Dave Challinor says the promise of a new stadium was one of the key factors which attracted him to the AFC Fylde manager’s job.
The Coasters boss has had to wait almost five years for the vision to be realised but he’s the first to admit that the £18m Mill Farm was well worth the wait.
Though its capacity will be restricted to 4,500 while the stadium has only three sides, Fylde’s new ground opens for business tomorrow to stage its first Vanarama National North fixture between the Coasters and Brackley Town.
While acknowledging that the big day piles pressure on his new-look side to put in a performance to match the surroundings, Challinor told The Gazette he is relishing the challenge.
He said: “It will be amazing. From the playing point of view we have to make sure that Saturday is about the game and that we back up what we did last weekend with the win at Telford.
“It’s a fantastic facility and the day will be a celebration but we can’t get involved in anything off the field.
“The stadium is something the club needed and is a big reason I came here. It’s been a long process but it will be brilliant and will take the club to a new level off the pitch. On the pitch, we have a state of the art home which will be great to play on.
“We’ve come from a farmer’s field to a brand new, all-singing-and-dancing stadium.
“We trained on the pitch this week and it will take a little time for the players to get used to it, but the fans will love it straight away and other teams will love playing here too.”
The latter point is uppermost in Challinor’s mind and he knows how determined tomorrow’s Northamptonshire opponents will be to poop the party.
Unbeaten so far, Brackley had an excellent 2-1 midweek win over a Kidderminster side who themselves hit Curzon Ashton for six last Saturday.
Challinor added: “Visiting our ground will do the team-talk for the other team. They will think all the pressure is on us to perform here.
“Brackley have invested well and I know how difficult it will be. People who thought it would be easy for us on Saturday don’t know.”
Fylde too have made a good start, winning through a sweet Danny Rowe strike at Telford with a team Challinor described as “thrown together”, including a goalkeeper in Rhys Taylor whose signing was completed just a few hours before kick-off.
And the Coasters boss warned an expectant public that they may have to wait a little while to see his revamped side fulfil its potential.
He said: “We’ve had a great start considering the team we put out. The back four had very little experience of playing together, so it was great to keep a clean sheet at Telford.
“We’ve gone from being a part-time club to one higher up the food chain, so we are a more attractive proposition to players. You still have to be patient sometimes and that worked for us with the keeper.
“It wasn’t ideal that it went to the wire before we signed Rhys but we’ve got ourselves a very good keeper who we wouldn’t have been able to sign previously.
“It’s about getting as many good results as possible while this new team is getting to know each other, and it’s about bedding down our principles.
“But there’s loads to come from this squad and when we do kick into gear we can be a force to be reckoned with.”
Challinor would not rule out further transfer activity in the near future, adding: “We are still in a position to strengthen but it’s important that we make good decisions and get the right players in.
“An advantage of our league is that we are not limited by a transfer window.
“Sam Finley is suspended for the first few games and I would like some extra cover for him in midfield, but we have no injuries and are otherwise at full strength for Saturday.”