James Hardy has handed AFC Fylde a pre-season boost by signing an extended deal with the club.
The 21-year-old’s new contract will tie the midfielder to the club until the end of the 2018-19 season.
Hardy scored eight goals and provided 12 assists in just 29 games last season as the Coasters lifted the National League North crown.
Hardy has been a revelation since joining the club 18 months ago from Manchester City, attracting attention from far and wide with his dazzling displays and was named Fylde’s young player of the year.
His fine form was recognised at international level when he received his first England C call-up – an opportunity he took full advantage of, setting up both goals in a 2-1 victory away to Estonia.
Manager Dave Challinor could not hide his delight after securing Hardy’s services for the foreseeable future and admits the youngster is ‘one of the best he has seen’.
Challinor accepts that Hardy could eventually be prised away from Mill Farm to play at a higher level.
Challinor said: “This is something that has been in the offing for a while now and we are very pleased to get it sorted.
“In a positive way, we know that James’ long-term future lies away from here. If he can fulfil his potential then he can play much higher up the leagues. However, for now he is committed to AFC Fylde and we are delighted with that.
“I am really looking forward to watching him play this season. He was really unfortunate last season because sometimes his body lets him down with the physical stress he puts it under. He isn’t doing anything wrong and he has worked incredibly hard on that.
“Fingers crossed all that is behind him now and he can have a really good season.
“We want him fit and available for as many games as possible. If he can do that, with the ability he possesses, he will play a huge part for us this season.
“I’m excited about him showing what he can do. He is one of the best, if not the best, I’ve seen at this level. I think he will eventually end up in a central area behind the striker.
“We have played him in a wide area too because he can find space there but long term, when he fills out and can handle the physical side, then he will be in a central area because that’s where he is most effective. He is slightly behind in terms of fitness but is getting there.”