How Fleetwood’s Ambition Impressed Sir Alex
- Ferguson officially opened Town’s new training complex
- Former Man Utd boss impressed with extent of club’s ambiton
- Chairman Andy Pilley has led the club from North West Counties to League One
Sir Alex Ferguson is a man who has been there, seen this and done that. There are few things in the world of football able to shock or surprise him. Yet, when he arrived on the Fylde coast on Wednesday he couldn’t believe his eyes.
His destination was Poolfoot Farm, the new training complex and home of Fleetwood Town. He was there to officially open this state of the art facility and brainchild of Town’s inspirational chairman Andy Pilley.
What Ferguson had not factored for was the size of this project or the scale of ambition. He quickly realised that Fleetwood is no ordinary club. And at the heart of it all is a truly extraordinary individual.
I captained The Cod Army for two memorable seasons and count myself fortunate to have played my part in their incredible rise up the footballing pyramid. Yes, the team I led created our own history but the real story behind Fleetwood Town began long before I signed for the club. It all started with Andy Pilley. A man with a vision that few could even imagine let alone implement.
When Pilley took over at Town back in February 2004 the club was languishing in non league obscurity. They were a North West Counties outfit that commanded attendances of less than a 100. Since then he has overseen six promotions in just 10 seasons. A record that no club in the history of the English game can match. That in itself is a phenomenal achievement. But you have to consider that the population of Fleetwood is just 27,000 people, which is the lowest in the Football League. It shouldn’t have happened but Pilley has found a way to make sure it has.
And it’s not just on the pitch where Pilley has made a positive impact. He’s built a fantastic and modern stadium which also houses the offices of his other business interests. This has helped to create a thriving environment and countless jobs in an area of the country which was not previously blessed with similar opportunities.
The community projects the club carries out are second to none and I was proud to represent a club that put such a great emphasis on giving something back to the local area.
When I signed for the club my meeting with Pilley was one of the determining factors. His passion and drive struck a chord with me. His winning mentality was something I wanted to be associated with. Where others were asking the question of why Pilley was proving the answer could be why not. Pushing the boundaries of what is possible and always striving for more.
Many chairman will float dreams to potential signings but when Pilley spoke about his desire to build a training ground of real substance I had complete faith that he would deliver on his promise. And he has.
The project was still going through the planning process when we met for the first time but the designs I saw on his laptop blew me away. I knew that with this man in charge the club were heading in a direction I wanted to join.
Unfortunately I only got a taster of what the training ground has become. I left the club with the training ground very much in its infancy but I could see that it was going to form a huge part of the legacy that Pilley has already created.
Remember this is the club that Leicester City signed Jamie Vardy from. Perhaps Poolfoot Farm will be the next stepping stone for a future England prospect. Perhaps it could even produce a team like Sir Alex’s class of 92.
Pilley has earned the chance to dream hasn’t he? He has made it his mission to turn dreamers into believers. Poolfoot Farm could well prove to be the perfect home to inspire the next generation of talent.