Three years ago today Fleetwood Town chairman Andy Pilley got one of the best birthday presents an owner could ask for; a historic first promotion to the third tier of English football.
On May 26, 2014, Pilley’s 44th birthday celebrations coincided with Town’s 1-0 League Two play-off final win over Burton Albion at Wembley.
Antoni Sarcevic’s 75th minute free-kick was the difference as Graham Alexander’s side clinched promotion – their sixth in just 10 seasons.
That day will live long in the memory of the Town owner who nearly saw his club make it one step further and reach the second tier for the first time this term.
While Alexander might have since left the club, three of Town’s starting XI from that day in May – Conor McLaughlin, Nathan Pond and David Ball – were at the core of a team that achieved Town’s highest league finish as they finished fourth in 2016/17.
Pilley’s dream of reaching the second tier might have ended with a 1-0 play-off defeat to Bradford City but another promotion push next term is back on the cards after a period of stability.
Speaking at the time of Town’s play-off final win the birthday boy told the Gazetter: “It’s up there with the greatest days in my life.
“Whenever you get promotion whether it’s from the North West Counties , Unibond or League Two they are all special.
“But to be holding the trophy aloft at Wembley in front of our supporters, well it doesn’t really get much better than that.
“It’s as good as it gets. This is incredible, we are absolutely elated and everyone involved with the club is over the moon.
“There’s no doubt I’ll remember this day for the rest of my life.
“To be there holding the trophy aloft in front of who I consider to be my people was the best feeling in the world.
“I’m not particularly egotistical and had to be persuaded to go on to the pitch at the end but I’m glad I did.
“There’s been a lot of money and hard work gone into this. Now the whole nation and the whole world know who Fleetwood Town are.”
And speaking at the time Pilley dubbed the play-off final win the best way to go up.
He said: “It really is the best the best way to go up. The mini-tournament which is the play-off isn’t good for the blood pressure at all but it is fantastic.
“We managed not to concede a goal right through the play-offs and if you keep clean sheets you do not get beat.
“Every credit to Graham Alexander and Chris Lucketti because they’ve set us up very well.
“When the referee blew to start the game I think I was kicking every single ball. Every pass which went slightly astray or when a decision went against us I found myself reacting.”