Another chapter in Cod Army fairytale - GAZETTE OPINION

Pictures Martin Bostock Chairman Andy Pilley celebrates  Fleetwood Town Football Club becoming UniBond League Premier Division Champions after their game against Frickley Athletic.

Pictures Martin Bostock Chairman Andy Pilley celebrates Fleetwood Town Football Club becoming UniBond League Premier Division Champions after their game against Frickley Athletic.

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In August 2004, Fleetwood Town’s big derby was against Fylde rivals Squires Gate.

In that season, they also travelled to Bacup Borough, Ramsbottom and Atherton Collieries for fixtures in the North West Counties League.

Now Squires Gate is a cracking little club run by a small band of dedicated volunteers, but the others aren’t the most salubrious of destinations. Especially in front of 50-odd fans.

Today, up to 10,000 members of the Cod Army will descend on Wembley to see if Fleetwood Town - in the doldrums little more than a decade ago - can achieve what many thought standing on the terraces of Highbury not so long ago was beyond impossible.

In fact, suggest you were 90 minutes away from derbies against Preston North End and trips to self-appointed big clubs like Bristol City and Sheffield United all those years ago and you would probably be stared at and dismissed as a crackpot.

But that’s where Fleetwood Town finds itself today. On the hallowed turf of Wembley just one match away from League One, two tiers from the Premier League.

One man’s mission - backed admittedly with a stackful of cash - has seen Fleetwood rise through the non-league ranks to rub shoulders with football’s luminaries.

Andy Pilley has simply transformed the club - and now the town is feeling the benefit too.

His dream has created scores of jobs, not just at the football club but elsewhere in catering and merchandise. People now know where Fleetwood is on the map, it’s not just a windy ‘one road in, one road out’ town with a shopping centre.

His ambition has galvanised an entire town and shown how football, much maligned for its extortionate wage structures and greed at the top level, can be a force for good.

OK, so outright promotion was the expectation this season but the play-offs at the home of English football is unbeatable.

Just ask Blackpool fans.

One more game, one more win, and the unbelievable fairytale will have another chapter.

The Fylde coast is behind you every step of the way.