Arsenal favourite Paul Merson has paid a visit to AFC Fylde and praised the club on its rise through the leagues and impressive run to the semi-finals of the Buildbase FA Trophy.
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Merson, 50, visited Mill Farm to deliver a coaching session to the Elite Tech Academy and was full of praise for the set-up.
Capped 21 times by England, TV pundit Merson won the League title twice in 15 years with the Gunners, making well over 300 appearances.
Merson said of his day on the Fylde coast: “The facilities at Mill Farm are outstanding, absolutely outstanding, and the club are in the FA Trophy semi-final as well, which is excellent.
“I’ve been steadily watching them, as I’ve always had trouble saying their name – Flyde I’ve called them, and Thommo (Phil Thompson, his Soccer Saturday colleague on Sky Sports) slaughters me!”
“I’ve seen them steadily rise up through the leagues, so to be in the semi-final and be a couple of games away from Wembley now is a massive feat.”
The Coasters are now just two legs away from Wembley after defeating Barnet on penalties last weekend.
Merson was on the winning and losing sides in FA Cup finals, having helped Arsenal to overcome Sheffield Wednesday in the last final to go to a replay in 1993, then tasting defeat with Aston Villa against Chelsea seven years later in the last final at the old Wembley.
Merson said of the FA Trophy’s Wembley date on May 19: “It’s the FA Cup final for non-league clubs, so it would be amazing for Fylde to get there and pay the owner back, as playing at a set-up like this makes for a very fortunate bunch of players.
“The owner (David Haythornthwaite) has put his money where his mouth is and you’ve got to respect people who do that.”
Fylde will face National North club Stockport County in the semi-finals after their 3-0 win at Maidstone United in last night’s replay.
The first leg is set to take place at Mill Farm on March 16 and the return leg seven days later as the Coasters bid to become the first team to win both the FA Vase and the FA Trophy.
The Vase and Trophy finals will be played on the same day at Wembley.