History of Fleetwood Town FC

History of Fleetwood Town FC

Fleetwood Town has played in different places, had different names, and risen and fallen throughout the long years of its history… find out more

Fleetwood and Blackpool have before played in the same league, and Fleetwood have also played what are now the big names.

Times Past

This photo (below) is in the 2015 Fleetwood Times Past calendar, it’s one of Fleetwood Town’s former pitches on the site of the current Magistrates Court at the right hand side of the North Euston Hotel. It promoted local historian Dick Gillingham to get in touch and tell us more. Can you add anything else?

Former Fleetwood football pitch next to the North Euston Hotel

Dick says “The football ground alongside the North Euston was the third possibly the fourth occupied by the town team.

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The first established ground was the Copse Ground across the road from the side of the present Asda store. Here the team were known as Fleetwood Rangers. It was here that the team played the forerunners of Manchester United – then called Newton Heath. They also met Everton in an English cup-tie and also Ardwick – forerunner of Manchester City. They also played a new team, Liverpool, at Anfield and beat Woolwich Arsenal, now simply Arsenal, on tour in the South.

When the Rangers folded, Fleetwood Amateurs took their place on a ground now part of the Memorial Park – in fact almost alongside the site of the present ground.

Both of these grounds had grandstands holding hundreds of spectators. After this phase Fleetwood Football Club were formed, playing on the North Euston ground which can be seen in the Times Past calendar, taken from a photo held in the collection at Lighthouse Stationery.

Too Small for the FA

The pitch here was too small to be allowed to play in the FA (formerly English) Cup and the club built a new ground in 1920 opposite the side of The Queens Hotel.

This ground was designed to hold over 20,000 and a wall still exists behind the houses alongside Beach Road garage. The ground was too far out of town and after the Great Flood of 1927 the club shut.

Soon after the North Euston pitch re opened for a team called Windsor Villa representing the town. After a few years Fleetwood FC reformed on the North Euston Ground and enjoyed their greatest success until the Andy Pilley era.

They left that ground to move to the present Highbury Avenue just before WWII broke out in September 1939. The club has gone out of existence at least twice more before becoming Fleetwood Town.

Dick went on to add “We are still researching and finding out about Fleetwood Football history. The present Vice Chairman, Phil Brown, wrote the club history ‘Through Stormy Waters’ twenty five years ago.

“Incidentally back in the beginning, in the Rangers days, Fleetwood and Blackpool played in the same league. Maybe they will again next year!”

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Jim Betmead MBE – A Big Part of the History of FTFC

I’m a member of the Business Club at Fleetwood Town FC, and at our meeting last week Jim Betmead, now MBE, had been invited along to share his story with us.

As I’d already started this new page about the chequered history of Fleetwood Town through the decades, I got my pen ready to add Jim’s story. The thing that quickly struck me was what a lovely bloke: full of enthusiasm and va-va-voom – I can see why a) he revived the club and set it on its present course and b) why he’d been awarded an MBE.

Jim Betmead MBE, President of Fleetwood Town FC
Jim Betmead MBE, President of Fleetwood Town FC

Jim’s love affair with Fleetwood started when he was 17 and started playing for the club. That went on until he was 32 and then, as footballers do, he found another career as an electrical technician at ICI when they were the big name at what is now Hillhouse at Thornton.

When ICI started their long decline which eventually saw them leave the Fylde Coast, Jim and his wife didn’t want to take the relocation package, preferring instead the severance package which enabled him to stay here in Fleetwood – you can understand why. But that left him with a problem – what to do next. After a look around he finally decided what he wanted to do.

Fleetwood Town FC was in one of its periods of closure at the time, but that didn’t stop Jim, who went home one day and said to his wife ‘I’m going to have a crack at Fleetwood Town. I’m going to see if I can get it going again’. A tolerant and understanding wife she must be – because that’s just what he did next. A public meeting at Highbury Club attracted over 200 people – and it was thanks to an ICI colleague that he’d analysed what the future might bring, so that the gathered crowd could discuss what might be done, and where the benefits and challenges would lie. So off he went.

I can’t imagine that it was easy, because these things never are. I would also imagine that he gave himself many a headache from banging his head on a wall at trying to negotiate leases and the like, in order to secure the use of Highbury – which at the time was unused and i=under threat of becoming a housing estate.

Phil Brown, now Vice Chairman, was one of the first contacts he made, and together they, and numerous others, have worked tirelessly from the start to set the club on the path it now follows. Jim says “getting into the NW Counties 2nd division and then going on to win that division was a big highlight.”

Andy Pilley then came along and the club entered a new era. I’d taken it as far as I could, but with Andy’s backing and investment it’s entered a whole new level. Jim adds “For me the biggest achievement was coming through the pyramid and winning the Conference League. What a feeling that was, and to get to Wembley was unbelievable.”

Jim summed up what makes Fleetwood Town so special, and why it’s managed to come so far so quickly in recent years, he says “On the field and off the field the club have got everything right. All the staff, players, management team – everyone wants the same thing – to keep going forward and to be successful. Everyone has got the same ideals and it’s a great atmosphere that makes for a well run and solid club, so long may it continue.” He went on to add that for a town with a community built on a fishing industry which has declined significantly, the club has given the town its community pride back – and it also employs about 400 people thanks to the business interests of Andy Pilley.

So how did the MBE come about? Well after spearheading the club for five years, Jim joined DWP and ended up at Fleetwood Job Centre, where his new boss was a woman called Helen Crosier. When she heard about Jim’s success at Fleetwood Town and what he’d done, she got together with his old mate Phil Brown and between them they nominated Jim for the MBE, completing the paperwork and collecting all the endorsements required for the successful nomination.

So Jim is the man after whom Jim’s Bar is named, he’s got his MBE, and he’s President of Fleetwood Town Football Club – now mid table in League One of English Football after a meteoric rise through the ranks. As Jim says “life doesn’t get much better than this”. Well done Jim Betmead – you deserve it.

You can find out much more about Fleetwood Town Football Club here

Fleetwood Town Football Club grounds at Highbury
Fleetwood Town Football Club grounds at Highbury

Jim Betmead MBE, President of Fleetwood Town FC
Jim Betmead MBE, President of Fleetwood Town FC – you can read more about Jim further down on this page

One Comment
  1. Avatar

    Was a Michael /Mike thomas a goalkeeper for Fleetwood in the mid/late 70s/ early 80s?xx

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