Which has been the strongest Fylde squad in the past 35 years?
By Allan Foster
Choosing one squad over another in different eras and, critically, at different levels in the league system and quality of opposition, is extraordinarily hard. However, they both took on the challenge with relish. The four teams selected for the respective seasons are based on number of appearances.
Please forgive the omission of many fine players – the selection was desperately hard!
My choice goes back to the 1986-7 season. This was the campaign ahead of which England lock Wade Dooley moved from Preston Grasshoppers to join his international 2nd row partner Steve Bainbridge at the Woodlands. So the England lock pairing that season were both from Fylde!
Other recruits in the summer of 1986 included Cumbrian (and later full Scottish international) flanker Simon Holmes, former Orrell fly-half Steve Burnage, and former KGS and Preston Grasshoppers winger Mark Preston who went on to a stellar career with Wigan Warriors before returning to Fylde in the professional era starting in 1995-6.
This squad included legendary and loyal, high quality players such as Steve Gough, Brendan Hanavan, Mike Jackson, Dave Tanner, Micky Weir, Mike Dixon, Mark Hesketh, Pete Faulkner, Dave Young and Andy Macfarlane.
15 Steve Gough; 14 Brendan Hanavan, 13 Simon Lett, 12 Dave Tanner, 11 Mark Preston; 10 Steve Burnage, 9 Micky Weir; 1 Richard Moffitt, 2 Mike Dixon, 3 Pete Faulkner, 4 Wade Dooley, 5 Steve Bainbridge, 6 Mark Hesketh, 7 Simon Holmes, 8 Andy Macfarlane.
16 Dave Newman, 17 Daren Haley, 18 Dave Young, 19 Paul Dooley, 20 Mike Jackson.
We then asked two far better judges than me, former players and coaches who have been involved at the Club covering most of this period.
Stuart Connell – player 1990-2001, Head Coach 2002-2007.
Mark Nelson – player 1981-83, Head Coach 1998-2001, 2007-2015.
Stu Connell goes back to his first season as a player, 1990-91. “Most teams I’ve played in or coached have a weakness or two. This team didn’t!”
15 Mike Jackson; 14 Brendan Hanavan, 13 Stuart Connell, 12 Mike Fielden, 11 Andy Armistead; 10 Steve Burnage, 9 John Wright; 1 Craig Burns, 2 Mike Dixon, 3 Mark Ridehalgh, 4 Paul Carr, 5 Sean Fletcher, 6 Steve Frost, 7 John Nicholson, 8 Jon Taylor.
16 Mike Heys, 17 Alex Moffatt, 18 Ian McKie, 19 Ian Barclay, 20 Steve Gough.
‘Nellie’ plumps first for the 1998-9 squad that competed in Allied Dunbar Premiership 2, one of only two seasons that the Club was in the 2nd ranked division, and included among the top 24 clubs in England. The game went professional in 1995-6 and some clubs had great aspirations and huge budgets. Fylde struggled to compete and were eventually relegated but, nevertheless, had a strong squad. When Fylde played Bristol in the famous clash at the Woodlands on 16th April 1999, they lost a classic encounter in the last minute by 39-43 to the ultimate champion club who had 13 full internationals in their squad that day! Mark still feels that with a degree more luck the Club could have survived the campaign.
15 Mark Evans; 14 Mark Preston, 13 Matt Tetlow, 12 Dave Tanner, 11 Greg Anderton; 10 Ian Barclay, 9 Chris O’Toole; 1 Matt Filipo, 2 Martin Scott, 3 Steve Rigby, 4 Dave Whitehead, 5 Jon Taylor, 6 Anthony Ireland, 7 Carl Lavin, 8 Campbell Rae.
16 John Webster, 17 Joe Clark, 18 Graeme Tasker, 19 Alun Peacock, 20 Morne Loxton.
His alternative choice is not the outstanding National Two North championship squad of 2010-11 but for his squad a season later in 2011-12 when Fylde made a dramatic entry to National One. The squad finished 4th in their first campaign at level three sinch 2002-3, and this was extended in a run of seven seasons before relegation back to level four at the end of 2017-18.
Although megastar Jason Robinson left at the end of the championship winning campaign, quality newcomers such as lock Gareth Rawlings, hooker/prop Alex Loney, prop Simon Griffiths, centre Chris Briers, flanker Evan Stewart, scrum-half Steve Depledge and fullback Ollie Viney joined the squad.
They scored 135 tries in 30 games (av of 4.5 per game), totaling 898 points and picking up 22 try scoring and four losing bonus points along the way.
15 Chris Briers; 14 Nick Royle, 13 Stephen Briers, 12 Mike Waywell, 11 Oliver Brennand; 10 Steve Collins, 9 Steve Depledge; 1 Simon Griffiths, 2 Jonny Roddam, 3 Tom Lavelle, 4 Gareth Rawlings, 5 Paul Arnold, 6 Evan Stewart, 7 Steve McGinnis, 8 Sam Beaumont.
16 Alistair Livesey, 17 Alex Loney, 18 Grant Ferguson, 19 Martin Wallwork, 20 Oliver Viney.