Another memorable year for Fleetwood Town Football ClubEighteen short years ago Fleetwood Town died with a whimper. It completed an infamous hat-trick of ceasing to trade as a football club.
The fishing port’s football vessel had previously sunk in 1928 and again in 1976, only to be hauled from the depths on both occasions. By 1997, the accompanying phoenix had probably become rather weary of rising from the well raked rusty ashes but with a lot of help from Fleetwood Town stalwart Jim Betmead and his loyal band of associates, the trusty bird flew once more over Highbury Stadium.
The phoenix has never looked down again; only onwards and upwards. Now flying under the guise of Fleetwood Freeport, the team achieved promotion from the North West Counties League Division 2 as winners’ within two seasons. Consolidation followed in the next four campaigns, the last of which saw a reversion to the previous name of Fleetwood Town.
When Andy Pilley made a low key entry to Highbury Stadium in 2004 no-one either in Fleetwood or the wider football world could surely have imagined the huge impact he would make on the town’s team. Promotion as winners’ of the North West Counties League Division 1 followed in the new chairman’s first full season at the rudder.
The runners up spot and further progression from the Unibond League Division 1 was secured the season after. Two campaigns later, the team were champions of the Unibond Premier League. A further two seasons more brought a further promotion from the Blue Square North.
A twin season timeline proved lucky again, when Fleetwood Town secured the Blue Square Conference and took their Football League place for the first time in their chequered history. The phoenix it appeared had reached her unlikely destination although, amazingly, after another season of consolidation, the bird continued its progress.
On Boxing Day in 2013, Fleetwood Town went to spar with their seaside neighbours Morecambe at the Globe Arena. They lost the bout due to a knock out punch from Padraig Amond and dropped to eight league place as a result. Five wins and a draw at the turn of the year though pushed Fleetwood into third place Just one win in the next seven matches then saw the team stutter.
A home victory against Portsmouth in mid march though proved decisive in pushing the side into fourth place where they remained for the rest of campaign. A place in the Play-Off semi final was secured and victory in it was forthcoming when York City were beaten in a two leg tie.
There was a certain irony when former Minsterman Matty Blair popped up to score the only goal against his previous employers in the first game at Bootham Crescent.
Fleetwood Town were Wembley bound on a barmy Bank Holiday Monday in late May and an appointment with Burton Albion. The exodus from the little Lancashire town was remarkable, as was the result at the national stadium.
A 75th minute strike from Antoni Sarcevic proved decisive as The Brewers were left to drown their sorrows while Fleetwood Town got intoxicated on emotion. It was a memorable day for those who ventured to north London; not least for the Club itself. It had achieved victory and a sixth promotion in ten seasons. This though was not the stuff of dreams, it was vivid reality.
The new season got underway in August and subsequently brought forth 23 games of mixed results. There has been both euphoria and despair as the half way point of the season has been reached. In the late 1990’s who would ever have imagined that Fleetwood Town would be rubbing shoulders with Bristol City, Sheffield United, Notts County, Coventry City and Preston North End?
Messrs Betmead and Pilley must surely pinch themselves occasionally. They deserve to for all they have achieved. Meanwhile, the phoenix continues to soar, without a glimpse of journey’s end anywhere in sight.