Fylde RFC take on relegated Wharfedale tomorrow in their final home match of what has been a testing season for player-coach Paul Arnold, his first in sole charge.
But he says he has no regrets about accepting the job after being told by some close to him not to go anywhere near it!
It has been challenging in so many ways
He said: “When I first asked others what it was like being a player-head coach, the only advice was: ‘Don’t do it!’
“After 12 months, I understand why.
“It has been challenging in so many ways.
“I’ve made lots of mistakes, but I feel I have got a lot of things right.
“I can’t wait for pre-season, so I can build on the positives, such as our form away from the Woodlands.
“The number of talented young lads coming through is fantastic and watching them develop this season in training together and some stepping up to first team level has been massively rewarding.”
Arnold said that Fylde were not on a level playing field compared to some other clubs.
He contended: “We have always punched well above our weight in this division, competing with many sides who have more than treble our budget.
“Coventry have just appointed five full-time coaches and support staff. And that’s before they recruit a squad of full-time players!
“The challenge now is making sure we develop our young players so that we can carry on competing at this level for many seasons to come.”
But Arnold says he is undaunted by the task confronting him.
He said: “The lessons I have learned going forward will be invaluable going forward in my coaching career and I want to thank Fylde for giving me the opportunity to run the first team at this great club.”
The past season has sign a clear rising in standard by the Fylde second team, who have been fighting out at the top of their league all season.
The Hawks finished the campaign by coming second in the North West Premiership Conference A behind Sedgley Park.
Arnold said: “The togetherness of the first team and the Hawks is as strong as I’ve ever seen.
“This has had a knock-on affect down the various teams.
“We are trying to develop as one integrated club.”
But there are plenty of issues to address at the Woodlands as far as building a squad to be competitive - and better - in National League One in the 2016-17 season.
A number of players are considering their future at the club and could be on their way and one of the other problems is that some senior players have seen a dip in their standards this term.
Fylde spring a surprise and there is no Dan Birchall in the starting line-up.
So far this season the front row forward has been an ever-present in the Fylde ranks.
With the experienced Alex Loney injured, Danny Maher has been handed the hooker spot.
Ball-winners are thin on the ground for Fylde - in addition to Loney, Phil Mills is not available, while Tom Burtonwood has left to go and play club rugby in the United States.
Wharfedale arrive at the Woodlands knowing that their two-decade tenure in National League One is coming to a close.
Their relegation was confirmed when they lost to Hull Ionians last weekend.
As their league position would indicate, Wharfedale have struggled for consistency this season, though they have had some good results.
They were at their best in a 43-13 win at Blaydon, but 11 defeats at home have sealed their fate.
They beat Blackheath 21-15 and lost narrowly to eventual champions Richmond.
Undoubtedly, they will shrug off the disappointment and give Fylde a good scrap as they are long standing rivals.
Over the years, though, Fylde have had the upper hand in meetings between these two Roses rivals.
Fylde have won 14 of their 20 meetings, with five defeats and one draw.
Indeed, Wharfedale, nicknamed the Green Machine, haven’t won at the Woodlands in 10 attempts,
However, Wharfedale will be out to rectify that, while the onus is on them to bow out in front of their own supporters in style as their home form has fallen away this term.
One player missing from the Wharfedale line-up tomorrow will be former Fleetwood RFC scrum-half James Doherty.
The half-back, who also had spells with Cornish Pirates and Yorkshire Carnegie, suffered serious concussion at the end of last season and has only played occasionally for Wharfedale this term.
Tomorrow’s match will be followed by the Fylde players’ awards night at the Woodlands clubhouse as which there will be presentations to all senior teams.
Fylde: Dorrington; Brennand, Bedlow, Briers, Bingham; Morton, Nicholls, Wild, Lewis, Garrod, G Rawlings, Goodman, Stewart, Fairbrother. Replacements: Griffiths, Gray, Wilkinson, S Rawlings, AN Other. Kick-off 3pm.
*Ian Cosh, part of the Fylde management team, is standing down at the end of the season, as is one of the club physio Greg Littler.