I am old enough to remember the golden days of Fleetwood as a town and a port. As a child, I stood across from the North Euston hotel watching the trawling fleet sail on a daily basis – often 20-plus deep sea trawlers heading to Arctic waters. Bravery and work ethic were ingrained in our proud community.
The area was buoyant with men home for three days between trips to sea, pubs were open and busy and restaurants full as the fishing industry meant high employment and financial wealth.
Then came the cod wars and the fishing industry almost overnight was destroyed by the Government giving into Icelandic demands of a 200-mile exclusion zone.
As a result, I watched first hand in my role as a professional carer a community in a free-fall decline.
Poverty, drugs, alcohol, street violence and crime, marriage break-ups, all become higher than the UK average.
Then came the miracle: Fleetwood Town FC, which came under the care and control of Andy Pilley. A man of the people, similar in nature to the very essence of what made the community successful in Fleetwood. He is a football addict and never gives up. The quote on our dressing room wall: “Failure is not an option.”
To Fleetwood people he is similar in nature to the trawler skipper of old. He stands with his crew shoulder-to-shoulder through all that the world of football throws at us.
He is a tough, caring leader who has led the town of Fleetwood into a new era.
The marriage made in heaven was Pilley’s decision to bring a young manager to the club in Micky Mellon, a native of Glasgow blessed with working class values, and a man of the people himself, passionate, loyal and caring.
The community no longer looks at Blackpool with envy.
They see a focal point on which to centre their pride in their town, their heritage – their culture of “work hard and play hard” has an outlet again.
I work in local schools and the talk is not about Blackpool FC staying in the Premier League but can we – Fleetwood Town – get into the league. To see a community rise like the phoenix from the ashes is history in the making.
Pilley and Mellon have done more for the community and its mental health than Freud did for psychiatry. They have given the town a large injection of pride, confidence and self-belief. You can’t buy that in the chemists.