Jim Bentley makes careful plans for AFC Fylde players after mental 'battering'
Manager Jim Bentley is drawing up plans for a long close-season for his AFC Fylde players, admitting they have been “battered emotionally and psychologically” by another campaign cut short.
Three weeks after National League North voted to declare its season null and void, clubs like Fylde who wished to play on saw their proposals for a combined NL North/South ‘mini-league’ rejected by the FA.
It has left the Coasters, relegated from the National League last year after another curtailed season, facing a second campaign in non-league’s second tier.
They were well placed for a promotion challenge – second in the table with games in hand – when the season was halted.
It was particularly tough on Fylde’s squad of full-time players, who had played only once in nine weeks before their season was scrapped but had continued training each day.
Bentley got together with his players last week to plan for the future but told The Gazette that, in such extraordinary circumstances, it would not be right to send the players away for three months before a traditional start to pre-season training in June.
The Coasters boss said: “There is a lot to sort out and this is totally different to what anyone is used to.
“You can only try to do everything as honestly and professionally as you can and be fair to all the players at the club.
“Because of the length of time we’ve been training, the players have been battered by this emotionally and psychologically.
“So we’ll give the players a break for a couple of weeks while we finalise a plan to get everyone in the best condition for next season.
“We mustn’t overcook the players, but at the same time, we can’t just send them away with nothing for months.
“We have to plan ongoing individual programmes for all the players using our professional knowledge.”
Training regimes are also far from the only issue on Bentley’s mind.
He explained: “We have player contracts to contend with in the coming weeks and there are decisions to be made if other clubs (in the National League, which is continuing) want any of our players on loan.
“We have players out of contract and we have to be as honest, open and professional as we can with all those players
“There are decisions to be made and we have to try to get the balance right between the players’ interests and those of the club.”
If the season’s early end has any silver lining at all, it at least gives Bentley time to completely get over his heart surgery last December.
The Liverpudlian had resumed his duties gradually in recent months, returning to the dugout for last month’s win at York City which proved to be Fylde’s final game of the season.
He added: “To be honest, I feel fit and well. I’m doing great and it was all systems go for the rest of the season.
“I suppose the break gives me an opportunity to get even better but there will be a lot of planning and discussions to be had ahead of next season.”
That season will begin on August 14, a week after the EFL and a week before the National League.
The current season is not yet over for the Fylde club: the Under-18s are relishing their trip to Stamford Bridge to play Chelsea in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup a week on Saturday, April 3, having won a 3-2 thriller away to Cambridge United last week.
Fylde Women are in action the following day away to Burnley in the second round of their FA Cup, though Kim Turner and Danielle Young’s team have also seen their league season scrapped while they stood second in the table.
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