It would be fair to say that Fleetwood were not the preferred choice of Wanderers fans when the first round draw was made the weekend before last (although I can think of at least one notable exception). Whilst fingers were crossed for a short trip to Maidenhead, Keith Houchen and ex-Chairboy Matt Hanlon fumbled with the balls to ‘reward` us with the longest ever away first round FA Cup tie in our history.
That is not to disrespect Fleetwood Town or the wonderfully named ‘Cod Army` as they are also known. A club with our history should have empathy with the men from Highbury Avenue as they strive for Football League status after over a century of non-league football. We know just how much enjoyment that kind of historic success can bring a club and after this weekend let`s hope they go on to glory (and if they can keep Luton Town down in the Conference Premier so much the better.)
The Cod Army have had a slightly less glorious history than the Chairboys since their formation in 1908. It is another reminder that we were blessed to have someone like Frank Adams who provided such stability and sustainability. Our opponents this weekend have twice had to re-form and start again after the club went bust. The first club was simply called Fleetwood FC and spent most of their existence competing in the Lancashire Combination, which they won for the one and only time in 1924.
They moved to Highbury Avenue in 1934 which has undergone an almost complete transformation in the last few years. The club began playing in amber and black stripes (which are now their current change colours) before switching to red shirts and white sleeves shortly after the end of the Great War as part of a commercial arrangement with a trawler company.
The Cod Army became founders members of the Northern Premier League when it was formed in 1968 but were wound-up in 1976. They re-formed as Fleetwood Town in 1977 and three years later made it through to the first round of the FA Cup where they were rewarded with the dream tie at home to Blackpool, which they lost 4-0. They reached the final of the FA Vase (a trophy donated by Frank Adams) where they were beaten 3-1 by Halesowen Town in front of 16,000 at Wembley.
The club was invited to become founder members of the Northern Premier League First Division when it was created in 1987 and they became the first champions in its inaugural season and were promoted to the Premier Division. Sadly the club again suffered from financial difficulties and folded in 1996.
There was a great effort to re-form the club a second time as Fleetwood Wanderers (excellent name), only to almost immediately sell their soul and rename themselves at Fleetwood Freeport after a retail centre built on the site of a derelict dock. This monstrous entity finally ended five years later when Freeport PLC ceased and they reverted to the name Fleetwood Town.
The current club’s success can be traced back to the arrival of Andy Pilley as Owner / Chairman in 2003. They were denied promotion back to the Northern Premier League First Division in 2004 due to ground grading issues but made it up the following season. They finished as runners-up in 2006 to make it back-to-back promotions. In 2008 they became Premier Division Champions to reach the Conference North and they won promotion to the Conference Premier in 2010 after finishing second and beating Alfreton Town in the play-off final.
Current manager Micky Mellon was appointed as boss in September 2008 and has played against us on numerous occasions for Blackpool, Burnley, Tranmere Rovers and Kidderminster Harriers. As might be expected there are only a couple of players that have played for both clubs and they are strikers Andy Bell (now playing down the road at AFC Fylde) and Magno Vieira.
Since the Second World War the Cod Army have reached the first round of the F.A. Cup on nine occasions but rather ominously they have never beaten a Football League club. The closest they came was a year ago when they held Walsall to a 1-1 draw at Highbury before losing 2-0 in the replay at the Bescot Stadium.
As this is the first meeting between the two clubs I have decided to have a quick look at their expected line-up for the weekend. They are likely to stick to their preferred 4-4-2 formation?
Between the sticks
Scott Davies will keep goal. The 24-year-old signed from Morecambe in July 2010.
At the back
Shaun Beeley will play at right-back. The 22-year-old signed from Oldham Athletic in July 2008.
Alan Goodall is likely to come in to replace the injured Junior Brown at left-back. The experienced 29-year-old has played against us before for the likes of Rochdale and Chesterfield.
Steve McNulty is the Captain and will play at centre-back. The 28-year-old was signed for a then club record fee of £17,000 from Barrow in July 2009.
Nathan Pond is likely to play at centre-back. The versatile Pond, now 26, has been with the club for more than seven years. He can also play as a holding midfielder.
Alternatively, Charlie Wassmer could return to partner McNulty in central defence to allow Pond a midfield role. The 20-year-old is on loan from Crawley Town and has been given permission to play. He missed the 2-1 win at Luton Town last weekend due to a diabetic condition but is now fit again.
In the middle
Jamie McGuire will play in central midfield. The 27-year-old joined the club from Droylsden in July 2009.
Jamie Milligan will partner McGuire in the middle of the park. The 31-year-old former Everton Youth has been with the Cod Army since 2005.
Sean Clancy will play out on the left-wing. The 24-year-old joined Town in July 2009 from Burscough.
Gareth Seddon is likely to play out on the right-wing. The 31-year-old is nominally a striker but he could come in to replace Ryan Jackson who has returned to AFC Wimbledon following a one month loan. Seddon joined the club from Kettering Town in 2009. He has faced the Blues before and scored for Bury in a 2-0 win at Adams Park back in March 2002.
Richard Brodie (pictured) needs no introduction. The 24-year-old striker was hot property whilst at York City and joined Crawley Town for £275,500 in August 2010. Fleetwood paid a “significant” five-figure fee to take him on a season-long loan. He will lead the attack on Saturday.
Jamie Vardy is the Cod Army`s star man. The 24-year-old striker was signed from FC Halifax Town in August 2011 with the club paying a reported record transfer fee of £100,000. He can also play out on the wing and has scored eleven goals in his last eleven games for Town.
The substitutes could include the superbly-named back-up goalkeeper Danzelle St Louis-Hamilton, defender Paul Edwards, Midfielders Keith Briggs and Scott Brown, winger Stefan Cox and strikers Andy Mangan and Magno Vieira.
Vieira, now 26, joined Fleetwood in July 2010 and scored on his debut at Rushden and Diamonds. He was their leading goalscorer last season. He spent the 2008/09 promotion season at Adams Park under Peter Taylor when he scored twice in 16 appearances.