Reunion with Vardy worth the wait for Fleetwood chief Pilley

Andy Pilley with Fleetwood player of the year Jamie Vardy in 2012
Andy Pilley with Fleetwood player of the year Jamie Vardy in 2012

When Fleetwood first faced Leicester City in the FA Cup, Jamie Vardy and Andy Pilley reminisced on Facetime about Highbury days.

And now Town chairman Pilley hopes England striker Vardy manages to face his former club in tonight’s third round replay at the King Power.

Leicester’s Vardy was ruled out of the 0-0 draw at Highbury 10 days ago with a groin injury, though he did return to the club he helped win promotion to the Football League in 2012.

Vardy watched from the stands but Pilley, for once, was not present. Town’s owner was away in the Caribbean but kept a close eye on proceedings and shared a few jokes with Vardy online.

Leicester boss Claude Puel has confirmed the striker the Foxes signed from Town for £1m will be in tonight’s squad and Pilley says it will be strange to see Vardy, in blue rather than red.

He told The Gazette: “Jamie was obviously a special player who played a significant part in our progress.

“It gives us enormous pride when we see him playing for England and scoring against the big six in the Premier League.

“If he can compete on Tuesday, it will be strange to see him playing against us but nostalgic nonetheless.

“He still seems very grounded, and in many ways still the same individual who used to play for us. We will always watch his career with great interest.”

Pilley has shown his generosity once again by providing free travel for the Cod Army tonight.

So far 700 tickets have been sold and 14 coaches booked.

Travelling to a Premier League club for the first time is something Pilley would not have imagined when he took over a club in the sixth tier of non-league.

Pilley said: “I’m hoping it (the final ticket sale) will be pushing 1,000. I’m absolutely delighted. I think it is a special day for the club.

“It has always been one of my targets to play a Premier League club and tomorrow that target will come true, when we travel to a team who were champions of England only 18 months ago.

“I think it is a real landmark occasion and it fills me with enormous pride. When I first took over, I would never have thought this would happen quite so quickly.”

Tonight’s winners will visit Town’s League One rivals Peterborough on Saturday week. That tie, like tonight’s, will be televised on BT Sport.

Town very nearly secured that fourth round spot when Ash Hunter rattled the Leicester post .

And Pilley sees no reason why his side cannot cause an upset in the Foxes’ back yard.

He said: “It was only perhaps one inch that denied us in the first leg and I think we are very capable.

“We have just got to give it all we can and see what happens!”