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Finding out more about Fylde

On July 25th Manchester businessmen met at the Ansdell Institute to discuss the formation of either a rugby or football Club. A coin was tossed and it fell in favour of rugby. From such small beginnings, Fylde grew and after 95 years it is a nationally respected club and a strong brand name in English rugby.

It was in May 1920 that the present Woodlands site, although not in its present state, was used for rugby. In those days the admission was 5d and the first yearly gate receipts amounted to just over £57. In 1922, Harold Brooks was elected President and through his efforts Fylde progressed. He also generously provided the present stand. The Club was strengthened by the merger with Blackpool Old Boys in 1934/5. Unfortunately, during the 2nd World War, Fylde had to close (as did many clubs) as the Army took over the ground. In 1946 the President, Mr Parkes, welcomed back members from the Forces and the 13 acres of the Woodlands Memorial Ground was purchased (for £7,000!) and named in honour of the members who had given their lives during the six year period.

In the 1950’s, the dressing rooms were erected and it was in 1964 that the second England trial was held at Fylde and Sir Laurie Edwards opened not only a clubhouse extension, but presented the Club with a Rugby Union shield. 1969 was Fylde’s Jubilee, when they were then fielding six or seven teams every Saturday. In 1970 the North West Counties played the Fijian Tourists at the Woodlands and attracted a record gate of 7,600.

The Club’s two most famous players were home grown. Malcolm Phillips, a product of Arnold School, Blackpool, won 25 England caps at centre between 1958 and 1964. He was President of the RFU in 2004/5 and served on the International Rugby Board for a number of years. He continues to give wise counsel to the Club and is actively involved in its administration.

Bill Beaumont was also a one club man having joined Fylde as 17 year old in 1969 and staying with the Club until injury forced him to retire in 1982. His father played for Fylde and he wrote to the Club suggesting that his son be given a trial. His first game was in the sixth team as fullback. When they looked at the size of Bill and saw his 6’3” height, he was very quickly made into a forward to play for the 1st team. He earned 34 times England caps, 21 times as Captain. This included leading the side to the Grand Slam in 1980, as well as skippering the British Lions in South Africa. In retirement he has remained in the public eye as broadcaster and columnist. He is still a regular face at Fylde and much respected throughout the Club.

In the same era as Bill, a young Roger Uttley, subsequently skipper and then manager of England, and Brian Ashton, one of England’s leading coaches, also wore the claret and gold. Other more recent internationals associated with Fylde include England wingers Tony Swift and Simon Smith, who were capped in the 1980s after leaving the Club, and locks Steve Bainbridge and Wade Dooley, established internationals who won further caps whilst with Fylde. England ‘A’ winger Mark Preston, who subsequently starred for Wigan RL, had a fine strike record scoring 98 tries in 131 appearances. But this achievement has been smashed by Oliver Brennand who has over 200 tries in some 220 appearances.

As with so many famous clubs outside the Premiership elite, attendances at home matches have fallen somewhat in recent years. Thirty years or so ago, 2,000 spectators watched local derbys with Preston Grasshoppers on Boxing Day and as many as 5,000 attended the wonderful 1982 game with Bill Beaumont’s XV versus Lancashire staged when he unfortunately had to retire from playing rugby.  Recent seasons have seen Fylde move up and down between levels 2, 3 and 4 in the RFU league hierarchy. The Club ran up significant debts in trying to compete at level 2 in the years 1997-9 and had to sell a small portion of the Woodlands grounds in order to re-establish financial health. With the receipts of the sale, a period of re-development of facilities of all kinds at the Woodlands began in January 2005. The splendid Clubhouse, housing some 400 people, opened in October 2005, has been a huge success in the following decade.

The Club finished in 5th place in National Three North (level 4 in the RFU league hierarchy) in 2006/7, 3rd in 2007/8, 4th in 2008/9 & 9th in 2009/10. The 2010/11 season was a revelation for everyone at the Woodlands. The summer of 2010 saw the arrival of rugby legend Jason Robinson and former England Head Coach Brian Ashton returned to join the coaching team under Head Coach Mark Nelson. Both of these individuals made huge contributions to galvanise the Club on and off the pitch. Fylde had a superb season and won the Championship of N2N at a canter.

The 2017/18 season was a particularly difficult one for Fylde, with a very young squad struggling to come to terms with National One rugby. Relegation to National Two (North) in 2018/19 allowed a very stable group of young talent to stabilize and they pressed for promotion most of the season before tailing off at the end to finish a still meritorious 6th. The 2019-20 season will be momentous as it marks the Club’s Centenary. An extensive series of events have been planned, culminating in a visit in May 2010 by the world famous Barbarians to play a Fylde XV.  At the time of writing Fylde have made a great start in their quest to reclaim their National One status and are top of the table having won 9, drawn 1 and lost 1 of their 11 fixtures.

Hull and Fylde first met on September 5th 2009 in our first season in National Two North and have played just four games against each other, all in N2N as follows;

2009-10     Hull 31 – Fylde 25     Fylde 16 – Hull 25
2010-11     Fylde 37 – Hull 8       Hull 9 – Fylde 31.
This was Fylde’s promotion season to
 National Division One.

I acknowledge that apart from the final paragraph these notes are an edited version of the Fylde club history taken from their website.

Norman Angell

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