WANDERING through the maze of corridors underneath Victory Park’s creaking main stand, the reminders of Chorley’s history and tradition are everywhere.
A dusty yellowy print of a glorious FA Cup night at Burnden Park nearly 30 years ago, when the Magpies dumped Wolverhampton Wanderers out of a competition they had won four times, hangs from one wall.
Some colourful pennants acknowledge a Northern Premier League title and an FA Trophy semi-final against Macclesfield Town, and there’s even a splendid photograph of the team who lifted the Rawcliffe Hospital Cup in 1940.
Everywhere, it seems, one of non-league’s most respected names, is weighed down by its own history and tradition.
“Chorley have been stuck in the doldrums for many years, but there’s a potential to get this club to the Football League,” said Flitcroft, who has engineered a remarkable revival since arriving at Victory Park in 2010, leading the Magpies to promotion in his first full season.
“Take a look at Accrington, Morecambe and Fleetwood.
“They didn’t have anywhere near Chorley’s fan base and see where they are now.
“I always knew that Chorley had huge potential and that’s why I took the job.
“Suddenly, the football club is the focal point of the town again and that hasn’t happened for a very long time.”
Just over 9,000 fans have clicked through the turnstiles for Chorley’s dozen league games this term, and a bumper 1,020 saw the New Year’s Day clash against AFC Fylde.
Only rebels FC United can boast a bigger support in the NPL Premier Division and who would bet against Flitcroft, who has seen gates double in his short tenure, sparking another promotion party in April.
“The chairman, Ken Wright, has a little saying, ‘There are plenty of chimney pots in Chorley,’ and it is a big football town.
“The business community and the fans want to be involved again and it feels like the club has woken up again.”
Chorley’s charge to the last sixteen of the FA Trophy – they go to Tamworth today – boosted by a shock win over Conference outfit Forest Green Rovers in the previous round, where Flitcroft was carried from the pitch by jubilant fans at the final whistle.
The Magpies began their trophy odyssey at Whitby in October and since then Clitheroe old boy Josh Hine has netted five goals in the competition as the Magpies barged past Soham Rangers, Matlock, Curzon Ashton and Forest Green into the third round.
“I said to the press after the first game against Forest Green that the tie was nowhere near over because I knew we had a chance of going down there and winning, that’s the same way I feel about today’s game,” added Flitcroft.
“There’s a tremendous desire and togetherness in this squad – they’re the best bunch of players I’ve had in non-league.
“They put their bodies on the line for the cause, and I have tremendous admiration for what they’ve achieved.
“These guys work all day, and then come and train in the evening when they must be absolutely shattered.
“The aim is to win promotion this season, but our FA Trophy run has put Chorley back on the national map again.”
Like he did at Ewood Park as Graeme Souness’ all-action captain, Flitcroft is cutting an increasingly impressive figure in the dug out.
He thinks management is about organizing players into the right place at the right time in the right frame of mind.
“Man-management is a huge part of the job, and I think that’s one of my biggest strengths,” he added.
“It is hard when you finish as a player because that’s all you’ve known.
“I had three years away from the game. I’d take the kids to watch Manchester City and Blackburn, but the football bug is a very addictive one.
“I really missed it and now I’m growing into the manager’s role more and more.
“I watch two or three games a week, and give my team all the information they need.
“It has to be that way. You have to do it properly.
“There are so many jobs to do. I’ve painted the changing rooms, cleaned the toilets, and even helped the ground staff.
“I’ve always been driven. I remember watching England schoolboys when I was eight years old and thinking, ‘I want to play for them.’ “I worked so hard and I achieved it, and I did the same in my professional career.”
Flitcroft was schooled under England boss Roy Hodgson at Ewood Park, and that top flight education has served him well.
“Neil Warnock and Martin O’Neill both did their apprenticeships in non-league, and I’ve drawn something from every manager I’ve worked with from Peter Reid to Graeme Souness.
“A lot of my training drills are based on what Roy Hodgson taught me, he was very organised and a very good technical coach.
“I’m a very loyal person. I did ten years at Maine Road and the same with Blackburn, and I’ve got that special feeling about Chorley.
“I’d like to stay and finish the job I’ve started