The success story of the Cod Army continues
It is not always easy to appreciate just how far Fleetwood Town have come in the space of a decade.
“The rollercoaster that Fleetwood have been on is nothing short of incredible and I think everybody admits that.” Matty Blair, in the aftermath of their promotion to the third tier of English football, said.
The moment that is always referred to is when Andy Pilley, a local businessman with a love for football, looked at investing in what he called a ‘pub team.’
Poking around a dilapidated, derelict and vandalised Highbury Stadium, a broken window fell from its hinges and his first attendance as the newly appointed chairman was only 80 hearty people and ‘one man and his dog.’
The resurrection from that to a side that will be plying their trade in League 1 for the first time in their history – six promotions in ten years – is one of football’s greatest fairytales.
“A lot of people look at Fleetwood and think small club, they shouldn’t be where they are,” Blair added. “We have massive ambitions and that comes back from the board and the chairman, who is really enthusiastic about the club and wants to take them as far as they can.”
It is well documented the effect that Pilley, who also celebrated his birthday watching Fleetwood secure their latest triumph, has had on the transformation of the Cod Army as one promotion quickly followed another stemming over a decade.
The tone was set from the start. Fleetwood did not just get promoted, they broke a series of records a long the way.
Only a failed grounds requirement prevented Fleetwood from making the step up to the Unibond division at the first attempt, before they won the North West Counties Division One title in record-breaking style.
Twelve months later, and Fleetwood repeated the trick to secure back-to-back promotions on a final day that could not have been more dramatic. A three-point and four-goal deficit separated Town and automatic promotion at the start of play and the odds were firmly stacked against them at start of play.
With Kendal Town losing, Fleetwood’s 5-1 victory over Brigg Town meant Fleetwood took the next big step in the path to the Football League.
Fleetwood were starting to make a habit of keeping their stay in division’s brief. Two years later, and another record broken – this time by the fans – Fleetwood won the Northern Premier League to make the step up to the Conference North after piping Witton Albion to the league title on the penultimate game of the season.
With the Fylde Coast wind in their sails, a disappointing start to life in the Conference North was not going to stop the club making the step up to the pinnacle of non-league football the following year
Another two years, and a different route, but the same outcome. Fleetwood, under the guidance of Micky Mellon, tasted play-off glory for the first time with a 2-1 victory over Alfreton Town. Four promotions down and what was only a dream to a ‘pub team,’ Pilley and 80 fans was turning into reality.
Now a familiar theme, Fleetwood, again, kept their Conference stay a brief but successful one. Play-off heartbreak prevented them from taking their place in the Football League earlier, but elation again soon followed at Highbury Stadium.
On the crest of a wave, a twenty-nine game unbeaten run and a century of points, Fleetwood broke more new ground and graced the Football League for the first time in their history.
"It was always my vision when I arrived to see this club in the Football League and now we've done it,” Pilley said about their fifth promotion.
The journey did not stop there, though, but by now you do not need to be told what happened next. Winning, after all is what Fleetwood Town, are all about.
“When I joined this club in the summer I was surrounded by players that thought exactly the same as I did,” Roberts, the Fleetwood captain, said after guiding his side to Wembley glory.
“They was all about winning, they were all about going to achieve the next goal and going to win the next medal.
“We’re lucky that all that hard has work has paid off and we have got that medal hanging round our neck now.
“It’s up to us now to enjoy the moment, we have got to dust ourselves down, re-energise ourselves over the summer – it’s going to be a short one – but we will come back and we look
forward to giving League 1 a good crack.”
The story is not over yet.