By Tony Leighton
When successful businessman Andy Pilley took over his local football club Fleetwood Town in 2003 he dreamed that one day the then North West Counties League team would one day be a Football League club.
That day has arrived, but Pilley admits that his dream has turned to reality far quicker than he ever imagined it would.
The Cod Army's promotion to League 2 as the Blue Square Bet Premier champions was confirmed when their only challengers for the title, Wrexham, dropped points in a 2-2 draw with Grimsby Town on Saturday.
It meant that five promotions have incredibly been achieved in the last eight seasons, Fleetwood winning the North West Counties League in 2004/05 and then eventually reaching League 2 via the Northern League's First Division then its Premier Division, the Blue Square Bet North and finally the Blue Square Bet Premier.
Pilley, whose company Business Energy Solutions operates from offices at the football club's Highbury Stadium, told football-league.co.uk: "When I took the club over it was more of a dream than a specific target to reach The Football League.
"I certainly never thought we'd do it in the space of eight years and it feels like a fantasy to be in The League, even though we've thoroughly deserved it and it's an achievement I'm immensely proud of for everyone involved with the club.
"The club has made huge progress from the day I got here, not just on the playing side but in the infrastructure too - we've got four new stands, a new pitch and new floodlights for example, and our fan base has grown hugely as well.
"The attendance for the first game after I'd taken over was 186, last week when we played Wrexham it was very nearly 5,000 (4,994). That's a symbol of the progress we've made and we intend to go on making."
Pilley paid tribute to manager Micky Mellon, who took charge in September 2008 and - as the club's first full-time team boss - has led them up from the Blue Square Bet North.
Pilley said: "Micky has done a great job. He's an upbeat character whose enthusiasm is infectious and he's got a great future - he'll be a League manager for a long time."
If Mellon continues to work wonders - and likewise 34-goal striker Jamie Vardy who is being watched by a pack of big clubs - Fleetwood might have difficulty in holding on to major assets admits Pilley.
"That's football life," said the chairman. "If some really big club came along for Micky you'd have to shake his hand, thank him for what he's done for Fleetwood and wish him all the best.
"I guess it would be the same with Jamie. We took a calculated gamble when we signed him from FC Halifax Town at the start of the season for £150,000, which is a lot of money for a non-league club to pay out for a transfer.
"He did so well that we were under a lot of pressure to sell him in January, when we had a lot of bids - some of them into seven figures - from some top clubs.
"It took bravery to say 'no' to some of those bids, but we were totally committed to promotion and we've been totally justified in keeping him here.
"What happens with Jamie in the summer we'll have to see, but I believe he will be a very good players at League level and hopefully it will be with us.
"We're going into The League and aiming to continue our progress, not just thinking that we've made it by getting promoted up there.
"Stevenage went up two years ago and went straight up to League 2, and last year Crawley Town went up and have now got a chance of promotion through the Play-Offs.
"Those are two clubs that, like us, had never been in The League before but have acquitted themselves really well - and we'll be out to do the same."