AFC Fylde 2020/21: Can the Coasters bounce back to the National League after relegation?

AFC Fans at Wembley for the FA Trophy Final

AFC Fylde’s season is finally under way after seven months without a competitive fixture, and Jim Bentley’s side are promotion favourites this season.

The Coasters earned their first win of the season against Darlington on Tuesday evening, after Nick Haughton’s superb strike separated the sides at Mill Farm. 

Global pandemics don’t come along very often in football but for Bentley, he will finally have the opportunity to rebuild the squad for the first time since his arrival back in October 2019.

The ex-Morecambe manager arrived at the club following the departure of long-serving manager Dave Challinor, who had won the FA Trophy and lost the National League play-off final to Salford the season before.  

Despite having nine games left in the 19/20 season and positioning 23rd in the table, the Coasters were relegated to the National League North following the resolution of the season on a points-per-game basis.

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Where they stand?

The current goal for AFC Fylde is to be in the Football League by 2022; the hugely ambitious 15-year plan was announced in 2007 following promotion from the West Lancashire League, the 11 tier of English Football.

In order for the Kirkham and Wesham side to reach their target and be playing in League 2 in two years’ time, they must achieve back-to-back promotions.

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Fylde won the National League North in 2017 and will be looking for another successful campaign this season.

A complete rebuild was needed for the Coasters, so let’s see what transfer business they’ve done so far.

AFC Fylde transfer business so far

In Transfers:

Nathan Pond – Salford, free transfer

Chris Neal – Salford, free transfer

David Perkins – Tranmere, free transfer

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Ben Tollitt – Macclesfield, free transfer

Luke Burgess – Salford, loan

Max Johnstone – St. Johnstone, free transfer

Junior Mondal – Forest Green, free transfer

Luke Conlan – Morecambe, undisclosed fee

Nathan Shaw – Blackpool, loan

Jordan Hulme – Altrincham, undisclosed fee

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Liam Nolan – Macclesfield, free transfer

Jordan Lussey – Marine, free transfer

Out Transfers:

Lewis Montrose – Kidderminster, free transfer

James Craigen – Arbroath, free transfer

Daniel Bradley – Alfreton, free transfer

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Tom Walker – Harrogate, undisclosed fee

Matty Kosylo – Altrincham, free transfer

Kyle Jameson – Oldham, free transfer

Dan Lavercombe – FC United, free transfer

Scott Duxbury – Boston, free transfer

Neill Byrne – Halifax, free transfer

Ryan Croasdale – Stockport, free transfer

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Jordan Williams –  Stockport, undisclosed fee

Tom Miller – free agent

Mark Yeates – free agent

James Montgomery – free agent

Where are they strong?

The Coasters have finally got their core, with over 1,500 appearances between them all and multiple promotions, Neal, Pond and Perkins have all come in to strengthen the National League North side.

With a midfield three of Perkins, Haughton and Philliskirk, Fylde have built a very strong foundation of experience, flair and creativity.

Then up top, new signing Jordan Hulme has bags of experience at knowing where the net is at this level. He scored 14 goals for Altrincham last season.

Key man

Nathan Pond.

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Having played in seven divisions for Fleetwood through the course of six promotions, Pond was recognised by Guinness as holding the world record for appearing in the most different divisions with a single football club.

One to watch

Ben Tollitt

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With numerous of Football League experience, Ben Tollitt is ready to cause plenty of problems down the right side for Fylde this season.

What is success for AFC Fylde in 2020/21?

Promotion. Whether it’s winning or going up through the playoffs, Fylde’s objective this season will be getting back to the National League. Anything less is considered as a poor season.