From navigating turbulent financial waters to riding on the crest of a wave out of non-league football, Fleetwood Town FC clinched promotion from the Blue Square Premier on 14th April for the first time in the club’s history, after an outstanding season.
The Lancashire club, affectionately known as The Cod Army, had notched up 31 wins, 10 draws and only three defeats – away at Wrexham and Barrow in August and at home to Newport County in October – to seal a spot in League Two, amassing 103 points with two games to go.
The club have also found the back of the net on 102 occasions, with 31 of those goals belonging to Sheffield-born forward Jamie Vardy, whose performances have resulted in a number of league clubs scouting the 24-year-old, with a bid from Championship promotion-pushers Blackpool being rejected earlier this year.
It is a case of third-time’s-the-charm for Fleetwood, with the current incarnation only being formed in 1997. In those 15 years, the side have secured five promotions in eight years and were crowned champions after Wrexham failed to beat Grimsby Town.
Two previous Fleetwood teams date back as far as 1908, but the club’s current rise to prominence began in 2002 when local businessman Andy Pilley invested heavily in the team, including splurging £1M on the side’s Highbury Stadium home.
A rapid rise through non-league saw the team win promotion to the Unibond Division One in 2004/05, as North West Counties League winners, then rise to the Unibond Premier League in 2005/06 followed by further promotions to the Blue Square North in 2007/08 and to then the Blue Square Premier in 2009/10.
In 1908, the first Fleetwood team (Fleetwood FC) enjoyed a successful period in the 1920s, winning the Lancashire Combination League once and the league’s cup competition three times in the 1930s.
The team moved from their original home ground on the promenade to the Highbury Stadium in 1934, but by 1976 the club had folded and a new club, Fleetwood Town, was formed.
The first Fleetwood Town’s high point came when they reached the FA Cup first round for the first time in 1980, a game which they went on to lose (4-0) to neighbours Blackpool. Four years later, the side made it to the FA Vase final at Wembley, but were defeated 3-1 by Halesowen.
By 1990/91 Fleetwood had finished fourth in the Northern Premier Division, but by 1996 the club had folded again.
Boom and bust football has been a way of life for a number of teams in non-league football, but with the stability of Football League revenue behind Fleetwood and the hope of increased attendances, the club can now look forward to a bright future.
A number of sides promoted from non-league in the last decade have gone on to do very well in League Two, with some even achieving back-to-back promotions.
Providing Fleetwood can continue to couple the club’s sensible off-the-pitch management with the high calibre of performances on it then the sky is the limit for the young Cod Army.