AFC Fylde: Lancashire side on the rise
We have seen many football clubs over the years have unexpected success in Lancashire. Teams like Blackpool and Wigan reaching the promised land of the Premier League and Fleetwood coming from a Sunday League side to a Football League team. AFC Fylde are now attempting to become Lancashire’s latest fairy-tale.
With attendances averaging little over 500 people at their home games you wouldn’t think the club had a chance of getting close to the likes of Fleetwood or Blackpool but looks can be deceiving. AFC Fylde, formerly known as Kirkham Town FC and Wesham FC, first started in the West Lancashire leagues in 1988. Now 23 years later they are just two promotions away from Blackpool. They are currently a Conference North team.
On Sunday 15 May the club are in the playoff final against North Ferriby United bidding for another promotion. If they succeed it would be their 4th promotion since they changed their name to AFC Fylde in 2008. Dominic Collins a local lad who joined the club at the start of the 15/16 season said: “Because of the success of the club I have friends who are Blackpool fans who now want to come and support us. That’s how much recognition we are getting and rightly so.”
In 2007 the club’s chairman David Haythornthwaite announced ambitious plans for the club. He stated that he wanted the club to reach the football conference premier league by 2017 and be a football league team by 2022. In 2011 he appointed Dave Challinor as manager. Challinor dropped down two leagues to join the club from Colwyn Bay. He stated it was the club’s ambition that made him decide to make the move.
Brad Roscoe, a defender who has spent the last 6 months on loan at AFC Fylde from Fleetwood and is a local Lancashire lad said: “It is amazing really who would have thought 20 years ago that this club would end up so close to getting in the football league? It is really good for the area to have a team doing well especially as what has happened to Blackpool recently.”
On 3 September 2013 the chairman confirmed that the club will build a brand new stadium. Mill Farm is where AFC Fylde will be playing their home games from the 2016/17 season instead of Kellamergh Park. It will hold up to 6,000 fans and will be a much more up to date stadium that has been purposely built to be able to be used in the football league. Dominic Collins is really excited about playing at the new ground, he said “Being local myself I know that this new ground will be really good for the area. The atmosphere should also be really good with the ground able to hold more fans. Other businesses are opening at the ground as well which will create jobs for local people. That’s why many people are firmly behind the club and its long term plans.”
AFC Fylde have already defied the odds. They have risen up from being a small time Sunday league club to being just two leagues away from being the latest Lancashire club to make history. On Saturday they might just be one league away from Blackpool. When this club was formed in 1988 who ever thought that would be possible. Thanks to ambitious players, staff and chairman though that dream is very much alive. When asked if he sees AFC Fylde in the Football League by 2022 Dominic Collins said: “yes I do. Simply because of the people who are behind supporting it.”
AFC Fylde lost 2–1 to North Ferriby United after extra time. Hopefully next season they will get promotion and be one step closer to the football league. AFC Flyde’s Sam Finley took to twitter to post his disappointment.