Dave Challinor says his AFC Fylde players should relish the role of “pantomime villain” at Stockport County tomorrow and urged his men to book the first of two possible Wembley trips.
Fylde head to Edgeley Park for the second leg of their FA Trophy semi-final against the National League North club following last Saturday’s goalless draw at Mill Farm.
Ex-County player Challinor knows exactly what to expect at the former Football League club and says his players should revel in this sort of atmosphere if they want to play at the higher level.
He told The Gazette: “We know we will be playing the role of the pantomime villain as we are going there to try to stop their big day out.
“But our aim is to get to the Football League, and when we do get there we will be playing in front of bigger crowds, with our fans not in the majority.
“We have to get used to that and relish that if we want to progress. As footballers and as a manager you want to play in big, loud stadiums.
“There are a lot of losers in football but not a lot of winners. We are a club that is used to winning and hopefully we can be on our way to the first of two Wembley trips.”
Challinor was referring to a possible play-off final trip to the national stadium. Fylde will remain in the play-off zone tomorrow night, despite missing a second successive Saturday of league games.
Fylde face lower-level opposition tomorrow and Challinor added: “There is obviously a gulf between the divisions but on the day anyone can beat anyone.
“We wanted to get the semi-final boxed off in the first game but would I have taken a clean sheet if I was offered it? Absolutely.
“Stockport are a good, well-organised team and the first game could have gone either way.
“Now we have to go on and secure what is hopefully not our only trip to Wembley this season.”
Fylde will have games in hand on all their promotion rivals except current leaders Leyton Orient, who lead AFC Telford 1-0 in the other Trophy semi-final and face the Coasters in east London on Tuesday.
Challinor said: “The league results went our way last weekend because we were concerned we could drop out of the play-offs because of the cup games.
“But whatever happens we will still be in there (the lowest Fylde could be after the weekend is sixth) and we will have our two games in hand, with another huge game against Leyton Orient next up.
“Fortunately they will be in the same boat as us thanks to their cup exploits.
“It is a huge few days for us but this is the time in the season you relish.”
With crowds topping 6,000 at Stockport this season and Fylde’s travelling support set to top 500 thanks to the club’s coach and ticket offer, Edgeley Park should be rocking tomorrow.
One player who should not be fazed by the crowd is Fylde full-back Zaine Francis-Angol, who played in front of 60,000-plus at Celtic while with Motherwell.
Recalling his time in Scotland, Francis-Angol said: “I found that it (a big crowd) just made me more excited for the game. “It gives you more of a buzz.
“Whether they are your fans or the opposition, you just feed off of the energy.”
“Sometimes on a cold winter night in front of smaller crowds it can be harder to get yourself up for it. But when you’re in front of thousands with so much to play for, the adrenaline gets pumping and the occasion really pushes you on.”
“It is a really big opportunity, and some of the lads who maybe haven’t played in front of the kind of crowd we’re expecting can’t wait.
“But Stockport are a good side, with players who can hurt you.”