Manager Jim Bentley so disappointed after two 'nightmare' seasons for AFC Fylde
AFC Fylde manager Jim Bentley was left to reflect on “a nightmare couple of seasons” after seeing a second successive league campaign end early.
Bentley, who considers the decision a “disaster for our club”, was due to assemble his squad yesterday to make plans for a long close-season ahead of another campaign in National League North.
Three weeks after NL North and South clubs voted to terminate the league season due to ongoing concerns arising from the pandemic, the FA rejected plans for a mini-league proposed by Fylde and other clubs who wished to play on.
The previous season had also been cut short by a vote among clubs, resulting in Fylde’s relegation on a points-per-game basis.
Bentley couldn’t hide his disappointment as he plans for a difficult summer. He told the Gazette: “It’s been a nightmare couple of seasons. I’ve been here close to 18 months and I feel I’ve never really got going.
“Considering the way we were relegated last season and the position we were in this season –top of the league on points per game – having our opportunity taken away from us again is very difficult to take. It’s a disaster for our club.”
The Coasters boss feels particularly sorry for his players, who had continued to train full-time until this week in the hope their season would resume.
Indeed, despite playing only one match in the past nine weeks, the squad had continued to train daily, earning Bentley’s praise for their attitude and professionalism.
That one match, a 3-1 win at York City a month ago, had seen Bentley return to the dugout for the first time since heart surgery at the start of December.
“I feel completely fit and well now. I’m doing great and it was all systems go for the rest of the season,” added Bentley, who admitted to being “a bit surprised” by the FA’s ruling that the proposed new competition damaged the ‘integrity’ of the non-league pyramid.
The former Morecambe player and manager said: “I was quite positive the decision would go our way because I’m always a ‘glass half-full’ person. I thought it had a chance but the longer it went on you began to wonder....
“The proposal did sound workable and the framework was decent. Those clubs who did not want to continue would have got their wish, while those of us who did could have carried on in a proper competition.”
And the irony of seeing Fylde’s season scrapped just as the game at other levels is preparing to resume after lockdown is not lost on Bentley.
He added: “I agree that everybody’s safety and wellbeing is the most important consideration but we are in a different situation to 12 months ago.
“Last year we were going into the unknown and didn’t know how badly the world would be affected by Covid.
“But now we are coming out of it. I’ve had my first vaccination, so have millions of others and the position is much more positive.
“The strangest thing is that I can go to watch our youth team play in their FA Cup on Wednesday. I’m getting texts about my children going back into training and their leagues restarting, but I’m the manager of a professional club and we have no football. It’s very disappointing and difficult to take.”
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