AFC Fylde manager Dave Challinor admits watching his former club Tranmere Rovers suffer defeat in the National League play-off final left him with mixed emotions.
Challinor, who spent eight years as a player at Tranmere, travelled to Wembley on Sunday to see Forest Green secure a place in the Football League for the first time in their history.
It means Micky Mellon’s Tranmere remain in the National League and will face Challinor’s promoted Coasters next season. The Fylde boss said: “It’s a massive step up for us. I said to Colin (Woodthorpe, assistant manager) afterwards that either of those sides would absolutely walk the league we have just come from.
“They are two very different sides that play very different styles of football. Tranmere didn’t play well but they were struggling with some injuries.
“Forest Green are a good footballing team, who can mix it up and handle themselves physically too. They proved that footballing teams can do well at that level.
“I have some great memories of my time at Tranmere, so I had a vested interest in the game.
“I would have loved to have seen them go up and they really deserve to be in the Football League. They got 95 points and didn’t win the league only because Lincoln had an unbelievable season. Any other year they would have been more than comfortable.
“But from a selfish point of view, it will be great to go up against them next season. The final was a win-win situation for me.
“I’ve always wanted to go back there with a team and it’s something I’m really looking forward to. That will be one of the first games I look out for.”
Also promoted to the top-flight of non-league are Ebbsfleet, Halifax and Maidenhead.
Like Challinor, those clubs will be looking forward to the release of fixtures in early July. The Fylde boss added: “It’s going to be very tough. The split between full-time and part-time teams is very different to last year. This league is loaded with full-time clubs and some huge clubs at that.
“It is a very difficult division, regardless of which team went up in the final at the weekend. You would expect Tranmere to be challenging at the top next season.
“The league is more physical than we have been used to, combined with players of better ability.
“However, it’s a very exciting time for us. Now we know the final line-up of the league we can look forward to the fixtures coming out.
“The first one you probably look out for will be who we play in the double header over Christmas and New Year, and obviously there will be other specific games you look out for.”