Fan’s View 23/24 – No.8 – Fleetwood away

Article by Paul Beasley Monday, September 18th, 2023  


Scarf Tickets Flowers – Sounds like some what3words location but that’s what I’m going to kick off with before I move on up north to Fleetwood.


Actually not just a scarf but a blank key and key ring as well. I’ll go with the never look a gift horse in the mouth stance and thank the club for a generous gesture. No moaning from me that the money could be put to better use elsewhere. I’m not a scarfer but it does seem good quality wool and I’ll use it when walking round town to keep the chill out when winter comes upon us. Thank you OUFC.


No problem for me to purchase my Fleetwood ticket and one for Stevenage too whilst I was at it. I just rocked up at the ticket office before the Vale game about an hour before kick-off but we have fans scattered all over the country who can’t, for one reason or another, get to (m)any home games. Those fans still want to follow the Mighty Yellows when they are in their neck of the woods. A friend of ours from Chorley was in exactly this boat.

Jock Stein’s “Football without fans is nothing” is so true. That was confirmed beyond doubt, not that it needed confirming, with the sterility of the Covid enforced behind closed doors period. As long as there’s no health and safety risk the more fans attending any game the better the atmosphere.

Just about every football club in the EFL loses money. Fleetwood lost about £3m in 2021/22 and over £1.5m the year before. Their attitude to selling tickets to away fans therefore makes no sense whatsoever. I don’t like doing it but I’ll call these fans customers, although they’re clearly much more than that with the emotional investment involved in following a football club. What other industry puts so many obstacles in the way of customers trying to buy a product? Treat them with respect.

That’s one massive criticism and another is communication. Another spot on saying is “communication is key”. I don’t think our football club covered itself in glory in this regard.

Initially the information on the OUFC website was that the only way to get an away ticket was in person from our ticket office. None on sale on the day at (the little) Highbury. None to be posted out because Fleetwood don’t do replacements should any go missing in the post. (Perhaps this has been abused in the past?). No phone app to get a ticket. No option to print at home.

Frustration was evident on social media. “This is a game that is an hour and a half from me and I wanted to go but if I can’t collect my ticket from the ground on the day or have it posted then I won’t be able to”. “I live in Manchester, so try to get to games like this, but I’m obviously not driving all the way to Oxford to get a ticket, what to do”? “This was a complete shambles last season. I emailed Fleetwood the day before the game to see if they could put a ticket aside for me and was categorically told no, and that I would have to travel 200 miles each way at my own risk with no way of knowing if there were any tickets left until I arrived at the ticket office.”

Then our Chorley mate found out that tickets were actually being posted out at the buyer’s risk. Last season for the same fixture he’d rung Fleetwood and been told a load of garbage so this time he decided to ring our ticket office. They helpfully explained yes, they will post them out and that another option is that our club secretary, Vanessa Gomm, could bring the purchased tickets to the match and hand them out at the away entrance.

Why oh why then wasn’t all this clearly and concisely communicated by Oxford United from the outset? Surely they could have clarified with Fleetwood what was what. Or quite probably not.

Now our website informs “Collection is available from the Parkside ticket office at Fleetwood and sales are available on the day”.

Earlier in the week another friend drove to the club to pick his ticket up.  A pointless 40 mile round trip. Waste of time, waste of fuel, a little bit more pollution spewed out that needn’t have been.

Fleetwood Town FC (that’s the owners and executive, not the fans and players) tin-pot, thoughtless, uncaring bunch of wasters.

OUFC ticket office staff – for their customer service and helpfulness nearly always close to top marks. Communication – could do better, though.


Well, more accurately wild flowers.

I hate it when a term is used categorising a group of people as if they were some homogeneous entity and that is all that defines their lives, ignoring the fact that they’re likely in x no. of other groups too in a complicated multi circular Venn diagram kind of life.

I like the cinema. I like the theatre. I like music. I like comedy. I am a member of the National Trust. I like canal walking. I like nature. Without being a green activist I’ve long been doing my best to recycle, keep waste to a minimum and not throw anything into landfill if I can help it.  We grow some of our own veg on a little plot in our garden. Amazing that football fans are actually capable of such things.

I’ve avoided saying much about the Friends of Stratfield Brake (FOSB) in previous Fan’s Views. Everyone/every group is entitled to their opinions. It’s only fair and equitable to try and see matters from the perspective of the other side but when it doesn’t come down to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth it is a different matter. Twist facts. Try misdirection. Plant and spread a falsehood and see it believed as the truth on social media. We see these things on a daily basis in all walks of life. This is rife in politics at all levels. Play dirty. Don’t be honest, avoid transparency.

There are times though when any neutral observer should be able to see right through the mirage.

Friends of Stratfield Brake is it? More like anti-Oxford United or for that matter possibly any development in the area. Stratfield Brake hasn’t been on the agenda for some time now because the County Council had leased the land to Kidlington Parish Council with no break clause. No-one has actually come out and said why the club were led down this particular path in the first place but it is what it is and to me that is a vastly under-utilised sports facility that completely lacks investment. A criminal waste.

Having seen the status quo at Stratfield Brake maintained and saved from being turned into something much more useful though, FOSB were not done. Which makes a mockery. Having thought that local clubs at SB were going to be moved on to the Triangle they described it in derogatory terms. I can’t remember the exact words but think it may have been something like toxic.

When the much smaller Triangle became the alternative to SB for OUFC all of a sudden in the eyes of FOSB it became a wonderful piece of green belt that in no way should be sullied by many thousands of people daring to enjoy themselves.

I’ve just about let all this go in the past but not now. Not after this narrative in their official communication to the Council. “Large numbers of spectators have the potential to further damage remaining green spaces. The wild flower meadow at the south of the site is also unrealistic. The footfall will be too great for it to survive. Football fans aren’t known for their love of wild flowers”

Proof of their anti “football supporters” narrative loud and clear here.

I didn’t know how to react when I read it. Rolling around on the floor in uncontrollable laughter as it was so ludicrous or to allow my piss to rapidly reach boiling point.

We’ve lived in our house for over 30 years. When we moved in there was a large hedge at the front of the property. It grew and grew but over a number of years began to die so in March we had it removed. The man who did the work told us that it would take about a year for the soil to have enough nutrients to enable flowers to survive. We have a gardener who comes once a year to do an annual trimming back of bushes etc. He couldn’t wait to create something for us and initially we were happy to let him do so.

Worth mentioning for the record here and particularly the FOSB collective that the gardener is a football fan. He supports Chesterfield. He goes to watch them play from time to time. I strongly suspect he doesn’t with impunity trample buttercups and daisies on such trips.

Where our hedge once was just six months ago is a wild flower garden. Not a single seed sown by us. We couldn’t believe it. Passers-by have stopped and talked about it. Friends and neighbours have complimented us on it. Well thank you kind people but we didn’t do anything. Nature did. We absolutely love it. We are going to leave it as it is.

So I’ll go for the piss boiling. They went too far this time.

“Beware of the flowers, because I’m sure they’re gonna get you, yeah”

Hedge going

Hedge gone

And a few months later. Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture when it was in full bloom. The poppies were superb.


Probably our second longest trip of the season but motorways were kind and we were in the Royal Oak, known locally as Dead’uns, by 12:30.

For pubs and beer I’d describe Fleetwood as average with consistency being an issue. Sometimes yes another of those please but other times pints difficult to get down. Pubs there get into the Good Beer Guide then drop out on a regular basis. It’s not a place where I trust the GBG that much to be honest.

As driver on the day I was limiting myself to halves of not very strong beer. Not a problem but I have to admit to being a tiny bit jealous as my two passengers downed a couple of pints each in the Royal Oak whilst I sipped my small drink. A great northern half with tight creamy head.

We’d met up in there with a few mates one of whom was the above mentioned exile now living in Chorley.

The plan was to move on to the Strawberry Gardens then back to the Beer Shed which could be seen from the window of the Royal Oak. The information gathered indicated the Beer Shed didn’t open until 14:00 but walking past I noticed the door was open. I popped my head in. It’s very small. There was one man in there with a pint sat at the big table in the middle of the room. “He’s recently decided to open at one o’clock on Fleetwood match days” I was told. So in we all went.

I soon knew I’d be staying there until we left for the match. I was asked how I thought we’d do against them today as is often the start of a conversation between football fans who have never met before but whose teams are about to face each other. I told him that we had a much better team than last season but you never know and thought that their new manager bounce could be a factor. Although he said they had some good players he wasn’t convinced that they’d be fine now that they’d got Lee Johnson in charge. (Nor would I be in his shoes).

I asked his views on Andy Pilley, how the club was going to be financed going forward and how long he’d been following the Cod Army knowing that, even though this is their tenth season in a row in L1, before that their rise had been meteoric.

He thought the jail sentence Pilley received was harsh but fair. I don’t think some of younger home fans were of the same mind set though. At the end of the game I noticed them packing away a banner that read “Justice for Andy Pilley”.

He said there was money available to keep the club going and the impression I got was that it was all a bit like the modern equivalent of the brown envelope.

I found out that he started watching FTFC in the ‘80s when they were in the North West Counties League (NWCL) and he mentioned the number of promotions they had to climb up the pyramid to get into the Football league.

In 1998/99 they got promoted from the NWCL second division. The top division of this league was won in 2004/05 which took them into Division One of the Northern Premier League (NPL). They immediately got promoted to the NPL Premier Division and won that two years later. In only their second season in the Conference North they went up again and then again two more seasons on when they made it to the Football League, winning the Conference Premier Division with a certain Jamie Vardy bagging 31 goals. Repeating that pattern they only had two seasons in tier four.

They have not experienced relegation since 1993/94.

I was curious to know if he missed the non-league days. He did indeed, citing that there was much more of a camaraderie between the clubs at that level.

I’ve got nothing but praise for the Beer Shed. It became my top Fleetwood drinking establishment within a matter of minutes. Saturday was the first anniversary of its opening. The enterprise is helped by not having to pay business rates because the area has been categorised as deprived. Prices reflected that. £3.40/£3.50 a pint range. There were only three hand pumps which was exactly right given the size of the place and the opening hours. Quality over quantity every time. I tried all three and none could be faulted, my favourite being the one I thought tasted like wheat beer.

Free peanuts too. Politeness says take a small helping. Most did so. Some couldn’t aim the nuts correctly and got them all over the table. We’re old is our excuse. I think we’ll be welcomed back if we play them again any time soon. By the time we departed we were just about out-numbered by home fans who wished us good luck. By then we’d been joined by another exile who has been a Warrington man for decades. Football brings people together in a way nothing else can.

Football matches often take a while to settle into a pattern with each side feeling the other out knowing there is still a long way to go with no need to show their hands immediately. In the first quarter of an hour it was fairly even. I had not got this down as a nailed on away win by any means even though the home team started the day with just a single point. They have Jayden Stockley and Jack Marriott in their ranks, the latter the subject of a large but unsuccessful bid from us. These two can score.

During this period, even though we had not established a foothold, I was looking at our team and thinking that we’ve got some real talent out there and that it was the best squad we’ve had for many years. Then as if to confirm this we witnessed a bit of pure magic from Stan Mills. Also pleasingly it came from a throw in we had near the right hand corner flag. We’ve got history of being dreadful at taking throws. This time Ruben Rodrigues threw to Sam Long who gave it back with RR moving the ball on to Cameron Brannagan in space. Back to Long then on to Mills at the corner of the penalty area. With his right foot he took the ball across the defender then launched it like a missile into the top corner to keeper Jay Lynch’s right. It was a “no keeper is stopping that” kind of shot.

We now started to play our football with supreme confidence.

After winning a corner we knocked the ball about a bit before getting it into the box where a neat little flick from Ciaron Brown hit the post.

Before half an hour had gone we had a second. Billy Bodin had already lashed a shot just wide from a tight angle but put this one away smartly on the half volley with Lynch rooted. A free-kick had been headed back across the area by Elliott Moore with BB intelligently finding the space to enable the next bit.

Fleetwood had not given up after conceding the first nor did they do so after we’d doubled our lead, Stockley sending a header against the crossbar before the break.

At the start of the second period half time substitute Kabongo Tshimanga found himself in acres of space down our right and Marriott should really have done better with the ball in.

On the hour mark our third goal arrived and that was it. Fleetwood were beaten and they knew it.

This goal was another absolute delight to witness. Again it came from a passing move. Long gave the ball to Marcus McGuane and immediately got it back. This time his forward pass was to Mills who turned and gave it to Bodin. He quickly moved it on to Kyle Edwards on the left wing. Edwards is some player. He tormented Ryan Broom, moving the ball with his right foot across his opponent, then with the same foot absolutely leathered it in to the top corner to Lynch’s left. “Goodness, gracious me” said the commentator on iPlayer.

There was still time for Brannagan to hit a post and Fleetwood to do the same in the final seconds of added time.

Value for such a margin of victory? Yes we were. The team in red may have hit the frame of the goal twice, which we of course matched, but they didn’t manage one shot actually on target meaning that James Beadle didn’t have a shot to save. His work consisted of catching crosses and distribution.

We scored some phenomenal goals and played classy confident football all of which was achieved without Mark Harris, Josh McEachran, Marcus Browne and Greg Leigh. When we brought on Tyler Goodrham, Finn Stevens and Oisin Smyth nothing changed. The highly rated Sonny Perkins only got a couple of minutes such is the competition for places. Stephan Negru, who has been excellent for us since coming in, didn’t even get off the bench for this. And I’ve not mentioned Josh Murphy. (Well I have now).

No performance is quite perfect but any criticism after this can only be of a very minor nature.

Jordan Thorniley, Negru’s replacement looked a bit dodgy in the first few minutes and once got really easily beaten. Any concern that caused me was soon banished as it didn’t take him long to settle in.

There were a couple of occasions where there was a lot of space for the opposition to potentially exploit with Long pushed well up the park. Given his contribution in that area though a risk worth taking.

And one player who doesn’t seem quite on it yet is Rodrigues. Early on he didn’t seem to me to be competing like some but there’s no denying that quite a gap exists between the National League and where he is now. It will take a bit of time but I’m confident he’s got the quality to come very good as the whole squad gels and progresses.

This entry was posted on Monday, September 18th, 2023 at 9:47 pm and appears under News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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