Football: Excellent Ivy climb in to record books

Ivy FC who made East Lancs League history by winning back-to-back league titles in their first two seasons

Ivy manager Chris France and his assistant Paul Egand

Leading scorer Chris Gallagher

First published in Sport Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by , Sports reporter

IVY FC have written their names in to the East Lancashire League record books after becoming the first team to win consecutive titles in their first two seasons.

But now they know they will be the team everyone will be gunning for when the new season kicks off in a few months time.

Ivy joined the East Lancashire League in the 2012/13 season from the Blackburn Combination and made an immediate impact – winning the Second Division title at the first time of asking and finishing as runners-up in the Bob Little Cup.

And the Blackburn team followed that success up by winning the Division One title and ending Rimington's dominance in the league. Manager Chris France admits Ivy’s success has caught everyone by surprise – including himself and his players.

“When we joined the league we gave ourselves the target of four or five years to win the First Division title,” said France who runs the team with Paul Egan. “We thought it would take a few seasons to get used to playing at this higher level so our success has even caught us by surprise really.”

Ivy became the first Blackburn team to win the Division One title since Mill Hill St Peters in 1994. Now France wants his side to go one better and defend the title but knows it will be a tough task.

“I suppose we were an unknown quantity when we came in to the league,” he said. “I suppose most of those teams didn’t know too much about us but they do now and they will be out to stop us next season.”

France expects Rimington – champions for the previous six years – to come back stronger while he thinks fellow Blackburn side Mill Hill and last season's runners-up Burnley Athletic to be in title mix.

Ivy have lost just three games since joining the league – two in the inaugural season and one in last season’s campaign.

Ivy finished five points clear at the top of the table with leading scorer Chris Gallagher – cousin of former Blackburn Rovers ace Paul – bagging and incredible 55 goals.

As well as aiming to defend their title, Ivy will also be hoping to have a decent run in the Lancashire Cup.

“We haven’t really concentrated too much on the Lancashire Cup because the league has been our main priority,” he said.

“While the league is still our main target it would be good to have a decent run in the cup.”

Ivy FC was founded 12 years ago and progressed to being one of the most successful sides in the Blackburn Combination – winning the title five times and securing two doubles and three trebles.

“We were extremely successful in the Combination but we needed a new challenge,” added France.

“We’ve really enjoyed playing in the East Lancs League and travelling to different places and playing different teams.”

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