Two leading local football clubs are set to go from being the fiercest of rivals to the best of friends.
ChromaSport & Trophies Peterborough & District League outfits Coates Athletic and Whittlesey United have drawn up plans to merge ahead of the new season.
Coates chairman Gary Munns and Whittlesey first-team boss Andy Lodge and chairman Wayne Gale have been driving forces behind the surprise alliance which will be rubber-stamped at a joint annual meeting on Sunday which takes place at Childers starting at 6.30pm.
The new club will initially play under the Coates banner due to ongoing funding applications before being renamed as Whittlesey Athletic in the future.
It will be based at a new Feldale Field facility in the town, which is expected to be completed in early August in time for the new campaign, while also continuing to play at the Manor Leisure Centre.
They intend to have five teams in total next season playing at Premier Division, Division One, Division Two, Division Three and Division Five levels. That will require the league agreeing to demote two of the club’s sides as the Coates and Whittlesey first teams both currently play in the Premier Division while both reserve teams are in Division Two.
Munns said: “The idea was first raised as long as eight years ago, but it wasn’t really mentioned again until the start of last season.
“It was pretty much dismissed at the time but it reared its head again a few weeks ago and all parties are in agreement that it is the right thing to do.
“We have always been battling with each other for players, funding and even use of facilities. Now we have come together to create a single line of progression from junior football through into the adult game.
“We are all excited about the future as our new facilities could potentially offer the chance to move into non-league football.
“It is a new chapter for football in the town and there is an open book for all players from both clubs - and indeed any prospective new players - to be looked at on an equal footing.”
Player-boss Lodge, who guided the current Whittlesey first-team to a third place finish in the Premier Division last season, is equally as upbeat about the new era.
Lodge, who will continue as first-team chief following the merger, said: “There was already a big buzz after the promise of last season- and that has now got a whole lot bigger.
“Both clubs have the same mindset and both committees have gelled very quickly. We are determined to move forward together.
“The merger is not just good for football - it is good for the whole town. We don’t want to see good players from the Whittlesey area having to move elsewhere to fulfil their talent.
“We now have a clear path to progress to a higher level and it would be a dream come true to lead my hometown club into non-league football in the future.”
The merger will be discussed by Peterborough League chiefs at a meeting on Monday (June 9).
A league spokesperson said: “We are aware of the plans of two clubs to merge and we will assist in any way we can to ensure they are able to continue to develop.”