Saturday 2nd January 2016 ko 15.00
National League North
AFC FYLDE 1 (Rowe 84)
CHORLEY 0 Dean missed penalty 23
There can’t be many clubs who play their final game under one name at Wembley. That distinction goes to AFC Fylde who won the 2008 FA Vase as Kirkham & Wesham, then changed their name for their next season, elevated to the Northern Premier League. It doesn’t take much imagination to work out why either.
Kirkham lies just south of the M55 between Preston and Blackpool, and while it’s a thoroughly charming place, it isn’t well-known. Would Oxford United have made the Football League in their original guise of Headington United?
The club’s rise has certainly been meteoric. Formed in 1988 by the merger of Kirkham Town FC and Wesham FC, the club moved in 2007 from Kirkham upon election to the North-West Counties League to a plot of land behind the Birley Arms pub in Warton, around 3 miles away, the ground eventually being named Kellamergh Park.
It’s clear that the club is receiving generous backing from chairman David Haythornthwaite, and the club have made it clear that the aim is to reach the Football League by 2022. The problem is that Kellamergh Park cannot keep up with the club’s progress.
The land was leased for 25 years on the basis that once the club leaves the land will be returned to its former use, a farmer’s field. That may explain the fact that virtually everything looks temporary, and so can either be moved or sold on. But Kellamergh has two bigger issues. The first is the access, though a barrier through a pub car park is barely suitable for Step 2, let alone higher, and the footprint of the ground is too small to give the club the capacity it will need. As the club adds seats the total capacity is reduced.
So a new ground is being built at Mill Farm, just off the M55 on the ourtskirts of Wesham. It’ll have an initial capacity of 6,000 with the main stand seating 2,000 and will have an Aldi supermarket as anchor tenant next door. On a personal level I’m rather taken with the curved floodlights! Fylde expect to see the season out at Kellamergh before moving.
Now I’ve been to plenty nouveau riche clubs and my worry is that they develop an arrogant streak, and no I will not be naming names! I did wonder though as I went through the turnstiles. In fact it became crystal clear within seconds that this is a club completely at ease with itself.
I’m used to buying a teamsheet from the club shop, but not seeing the revenue raised go straight to charity. I’m used to being spotted by a club official and asked how far I’ve travelled, but not over the PA system. It’s not unusual to be thanked for coming, but not by club secretary Martin Benson!
You’d understand it more if this had been a low-profile game. But Chorley is a local derby, and there is plenty of history between the two clubs. Chorley’s James Dean is a former Fylde player and it was crystal clear he desperately wanted to score against his old club. Perhaps he wanted it too much, blasting a first-half penalty over the bar. He didn’t didn’t last the distance and in a closely fought, high quality game any result looked possible until Danny Rowe’s fine strike gave the hosts the win.
It was the confluence of so many imperatives. To see Kellamergh Park, to see the Mill Farm development on the way there, and to sate the groundhopper’s thirst for a new ground. It ended up being so much more, down in no small part to the mentality of the club. I look forward to visiting them in their new home.