Johnny Phillips says rejuvenated Fleetwood can test local rivals Blackpool in the FA Cup this weekend.
Last Updated: 04/01/12 1:36pm
Down the years, FA Cup third-round weekend has been amongst the most exciting weekends of all on Soccer Saturday. And it could be the case again.
A look at the television schedules has shown that ratings beats romance with the most well-supported clubs getting their fixtures on TV.
It begins with Liverpool at home to Oldham on Friday night. Hardly a match filled with the potential for an upset. The Manchester derby has a claim to star billing, but even this game is played twice a season in the league.
There are other opportunities for an upset but one game appears to have slipped under the radar and, for me, it is unquestionably the tie of the round. And it kicks off at 3pm on Saturday.
When Fleetwood Town won a replay at Yeovil in round two they set up a match against their Fylde-coast neighbours Blackpool and put the romance right back into the Cup in an instant. The two clubs are only eight miles apart, joined by a tramline and a well-trodden promenade of coastline. They have only ever met once before.
Blackpool have had plenty to celebrate in recent seasons and the Tangerine Army lit up the Premier League last season with their expansive football and fantastic fans.
But this game is one for the Cod Army. Managed by former Blackpool midfielder Micky Mellon, they couldn't have wished for a better tie. Currently lying second in the Conference they will fancy their chances and Ian Holloway won't be underestimating them.
The nickname Cod Army is embraced by Fleetwood's loyal supporters but it was the Cod Wars with Iceland 40 years ago that brought the collapse of the fishing industry in this area and the town suffered. Container traffic in the docks is only a fraction of what it once was.
But more recently the football club has been well-backed. Chairman Andy Pilley invested in a new £4.5m stand, which is the showpiece of the attractive Highbury Stadium. Money has been spent on players, too, and Mellon's side thrashed their more regular coastal rivals Southport 6-0 last weekend.
The core of the squad is supplied by Scousers. Ten of them travel up from Liverpool each day for training and I caught up with two of the team's key players this week to look ahead to the match. On a windy day - is there any other type in these parts? - striker Andy Mangan and midfielder Jamie McGuire trekked up to the top of Blackpool Tower to look out across the Fylde coast and savour the game ahead.
"We've got good players. We've beaten Wycombe and Yeovil and they weren't flukes" said Mangan. "We're on the way up and we're buying players. We're very lucky with the facilities and the chairman we've got. Don't get me wrong, though, we're under no illusions. It's Blackpool, but we've got a chance."
As a forward, Mangan is keenly anticipating stepping out onto the pitch with Kevin Phillips. McGuire's industry in midfield has been one of the reasons for their success this season and he believes the pace in the team will stand them in good stead.
Mellon has proved a shrewd dealer in the transfer market. "He knows how to sign a player," continued McGuire. "He brought in Andy and also Jamie Vardy who is our top scorer. We'll work on this game for four days non-stop now to get our formation and tactics exactly right."
Another Liverpudlian in the ranks is Sean Clancy, who has been starring off the pitch lately in E4's Desperate Scousewives. They even filmed an episode at Highbury Stadium, with the wag wannabes heading into town to be introduced to the players as they scoured the pitch looking for a potential catch."It's a bit of fun," revealed McGuire. "We know a few of the cast, they're nice girls. I went on a dinner date but I'm not saying any more!"
Blackpool's year in the Premier League was a shot in the arm for its tourist industry and the town benefitted from it. Fleetwood's football team is flying the flag for the not so noisy neighbours up the road and on Saturday no-one will begrudge them their chance to illuminate the FA Cup.