When I read in the media that Fleetwood Town’s manager, Graham Alexander, was disappointed with finishing 13th in the club’s debut Football League season, it suggested that the so-called “Cod Army” harbours relatively lofty ambitions.
Alexander has spent the summer strengthening his squad, bringing in a handful of new faces, including Stevenage’s Mark Roberts, centre-back Ryan Cresswell from Southend, Chester’s Anton Sarcevic and full-back Stephen Jordan from Dunfermline.
Raising the roof
Fleetwood, as a club, look anything but Football League new boys. Other clubs who have suddenly found themselves in the League look like non-league outfits who haven’t adjusted to the “bigger time”. Not Fleetwood. Their new stand, topped with a sweeping curved roof, looks like it has been borrowed from a much bigger stage. Just what the neighbours in their nut-brown houses and red-brick back-to-backs feel about this somewhat futuristic new arrival is hard to tell, but one has defiantly named his house “Turf Moor” to leave nobody guessing where his allegiances lie.
Fleetwood are one of the few clubs that doesn’t have a railway station nearby. Visiting fans have an arduous journey to Highbury Stadium (yes!), travelling via Preston and Blackpool and a 40 minute tram ride along the coast and past the famed Fisherman’s Friend factory. It’s a journey that tests the resolve of any away following and also makes Fleetwood one of the least accessible clubs around.
On the opening day of 2013-14, Fleetwood hosted another club more frequently linked with the non-league world, Dagenham & Redbridge, who only just avoided the drop back into the Conference, at the expense of Barnet. Around 40 of the Daggers’ faithful, along with a drum, made the journey up from East London. They contributed to the attendance of 2,511, lower than Fleetwood’s average of 2,855, but significantly higher than the 2,019 that saw the fixture last season. Perhaps a railway station would make a difference.
Quick start to the season
It didn’t take long for Fleetwood to repay some of the optimism around Highbury, Mark Roberts, the newly-installed skipper, heading home after little more than five minutes. Cue the Captain Pugwash theme tune in celebration. Before the 10-minute mark, Fleetwood scored again, Jeff Hughes, totally unmarked, picking his spot from 18 yards. Sloppy defending by the home side allowed Rhys Murphy the chance to pull a goal back, something of a relief for the visiting fans, who must have feared a drubbing after Fleetwood’s early two-goal burst. Fleetwood sealed the points, however, when Ryan Cresswell, a classically-built English centre-half, scored a big defender’s goal at the far post. Final score 3-1.
Naturally enough, the Fleetwood fans will hope that this win, against a team that might have a long-hard August, let alone winter, will herald the start of a promotion challenge. Certainly players like Hughes, David Ball, Junior Brown and Cresswell caught the eye. It’s early days, but this is a club that has become accustomed to success in recent years, so they will be looking for quick results. As they say, “In Cod we trust”.
The teams at Highbury were as follows:
Fleetwood: Davies, Roberts, Hogan, Creswell, Jordan, Schumacher (Murdoch), Hughes, Brown (Evans), Crowther, Sarcevic, Ball (Matt)
Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Ilesanmi, Doe, Saah, Hoyte, Bingham, Ogogo, Howell, Elito (Reed), Murphy (Woodall), Scott (Obafami)