AFC Fylde: The side looking to bounce back from play-off ‘heartbreak’

In 2007 AFC Fylde announced plans to get into the Football League by 2022, 15 years on and that dream nearly became a reality.

Chairman, David Haythornthwaite had revealed plans a year prior for the club to reach the National League by 2017 and the Football League by 2022.

Following this, in 2013 £25m of the chairman’s funds were spent on a stadium complex that could host 6,000 fans as the club began their meteoric rise through non-league.

It was in 2019 where the Football League fantasy would reach it’s peak, AFC Fylde reached the final of the National League play-offs where they faced Salford City.

A 3-0 loss at Wembley meant that the Lancashire side would have to undergo another season in the National League, however it would not go to plan.

They were relegated to the National League North finishing 23rd after a shortened season due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Head of Media at AFC Fylde Callum Foster

”I think when you look back at the squad we had in that play-off final, there were lot of players in there that had experience winning promotion and being at the top of the table,” said current Head of Media at Fylde, Callum Foster.

”Those players want to move on and play at the highest level.”

AFC Fylde currently sit at the summit of the National League North after a brilliant run of form over the winter period and captain Alex Whitmore doesn’t want another play-off finish.

AFC Fylde captain Alex Whitmore

”We had the pain of the play-offs last year, so we’re doing everything we can to avoid that this year,” said Whitmore.

This came after his side were defeated by Boston United in the play-off semi-finals last season.

”It hasn’t really been on our minds, the heartbreak of it, we’ve been looking ahead rather than looking back, and coming into the last two or three months of the season, that’s going to play a massive part.”: said Whitmore.

Fylde sit one point clear of King’s Lynn and have a clash with the Norfolk-based side at the end of February with their next four games being against teams in the bottom-half.

National League North table 2022/23

”You want to be in a good vein of form and full of confidence going into the games against the teams at the top, even if they are in the bottom-half, there’s no easy games in this league,” said the captain.

“We’re in a good place now, six unbeaten, won 10 of 12, if we can keep a good vein of form for the next four games going into the big one that would help massively.”

Two key factors have helped Fylde this season, the change in manager and the performances of Nick Haughton with the midfielder bagging 14 goals in 25 league games this season which has led to interest from League Two.

Nick Haughton’s performances gained traction from League Two sides reported by Pete O’Rourke

”He’s been hailed the best player in the league, potentially the league above, he’s got that ability to go and play higher, while we’ve got him, we’re going to enjoy him,” said Whitmore.

AFC Fylde brought in Adam Murray to replace controversial former manager James Rowe in November and haven’t looked back since the appointment of the 41-year-old.

”It’s been a shift in morale, a lot of players love coming into the club now, rather than the previous management, I think it comes from the gaffer more than anything because he brings a vibrant and energetic atmosphere to the club,” said Foster.

AFC Fylde’s win over Curzon Ashton on Saturday 4th February

Whilst Whitmore also believed Murray’s appointment was a boost to the side.

”He’s brought in a different philosophy, the proof is in the pudding with the results, it’s working for us, we’ve got the players that are able to do it and it’s not anything rigid either, it’s flexible,” said the skipper.

”We change things on a game-to-game basis on how the other team play and how best to counteract that.”

AFC Fylde will be looking ahead to Saturday’s fixture against AFC Telford who are rooted at the bottom of the National League North table.