AFC Fylde manager Dave Challinor expressed his excitement this week after the fixtures for Fylde’s first ever venture into the National League were confirmed on Wednesday afternoon.
The Coasters start their first ever campaign in the fifth division at home to Boreham Wood with a mouth-watering Christmas double-header against Tranmere Rovers also on the agenda.
Speaking on Thursday afternoon, Challinor highlighted which games immediately attracted the attentions of the Fylde boss.
“First and foremost, I think that you’re always drawn to who you’ve got in the opening game. It’s great to be at home first and then it’s nice to have Chester as the first away game as it’s the closest team to where I live.
“After that, I guess you’re drawn straight away to who you’re playing around Christmas time. For us to get Tranmere is the perfect scenario for me. To be going to Prenton Park on Boxing Day is great and then to have them on New Years Day is a real chance to have a sell-out crowd here at Mill Farm.
“I think you get excited about every game. We’ve already marked some games as potential overnight stays and there’s a lot of organisation to be done and I just suppose it becomes more real as the fixtures are released. You can start to make more detailed plans.
This season’s National League promotion favourites are Challinor’s old club Tranmere Rovers who reached last season’s play off final, only to lose 3-1 at the hands of Forest Green Rovers.
Challinor was understandably excited at the prospect of facing the team with whom he started his professional career.
“I’ve been back and watched games there and obviously that was where I started my career. They were my team, I supported them and then went on to play for them so those fixtures were games that I was immediately going to get drawn towards.
“It’s great that we’ve got them on Boxing Day. I’d rather be twenty minutes away from the game rather than be an hour or two. For New Years, I think crowds are always boosted around that Christmas period.
“They will be brilliant games. They’re the favourite to win the league and I’ll be honest, I was as disappointed as anyone not to see them go up last season after reaching the play-off final. I went to Wembley but to be able to play against them this year is great on a personal level and it will also be great for the players because Tranmere are a massive club at this level.
Fylde’s pre-season campaign begins against Evo-Stik Premier Division side Marine AFC next Tuesday night and the squad have been back training for nearly two weeks.
After viewing the intensity of this side’s preparations for the new season, Challinor admits he is impressed with the form that his players have shown so far.
“The lads have come back in very decent shape. There are players that are at different levels at this stage but that’s what you expect. The tempo has been really good, it’s been really sharp and very different to what pre-season would have been like ten years ago.
“You get straight back into things and ultimately we are dictated to by the shape that the lads come back in. Don’t get me wrong, pre-season is never going to be easy. There’s no easy way to get fit and get sharp. Some lads played a lot of games last season and you need to have that down-time in order to let your body recover.
“You need to let your minds rest too but pre-season is hard. It takes a lot of work. There are a lot of new faces who have fitted in very well and there’s a really good feel about the place.
“We’ve done the bleep tests and the yo-yo tests but as much as you have to battle physically, it’s a mental test as well. You need to be able to put yourself in that mould to get to the line and don’t cut corners. You need to be able to look at the person next to you and push them on so there are more benefits to these tests than mental ones.”