ANDY Pilley enjoyed the proudest day of his Fleetwood Town stewardship yesterday, with his club top of the non-league football tree and an FA Cup second round tie at home to Yeovil just 48 hours away.
But the Town chairman insists the club’s incredible journey is not yet complete and the ultimate achievement is yet to come.
Town’s rise since Pilley took the helm in 2003 has been little short of miraculous. A North West Counties League club in the fifth tier of non-league as recently as 2005, Town were on a wonderful high on Tuesday when a 3-0 home win over Kettering took them to the top of the Blue Square Bet Premier.
Pilley told The Gazette: “It was a pleasing and convincing victory and we now have to maintain that form because titles aren’t won at the end of November.
“But we have a superb manager and some great players and I see no reason why we should not still be at the top come the end of the season.
“It has been a long journey, but if anyone had said seven or eight years ago that we would be top of the Conference and playing a League One side in the second round of the FA Cup I would not have believed them.” Yet such a phenomenal rise hasn’t happened by accident, and owes everything to investment which matches Pilley’s ambition.
He continued: “The club’s rise isn’t a total surprise. We are committed to progress and the remit is to turn the Fleetwood Town into a stand-alone Football League club.”
He admits that plans for League Two football in 2011-12 are under way, and that isn’t a case of counting chickens.
“You would not be doing your job properly as chairman if you were not planning ahead and looking at the requirements of the Football League.
“The club has grown off the pitch as well as on it. We still have a bit of housekeeping to do but we have a ground which will be compatible with League standards, with one or two minor tweaks.”
In the same way, Pilley can’t help himself contemplating a new year glamour day in the third round of the FA Cup.
“It’s human nature to think about the possibility of a dream tie against Blackpool or a Premier League club ... but we have to beat Yeovil first.
“I can’t wait to pit our wits against Football League opposition again. We came very close to beating League sides three times before we were finally successful against Wycombe. We were good value for that win and now we will set our stall out to do it all over again.”
Of all the signings Pilley has made for Town in a concerted bid to win promotion from the top-flight of the Conference at the second attempt, none has made as big an impact as goal-a-game attacker Jamie Vardy.
Many fans are questioning whether Town will keep hold of their star asset in next month’s transfer window but the chairman’s view is clear.
“Vardy is a very special player. He is down to earth and is getting on with the job we are paying him to do.
“We want him to finish that job and I expect him to be here for the rest of the season, if not beyond. It would take an enormous deal to make us change our mind.
“But if maintains his from and ultimately ends up with a Premier League or Championship club, we will wish him well. I have no doubt he is good enough to play at the very top level if he applies himself.”