Experienced goalkeeper Chris Neal joined the club recently, after his contract with Sky Bet League Two side, Salford City expired.
The ‘keeper arrives at Mill farm with a wealth of experience in the game and will strengthen in a position that manager, Jim Bentley wanted.
Neal gave his thoughts to afcfylde.co.uk after sealing the move. He said: “The manager phoned me up and asked what my availability was, so I waited until lockdown was over and moving here really appealed to me. The direction the club wants to go in is great. What happened last year with relegation we are hoping was just a blip, for some reason it was a bit of an off-season but hopefully we can rectify that this season.
“Nothing in football is a given, but having spoken with Jim it’s clear that the vision this club has is to be in the Football League and that appeals to any footballer. It’s a club that wants to go places and I want to be part of that, I can’t wait to get going now.”
At the age of 34, some will regard Neal as heading towards the back-end of his career. That’s nowhere near the thoughts of the ‘keeper who has proven time after time that his quality remains, and with 70 games over the last two years in higher divisions, he feels that there is plenty left in the tank.
I got promoted two years ago with Salford after beating Fylde in the final. That made me hungrier to keep playing and I would like to think there are a few more years left in me yet! I think I can get to 40, and I know Pondy [Nathan Pond] will be the exact same. He’s as fit as they come Pondy, he’s in great shape and I would like to think I am too, so touch-wood we stay injury free and we’ll be good to go for a few more years yet.
“I also want to help the younger lads if I can, as do all the older heads here. Anyone can speak to us when they need help and that will only help us gel together and be tighter as a group. Young lads may not necessarily have years of experience but they are huge in the group, they add something different and if we can marry everything up then we will have a very good team here.”
Joining his former teammate Nathan Pond in switching from Salford to the Coasters this summer, Neal feels that relationships are key whilst on the pitch and having familiar faces around you can only be a benefit.
“We might have mentioned it to each other in a few text messages I’ll be honest, that’s only natural when you’re mates and you could be going to the same place. We both straight away said we wanted to come so then it was down to the club and our representatives to sort that. When I see players like Pondy coming here, that makes this even more of an attractive club as it shows this club can attract some really talented players.
“This will be the third time in a row we’ve played together! Our relationship is strong, we were together at Fleetwood, then Salford and now here so we each know our games pretty well. That does help, but we know the quality that is already here at the club so that will help to put us in good shape as well, now we all need to work on playing together as one to move forward.”
And finally, Neal explained that there is no fear around the word ‘promotion’, in fact it is quite the opposite. The club has been honest in their approach and it is well documented of the ambition to reach the football league.
Neal explained: “That appeals to players massively. You don’t want to go to a club and stagnate, you want to be somewhere that has ambition and wants to progress. I was shown around the club when I came over and the Chairman has really invested, he’s improved the club massively and we all want to progress here, everyone is looking upwards and that’s the feeling around the place.”