Fleetwood Town dare to dream about sixth promotion in nine years


Fleetwood Town’s president, Jim Betmead, could be forgiven for pinching himself when he gazes out from Wembley’s royal box before today’s League Two play-off final.

After all, the 65-year-old is the man who restored the Lancashire club to life after its liquidation in 1996, restarting in the second tier of the North West Counties Football League.

“It was just the tumbleweed that was missing,” he says of the then derelict Highbury Stadium he and a team of volunteers set about making fit for purpose. “The grass was waist high, the stands were in need of urgent repair. When I re-formed the football club, if I’d said we were going to go into the Football League, they’d have carted me away in a straitjacket.”

Today, Betmead may actually see Fleetwood go one better, for two seasons after their historic promotion to the Football League, they will climb into League One with victory over Burton Albion.

Fleetwood, a club who took their red-and-white colours from a trawler company, had already folded once before in the 1970s, just as the local fishing industry started to decline. Yet the climb of the “Cod Army” began in earnest after the 2003 arrival of chairman Andy Pilley, a wealthy local businessman who has spent £10m on transforming their fortunes. Pilley invested £4.5m alone in an impressive new main stand and on the pitch there have been five promotions, starting with the North West Counties First Division title in 2005. Their Wembley squad today includes one survivor of that first step, defender Nathan Pond, who made his debut in front of a crowd of 81 people. “What Andy has done has been an absolute dream – he has just taken us on this magical journey,” adds Betmead.

Besides a chairman with deep pockets, Fleetwood also have a bright young manager in Graham Alexander. He is 18 months into his first management job but has considerable play-offs experience: during more than 1,000 playing appearances, he lost finals with Scunthorpe United and Preston North End before winning Premier League promotion with Burnley at Wembley in 2009.

“For me it’s about repaying the faith put in me by people this season and last,” said the 42-year-old, who last summer was able to bring in vital experience in captain Mark Roberts – a League Two play-off final winner with Stevenage – and midfielder Steven Schumacher. His opposite number Gary Rowett, by comparison, actually lost his two best players after Burton’s play-off semi-final defeat 12 months ago. Where Burton may have a “1 per cent advantage” according to Rowett is from the fact they train at St George’s Park, where there are three pitches “very similar” to Wembley’s, although they may well need this against a club Nigel Worthington, manager of Fleetwood’s semi-final victims York, described as the “Manchester City of our league”.

Betmead prefers a different parallel. “I played in the Northern Premier against Wigan and look at what they’ve done. We’ve rubbed shoulders with them once before, so who knows?”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform