Hoppers vs Fylde – What does it mean to you?

Date: 19 August 2018

Preston Grasshoppers host great rivals Fylde on Saturday 8th September in league action for the first time in 7 years. To get a sense of the history and rivalry involved in this great fixture we have asked some former players from both teams the question ‘What did the Hoppers vs Fylde derby mean to you when you were playing?’

John Chesworth, Preston Grasshoppers

“When I started playing in 1990 the Boxing Day Fylde Derby drew the biggest crowd of the year, there were 2000 people in my first one at the Woodlands. As league rugby became more prevalent through the 1990s, the teams weren’t able to field such strong sides on Boxing Day, but we did have a Pilkington Cup clash with them in 1996 when they were in what is now the Championship and we were two leagues below, which we won on our way to facing Northampton in a later round. When we started to play them in league rugby in National 1, the game certainly had an extra edge to it but whatever happened on the pitch the players always had a beer afterwards and I still have many friends at Fylde who we faced on the pitch. One of the things that created the rivalry as well as our proximity, was that players had historically left Hoppers to go to Fylde as a means of progressing their Rugby careers. I was always of the opinion that Hoppers players should keep faith with the club and if they did that eventually we would be at the same level as Fylde which is where we find ourselves on 8 September!”

Craig McIntyre, Fylde

“The derby matches were often tense, torrid affairs and the result often belied league standing and status. I specifically remember the Boxing Day sleet and snow in 94 (the coldest I have ever been on a rugby pitch); being controversially dropped for the Cup game in 95 (for being too agressive was the coach’s reason), then sharing a beer in the Hoppers’ changing room after they won!; and finally a sparkling push over try to win the league match in 05, which was to be my last derby. Regardless of result, I’ve made many great friends over the years and consider Hoppers to be my second home.”

Paul Bailey, Preston Grasshoppers

“A derby is something obviously very special, no matter what derby it is. Liverpool v Everton. Saints v Wigan. City v United. It is something extra ordinary, but even more so if it’s your derby. Not growing up in Fylde or Preston, you would think it wouldn’t matter too much to me, but it did. I could sense immediately from the fans, committee, but especially from the players, such as Neil Ashton, Bill Bailey, Glyn Dewhurst and John Chesworth, what it meant to play Fylde. As the St Helens and Leigh lads soon became part of the Preston family, we knew what it meant to play against a club rich in history and rivalry. No coach would ever need to spark the fire in your belly. The flame would be there for weeks before the game. I wish both sides the best of luck, but as an adopted Hopper, I hope Preston nudge a win.”

Sam Beaumont, Fylde

“The Preston games always stand out when I think back on my Fylde career, particularly the games around Christmas which added an extra buzz to the game. It was always good to play against lads who you had been up against since mini juniors and whether it was Colts, 2nd or 1st team and it was always a game i hated to lose! I actually had a good record when it came to the derby games which is probably why I have more fonder memories of the Derbies! When I first got involved in the First team at Fylde both teams were towards the top of the table so the games were really physical tense encounters. The Jason Robinson debut was a particular highlight obviously playing with such a legend but adding a local derby into the mix meant it was a huge game for both teams.”

Michael Lough, Preston Grasshoppers

“The Preston vs Fylde rivalry was never really a thing for me when I first starting playing at Hoppers. It wasn’t until we were promoted into National One and met Fylde in a league match that I understood how passionate people were on both sides. The games had an extra intensity, there was always plenty of support for both teams and a win always felt that bit sweeter. I can’t wait to see the latest battle between these two great clubs of Lancashire.”

Steve Rigby, Fylde

“The Boxing day fixture at Lightfoot Lane in 1989 was my first involvement in this local derby, as a replacement and touch judge – those were the days! I witnessed how much it meant to both teams that day and I would be very surprised if it is any different nearly 30 years later. The intensity was, and will be, tremendous, and even the ‘friendlies’ were eagerly anticipated in the week of the game. The quality of players who have played in this game over the years from both sides has been a credit to both clubs. Come on Fylde!”

Michael Bailey, Preston Grasshoppers

Back in my day, the Fylde game was the pinnacle of the season. Boxing day crowds were full to the raffters. The Pilkington Cup victory in the 3rd round was without doubt my biggest victory against them. They were in the Championship and we beat them at Lightfoot Green pretty convincingly.
I loved playing Fylde and the bigger crowd always added to the occasion. The banter on the pitch I would love, it was such a fabulous atmosphere. I Could talk about it all day.”

Steve Kerry, Preston Grasshoppers

“When I first played Fylde I was 19 and there was no league structure, but that didn’t matter, the tradition of the fixture on Boxing Day was enormous, 2000 spectators watching a true battle for tribal bragging rights. The last time I played them was in the Pilkington Cup before we played Northampton and we had a plan! We bombed their full back whenever we could and let lose Glynn Dewhurst and the Ashton Brothers. It was carnage and we slaughtered them. They had a better pitch than us bt they haven’t now!’

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