AFC Fylde manager Dave Challinor admits watching his former club Tranmere Rovers suffer defeat in the National League Play-Off Final was bitter-sweet on a personal level.
Challinor, who spent eight years as a player at Tranmere, travelled to Wembley on Sunday to see Forest Green secure their place in the Football League for the first time in their history.
Tranmere were the final team to confirm their place in next season’s National League line-up and Challinor admits he would have been happy with either outcome.
“Watching the game – it’s a massive step up for us. I said to Colin (Woodthorpe) in the car afterwards that either of those sides would absolutely walk the league that we have just come from.
“They are two very different sides that play two very different styles of football. Tranmere didn’t play well but they were struggling with some injuries.
“Forest Green are a good footballing team and they can mix it up and handle themselves physically too. The proved that footballing teams can do well at that level.
“I have some great memories of my time at Tranmere so I had a vested interest in the game on Sunday. I would have loved to have seen them go up and they really deserve to be in the Football League. They got 95 points this year and they only didn’t win the league because Lincoln had an unbelievable season. Any other year, they would have been more than comfortable.
“But from a selfish point of view, it will be great to go up against them next season. The final was a win-win situation for me.
I’ve always wanted to go back there with a team and it’s something I’m really looking forward to. That will be one of the first games that I look out for.
Whilst the campaign has only finished for the Coasters, Challinor already has one eye on next season’s fixtures.
“It’s going to be very tough. The split between full-time and part-time teams is very different to last year. The league is loaded with full-time clubs and some huge clubs at that.
“It is a very difficult division, regardless of which team went up in the final at the weekend. You would have expected either side – Tranmere as it turned out – to be challenging at the top next season.
“The league is more physical than what we have been used to, combined with players of better ability, however, it’s a very exciting time for us. Now we know the final line-up of the league we can look forward to the fixtures coming out.
“The first one you probably look out for will be who we play in the double header over Christmas and New Year and obviously there will be other specific games you look out for on a personal level.”