Skipper Neill Byrne wants his AFC Fylde team-mates to smash chairman David Haythornthwaite’s 2022 Football League target by beating Salford City

David Haythornthwaite, Dave Challinor and Neill Byrne
David Haythornthwaite, Dave Challinor and Neill Byrne
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AFC Fylde skipper Neill Byrne wants his team-mates to smash chairman David Haythornthwaite’s 2022 Football League target by beating Salford City in today's play-off final.

The 26-year-old has played a key role in helping the Coasters become the third meanest defence in the National League this season.

Dave Challinor’s players conceded only 41 goals in 46 league games and Byrne is now hungry to make history by bringing EFL football to Mill Farm next season.

The Irishman’s football journey started out with Portmarnock and Belvedere before making the switch to Nottingham Forest’s academy in 2007.

He then joined Rochdale in 2012, a stay which saw spells at Barrow and Southport before he joined AFC Telford United in 2013.

Byrne racked up the appearances at the Bucks and won promotion from the National League North in the 2013-14 season.

He then moved to Macclesfield Town in 2015, spending two years with the Silkmen before joining Gateshead.

Last summer brought his switch to Mill Farm, a move he said was fuelled by the Coasters’ ambition as well as a desire to play in the EFL again.

Speaking about his journey, Byrne said: “It was about 10 years ago, I moved over to Nottingham.

“I’ve enjoyed my journey so far but I want to get back into the Football League as soon as possible.

“I feel like I can do that with Fylde.

“I was at Gateshead last year, I could see what the club (Fylde) was doing.

“I got a phone call in the summer saying they were interested, and after coming down looking at the club, the facilities, speaking to the manager about the ambitions and seeing the players that were involved here, it was something that I wanted to partake in with the ambition of 2022.

“But it is not about 2022, it is about getting there as soon as we can and we have got that opportunity now to get there as soon as we can.

“As players we are not thinking of 2022, we are thinking of now and what we can do.”

Promotion into the EFL would see the Coasters sharing a stage with some big names.

Bradford City, Walsall, Plymouth Argyle and Scunthorpe United were all relegated to League Two at the end of this season.

Unsurprisingly, Byrne is keen to lead Fylde to Wembley glory and then pit his wits against some of those sides next season.

He said: “It would mean everything, as a club, as a team and as individuals. It is where you want to be.

“Getting promoted to the Football League is a big step in our careers.

“It is one we are all focused on, we want to achieve that.

“Everyone wants to play in the Football League.

“There are lots of big teams in League One and Two; Sunderland in League One and some big teams in League Two.

“To make that step as a player and a club is one we are all striving to achieve.”

And Byrne praised the Coasters fans for their role as the 12th man in their play-off eliminator win over Harrogate and semi-final win at Solihull Moors.

The defender asked for more of the same at Wembley today.

He said: "I think they have been key recently.

"Against Harrogate they were their in their numbers.

"Against Solihull at times I heard them more than the Solihull fans.

"It is good to know that they are supporting you and behind you in stages that you are going through a difficult part.

"You can hear them and they get you going.

"It gets us going and we appreciate all that they do, the travelling, it is expensive to do so.

"This is our way of rewarding them by hopefully giving them a win and a chance too go to the Football League and do all those things.

"We just ask them to come out and support us and we will give them everything we can."