Cod Army riding on the crest of a wave as promotion beckons
One of the things that always fascinates me about football is the rise and fall of a club. Exeter City has its own story to tell, of course, as do today's opponents, Fleetwood Town.
Last week, the upwardly-mobile Cod Army gained what was arguably their greatest League scalp. Sonny Bradley's own goal gave Fleetwood a 1-0 win at Portsmouth, whose fortunes have been in complete contrast to that of the Lancashire outfit.
This is only Fleetwood's second season in the Football League and they are already looking like serious promotion contenders. They came close to getting a play-off place last year, only to fall away, but wins at places like Fratton Park merely throw weight behind their promotion credentials.
A lot has already been said about Pompey's decline but the fact remains it was as recent as May 2008 when the club were celebrating FA Cup glory with a 1-0 win over Cardiff City.
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That same season, Fleetwood were celebrating promotion to Conference North as champions of the Northern Premier League. Incredibly, that is six leagues lower than Pompey, which perhaps underlines best just how the fortunes of both clubs have differed.
Of course, the rise of Fleetwood is very much down to their owner, Andy Pilley, who has pumped millions into the club after his takeover in 2003, having earned his fortunes as founder of gas and electricity firm BES.
As a result of his financial input, the club has enjoyed unprecedented success with five promotions and the odd cup run. Attendances have continued to grow and the conveyor belt of talent has seen the likes of Jamie Vardy (now at Leicester City) and former Rangers and Scotland captain Barry Ferguson turn out for the club.
Their Highbury Stadium has been transformed and they are as well placed as they could be to mount a serious assault on promotion to League One this season.
Only Pilley will know just how much he has invested in the club, and it is with an envious eye that supporters of other League two clubs look at the sort of investment he has made in the team.
With that 'sugar daddy' type of investment comes danger, though. In fact, Fleetwood's rise is reminiscent of Rushden & Diamonds under the ownership of Dr Martens supremo Max Griggs. All was great as the club climbed through the pyramid system, winning promotion to the Football League and into League One, but, when the financial investment dried up at the club's sparking Nene Park headquarters, the Diamonds' decline began.
Ultimately, the club were expelled from the Conference as a result of their poor finances and folded in 2011.
They have since reformed under the guidance of its own supporters – AFC Rushden & Diamonds – and it is good to see the club prosper, with promotion to the United Counties League Premier achieved in the club's first season fielding a senior men's team.
They are very much the example of what could happen, although, and one would hope Fleetwood have learned lessons from the Rushden model and would be self-sufficient without Pilley funding any shortfall.