Fleetwood Town are on a roll !! Last night they beat Hereford FC 2-0 in an FA Cup 2nd round replay at Edgar Street with goals either side of half time from captain Cian Bolger after the teams had tied 1-1 at Highbury 12 days ago. Hereford, in the heart of cider country is the home of the ( SAS) Special Air Services, the most feared elite fighting force in the world. The 'phoenix club' in only its third season in the 7th tier of English football. Hereford United went bust in 2014 and a new club with the same stadium and fans sprang up.
This sets up a home tie with EPL Leicester City, champions two seasons ago and the return of Jamie Vardy, sold for £1 million when The Cod Army were none league but hurtling up the divisions. Fleetwood is now a bit of a backwater on the Fylde Coast, but as a young lad I used to write down the names and numbers of The Fleetwood Flyer and other steam trains that brought fresh cod and people from the station which is no more.
As a teenager I would go by train then by ferry on the Manx steamer to Douglas in The Isle of Man to look at the tailless Manx cats and watch the motor cycle races around the roads of this small island in the Irish Sea. As a university student I worked as a tram conductor along the Blackpool promenade and up to the terminus at Fleetwood for a 30 minute lunch break and my ham sandwiches and flask of hot sweet Typhoo tea. The tram then continues back down the coast within a couple hundred yards of Highbury and the factory of Fishermans Friend, the cough drop pastilles still made there since 1865 and now exported world wide to over 100 countries.
30 year old Vardy was released at 16 by Sheffield Wednesday and joined nearby Stocksbridge Park Steels, FC Halifax Town, then Fleetwood Town. 25 goals for Halifax, 31 for Fleetwood then the $1million transfer to Leicester City. The Premiership title then Champions League and selected for England.. a remarkable career...so far.
Manager Uwe Rossler has had an even more interesting life. Born in Allenburg, East Germany he played for many clubs as a striker including FC Lokomotive Leipzig, 1 FC Magdeburg, Dynamo Dresden, 1 FC Nurnberg, Spvgg Unterhaching then Lillestrom, Manchester City....top scorer in 3 seasons..., Tennis Borussia Berlin, Southampton, West Bromwich Albion.
He coached Lillestrom, Molde, Viking Stavanger and then Brentford, Wigan Athletic, Leeds United and now the Cod Army. He married a Norwegian and named his two sons after Sky Blue legends. Colin, who is now at the Man City Academy after Colin Bell, and Tony, after Tony Book.
Another remarkable part of the rise of Fleetwood Town is owner Andy Pilley who along with his then teenage son Jamie, I met outside a pub in Burghausen, the beautiful walled city almost on the Austrian border in SE Bavaria about 4 years ago.. I jumped into their passenger van and took them to Wacker Arena home of SV Wacker Burghausen, one of the largest sports clubs in Germany with over 6,000 participating members in two dozen different sports.
Andy is the 47 year old energetic Town Chairman and runs an energy business. I was a VIP guest of his a few seasons ago at Highbury and before the match he showed me the 'boiler room' of computor terminals in the main stand at the centre of operations. Behind one end is a magnificent supporters bar and cafe, Jim's Sport Bar, one of the most pleasant ones I have been in. This week and next featuring such events as Olly Murs Tribute, George Michael Tribute, and Michael Jackson Tribute...
A couple of seasons ago he built POOLFOOT FARM a training hq opened by Sir Alex Ferguson and costing £8 million plus. I was shown around by CEO Steve Curwood.and then a cider at the bar. More business computors and the Fleetwood Town Community Trust, a charity to help the needy. The training facility has first team facilities and also grass and FIFA 4 G pitches for local leagues and camps, and is energy saving. I met the Technical Director, Icelander Gretar Steinsson and they have an arrangement with Sjarnan FC in Reykjavik.
I was a guest for a home match at the friendly Sjarnan club about 18 months ago. He played 48 times for Iceland and for local clubs KS, IA, then Young Boys Bern, AZ Alkmaar, Bolton Wanderers and Kaysenspor of Turkey.
The public is more than welcome to watch training and use the 5,7,9, and 11 a side pitches and boasts the Cross Bar & Grill Restaurant. This in a day when more and more professional clubs are banning their fans from their training complexes.
Saturday 6th January 2018 at 12.45 pm Town will host Leicester City, their first EPL competitive opponent, and chosen for a world wide audience on BBC TV. Cod Army fans at Shakespeare's Pub in San Diego ( I know some of them and have eaten and drank there) will have to get up really early for their traditional English Breakfast and big screen TV. IT SHOULD BE WORTH IT !!