Jim Bentley: We could feel sorry for ourselves but AFC Fylde are fully focused on promotion bid
Jim Bentley and his AFC Fylde squad are eagerly awaiting the start of the National League North campaign at Guiseley tomorrow after what feels like the longest pre-season ever.
Bentley’s Coasters head to Leeds with promotion at the top of their agenda and desperate to play a complete season after the last two were cut short by Covid.
“Last season seems like years ago,” the Fylde manager told The Gazette. “It has been a much longer pre-season than usual, and we’re all chomping at the bit and looking forward to enjoying some football.
“We have been affected massively by the last two seasons finishing early. I still feel we were relegated unfairly two seasons ago, then if they had also decided last season on points-per-game we’d have been top.
“So without feeling sorry for ourselves, I don’t think many clubs have suffered from what’s happened in the last two seasons as much as we have.
“We are well aware that Covid is still knocking around and people’s health and safety matter most, but the situation is improving and we really are hoping for a full season.”
Fylde, who last played a competitive fixture six months ago, have made the most of their extended close-season to bed in new players – a fifth arrived this week in the form of defender Jamie Stott on loan from Stockport County – and play seven warm-up matches.
That pre-season programme began with Squires Gate stepping in for Barnsley and ended with last Saturday’s visit from FC Halifax Town being called off because of Covid at the Yorkshire club, but Bentley is pleased with their on-field preparations.
“Everything went according to plan,” Bentley added, “and we had a good training week at an army base in Chester.
“It’s a shame we couldn’t play Halifax but thankfully they flagged it up early. We wouldn’t have wanted to play the game and then find ourselves in a Covid situation.”
With the financial problems which led to last season’s premature finish still afflicting many clubs, Bentley agrees it is difficult to predict how the competition is going to pan out.
“We are still in the unknown in many ways,” he says. “A season played in empty stadiums has had its effects in leagues above ours and who knows what will happen this season?
“But there are still a lot of ambitious clubs out there who have invested heavily. I’ve been impressed by the business of some other clubs in our league but I’m sure the teams who were up there last season will be competing again.
“The full-time clubs will be determined to go up but I think some of the part-time clubs, such as Boston, will be competitive as well. But we expect to be up there and we want to get off to a good start at Guiseley. ”
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