Nathan Pond said his decision to leave Fleetwood Town and join Salford City had been vindicated by the number of minutes he has played as he sealed a return to the Football League at Wembley.
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Pond , 34, had six promotions under his belt from his 15-year spell at Fleetwood.
And the defender added a seventh on Saturday, helping Salford to beat AFC Fylde 3-0 in the National League play-off final.
Town’s appearance record-holder made his 45th start of the campaign for City at Wembley, twice as many as he managed the previous season at Highbury.
Pond said after Salford’s triumph: “People asked a few questions – why did you leave Fleetwood? Why did you drop down? The numbers speak for themselves. I wanted regular football.
“I made my 45th start of the season at Wembley. I only made 20-odd last season. I wanted to play regular football at the age of 34 and I’ve gained promotion back to the Football League, so I am delighted.”
Pond is preparing to start work for his coaching badges this summer but he does intend to play in League Two for Salford.
But the centre-half plans to return to Highbury one day. He said: “I got a few messages off the Fleetwood fans (before the final) saying, ‘Make sure you win’. I said I would do all I could and we managed to get the victory.
“I’m enjoying football and I’ve always said I’d want to go back to Fleetwood.
“I’m doing my coaching badges, so hopefully one day I can give a bit back to the club that gave me so much.”
Pond played with his head bandaged to protect a wound sustained against Eastleigh in the previous round.
He added: “I got a deep cut in the semi-final and had to get it glued so it would not split open again.
“I’m not bothered about that. I’m on a high and we got promoted, so I’m happy.”
It was the second time Pond and Salford’s former Town boss Graham Alexander had won at Wembley together. Alexander steered a Fleetwood side that featured Pond into League One via the play-offs five years ago.
He said of the victory over Fylde: “It was a lot of hard work. Fylde are a good side. They put us under pressure.
“We thought we scored at important times to take the pressure off and everyone is delighted.
“I’ve had two trips to Wembley, two clean sheets and two wins. It is the best feeling in the world. We knew they had the top scorer in the league in Danny Rowe and Nick Haughton – very dangerous players – but we kept them at arm’s length.
“We kept them far away and limited their chances. I don’t think our keeper had a save to make.”