AFC Fylde owner David Haythornthwaite celebrates historic Wembley triumph ... with bittersweet memory of a chance meeting

This week brought the first anniversary of AFC Fylde’s FA Trophy triumph, when they became the only club to have won both non-league football’s Wembley cup finals – they won the FA Vase as Kirkham and Wesham a decade earlier.
AFC Fylde's second trip to Wembley in a week ended far more happily than their firstAFC Fylde's second trip to Wembley in a week ended far more happily than their first
AFC Fylde's second trip to Wembley in a week ended far more happily than their first
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For Haythornthwaite, that 1-0 victory over National League champions Leyton Orient was followed by a chance encounter with their manager Justin Edinburgh in Spain, just days before his sudden death.

The former Tottenham Hotspur defender died of a heart attack, aged only 49, and Haythornthwaite recalled: “I met him in a bar in Majorca.

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“I told him I’d still swap places with them because I’d rather have been promoted to the Football League than won the Trophy.

“He was a very nice guy but then, wow, a few days later he was dead.”

As for that win at Wembley, just a week after losing there in the play-off final to Salford City, Haythornthwaite recalls: “My partner and best friend Dai Davis (club president) always used to joke with me that we’d have a good run in the Trophy and could win it – but we always got knocked out pretty early. But last year you started to wonder if it was fated.”

The owner certainly allowed himself such thoughts after an incredible 5-5 draw away to Northern Premier League club Ramsbottom at the last-16 stage.

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He recalls: “It was a crazy game. We led 2-0 and 3-1 in torrential rain. It was an old-fashioned mudbath and in the blink of the eye we were losing 5-4.

“It said to Dai, ‘I told you you were dreaming.’ I couldn’t see us equalising but then we did and won the replay at our place. You wondered then if it could be your year.”

Fylde’s place at Wembley was sealed with a 3-2 success against Stockport County over two legs, with Haythornthwaite rating Alex Reid’s winner “probably one of the best goals Fylde have ever scored”.

He explained: “The passing, keeping possession, the finish from Reidy and the clear thinking of the players, straight after Stockport had equalised, was fantastic.”

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Danny Rowe’s Wembley winner was right up there for Haythornthwaite as well. He recalls: “Our talisman scored a free-kick as good as anything Shearer or Beckham could do. Without Danny I don’t think we’d maybe have got as far as we have. He was a fantastic player and still is.

“I’d have swapped promotion the week before for the Trophy but we picked ourselves up against the champions, who had nothing to lose.

“Leyton Orient probably hadn’t kicked a ball for a month. They were rested and were out and out favourites. They had beaten us twice and deservedly so.

“The experience of Wembley the week before helped us to handle the nerves and we played really well.

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“We’d won the Vase when Matty Walwyn, a young kid at school, scored both goals. To be the only club to have won the two big non-league cups is a great record, which I think will stand for a long time.”

But that won’t stop Haythornthwatie dreaming of a Wembley hat-trick: “The only one missing now is the FA Cup, then we’ll have the three stripes on our shirt.

“People will say it’s a wild dream but Dave Whelan had a wild dream when he took over at Wigan.

“Nobody would have thought they would get to an FA Cup final, let alone win it but they did.”