood Freeport just after the start of the 1997-98 season. The Highbury ground had been empty for a couple of years with almost all the facilities vandalised. A number of willing volunteers set about clearing up. After much effort, the club was accepted for membership of the North West Counties League. At the start of the 2002-03 season, it reverted to its former name of Fleetwood Town. The away defeat at St Helens Town, at the end of March 2003, marked the debut of a young defender, Nathan Pond. Pond was to become a true club legend over the coming years. He had been brought in from amateur football in the Preston area by manager Tony Greenwood.
Chairman Andy Pilley's love affair with Fleetwood Town started, appropriately, on Valentine's Day. He was invited to watch the home game against Glossop North End on 14th February, 2004. Fleetwood won 2-0 and Pilley was elected Chairman at a board meeting three days later. After finishing third in the North West Counties, a failed ground grading denied Fleetwood promotion to the UniBond League First Division. It was a blow that only served to make the ambitious Chairman more determined and promotion was achieved at the end of the following season.
Twelve months later, the club were celebrating a second successive promotion. It was a dramatic last day as a 5-1 victory over Brigg Town snatched promotion from Kendal by the narrowest of margins. Second place meant automatic promotion to the UniBond Premier Division.
Eighth position left Town just short of the play-offs in 2006-07 but consolation came in the shape of the League Cup final victory over Matlock Town. The Premier Division title and promotion to the Blue Square Conference North was achieved in 2007-08. It was another last day denouement. A draw against Frickley Athletic was enough as rivals Witton Albion lost to Worksop Town.
The following season started badly and Fleetwood were bottom after nine games. Manager, Tony Greenwood, was replaced by Micky Mellon in September 2008. Under Mellon there was a recovery to a finishing position of eighth and an FA Cup run which ended at home to Hartlepool United in the Second Round.
Promotion was achieved the following season, 2009-10, but only after a titanic battle with Southport. This involved a controversial episode which developed from Farsley Celtic's inability to fulfil their fixtures. Ironically, the decision to expunge points gained from Farsley's games meant that one of the most remarkable goals seen at Highbury was taken from the record books. In January 2010, Jamie Milligan spotted the Farsley goalkeeper off his line and scored from inside his own half. The filmed action on You Tube took Fleetwood Town's name around the world with millions of 'hits'. Southport secured the automatic promotion place with Town second. The play-offs beckoned and Fleetwood triumphed with victory over Alfreton Town. They also reached the FA Cup Second Round once again, this time exiting away to Northampton Town.
Fleetwood arrived at the top table of non-league football and their 2010-11 Blue Square Conference Premier League fixtures kicked off with a 1-1 draw at Rushden and Diamonds. They overcame two early losses by losing just once in 18 matches. A strong set of results towards the end of the season took them to fifth and another play-off situation. Town went down heavily to AFC Wimbledon over two legs.
The 2011-12 season started modestly with just two wins in six games. It was to end in triumph as Fleetwood won the title, and a coveted Football League place, with a club record 103 points. Jamie Vardy was the talisman as a twenty-nine match unbeaten run proved decisive. Vardy had been signed from FC Halifax and scored 31 league goals. Town reached the FA Cup Third Round for the first time but lost 5-1 at home to Blackpool.
With Vardy now at Leicester City, Fleetwood began their Football League career in August 2012 with a goalless draw at home to Torquay United. By November, Chairman Pilley faced his next managerial sacking. Micky Mellon left the club after a home FA Cup defeat against Aldershot and with his team sixth in League Two. He was replaced by Graham Alexander, a legendary player with Preston and Burnley, but relatively inexperienced as a manager. Stuttering form left Fleetwood in thirteenth position in their first season in the Club of 92.
There were plenty of twists and turns in the 2013-14 season. There was progress in cup competitions and an automatic promotion could still be anticipated at a late stage in the season by the Cod Army. Their team fell short with fourth place and 76 points, five points behind the automatic spots. Play-offs beckoned once again. Two tense semi-final legs against a resurgent York City produced just one goal, from ex-York player Matty Blair. Fleetwood were Wembley-bound for the first time since the 1985 FA Vase final. Their opponents were Burton Albion and the game was decided by a free kick from Antoni Sarcevic which deceived the Burton goalkeeper. It gave Fleetwood a sixth promotion in ten years. There was little rest for Conor McLaughlin who became the first serving Fleetwood Town player to represent his country when he played for Northern Ireland in Uruguay just five days later.
The 2014-15 season opened with a 2-1 win over Crewe Alexandra. Nathan Pond's appearance meant that he had represented Fleetwood at seven different levels and it earned him a place in the Guinness Book Of World Records. There were some big teams at this level and grounds which would have comfortably seated the whole of the town of Fleetwood with room to spare. The 2-1 victory at Sheffield United in March 2015 was arguably Fleetwood's biggest away league win. David Ball's equaliser at home to Preston North End three weeks later earned him a Ballon d'Or nomination, only the second Englishman to do so, after Wayne Rooney. Despite losing in the first round of all three cup competitions, Fleetwood made a solid start to League One, finishing tenth with 63 points.
There was another managerial casualty in the early part of the 2015-16 season with Graham Alexander sacked after his side lost 5-1 to Gillingham. There had been just two wins in the first ten games. Andy Pilley turned to former Scottish international and Coventry City manager, Steven Pressley. Results were inconsistent and the side were involved in a bottom eight survival bid. On 20th April, 2016, Sir Alex Ferguson opened the new multi-million pound training ground at Poolfoot Farm in Thornton. The penultimate game of the season, at Walsall, saw Nathan Pond break the club appearance record held by Jack Ainscough. It was Pond's 422nd game for Town. League One membership was secured on the last day of the season when Fleetwood beat Crewe Alexandra 2-0, finishing 19th on 51 points. It was only a second win in thirteen attempts for Pressley's side and the manager was to pay the ultimate price.
Pressley's departure came relatively late as the 2016-17 season approached and pre-season matches had all but finished. They included a high-profile game at Highbury against Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool. A 26th July departure date for Pressley left little time for new appointment, Uwe Rosler, to settle in but the former Manchester City striker was to make an immediate impact.
O'Neill pushing for first league start17 August 2017
Fleetwood Town midfielder Aiden O’Neill is pushing for his first league start in a red and white shirt ahead of Saturday’s game with AFC Wimbledon (3pm).
Rosler expecting Wimbledon to play with no fear17 August 2017
Head coach Uwe Rosler is expected AFC Wimbledon to play with no fear on Saturday when they take on his Fleetwood Town side at Highbury (3pm).
Watch: Development Squad win away at Oldham17 August 2017
Fleetwood Town's Development Squad beat a strong Oldham side 2-0 on Wednesday in a friendly match.