In the increasingly volatile world of football management it could be argued that five years at the same club is something of an achievement for any manager.
For AFC Fylde boss Dave Challinor his tenure in charge of the Coasters has been about so much more than merely surviving in the role.
In his words he is “building a club”.
Five years ago the former Tranmere Rovers defender took the decision to drop down two levels into the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League First Division North to take over at AFC Fylde.
The ambitious plans and targets of chairman David Haythornthwaite were enough to persuade Challinor to leave Colwyn Bay, then plying their trade in the Conference North.
Promotion was secured in his first full season in charge and hopes were high that a
second promotion into non-league’s second tier would follow.
A fifth place finish in their first season in the Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division secured a play-off birth, although disappointment followed as Hednesford Town inflicted penalty heartache on the Coasters in the semi-finals.
In 2013/14, with a number of key signings in the bag, there was to be no mistake and no play-off nightmare.
Again they made it into the end of season lottery but this time they came out on the right end of a penalty shoot out, beating Ashton United to take the club to their highest level of football.
The well-publicised target of securing a place in the Football League by 2022 took a gigantic step closer.
With progression comes a necessity to change.
After two seasons of more play-off heartache in the National League North the club was ready to progress on and off the pitch.
A move away from their modest Kellamergh Park home was secured as they moved into their impressive new stadium.
Mill Farm has given Challinor a chance to move the club forward once again and now, after an impressive start to the season, the Coasters boss is confident his side can thrive in their new home.
He said “Moving into the new stadium puts us on another level.
“I’ve been here five years in November and you can forget where we have come from.
“We are building a club and not that long ago we were playing down the road in front of one hundred people.
“Now we are averaging over 1,400 in our first four games here, which is more than we could have ever hoped for.
“We wanted attendances to grow but to have done it to the level it has is amazing for us.
“It will still be tough, we have been waiting to be here and we must thrive on this environment.
“It still doesn’t feel like home and we won’t rest on our laurels until we have achieved everything we aspire to achieve”
At the time of writing AFC Fylde sit top of the National League North on goal difference.
Their 4-1 win over Curzon Ashton was inspired by a Danny Rowe hat-trick(pictured) and sent them to the top of the division, level on points with Salford City and Harrogate Town.
Now, Challinor believes his side are ready to move on from two seasons of disappointment as they target another historic promotion.
“I think the past two seasons have been a disappointment really, maybe there was a slight hangover” said the forty year old.
“There will always be questions about when the right time is to go up. You think it would be great to get up coming into this new stadium but there has been a big turnaround.
“We have moved to a full-time status, we have moved into the ground and there have been a number of changes to the squad.
“We have come into this season refreshed, renewed but with the same target and that is to get this club promoted.
“We have started well, I would have taken the results at the start of the season.
“The atmosphere is positive but we can still improve and that is the message we are
trying to get through to the players.
“We need to keep picking up points, we need to continue to improve and we will do that as the season goes on and this group of players get used to each other”
The Coasters have come a long way since their FA Vase win of 2008.
Three promotions, a new stadium, new investment and a new chairman.
But this summer the club made possibly their biggest change yet.
For the first time in their history the Coasters are operating on a full-time, professional basis.
Challinor, along with his trusted assistant Colin Woodthorpe, now has more time with their squad.
More time to impose their methods on their players, more time to ensure their message hits home and more time to prepare them for the challenges that lie in wait.
With that changes comes challenges, and Challinor believes that the adjustment into full-time football will take time to have an impact on his squad.
“I think you have to be careful because the majority of the lads we have aren’t used to training full-time.
“At the moment it hasn’t had too much of an impact because we have had a lot of midweek games, so as a coach you can’t get the amount of sessions you would expect because it’s all about recovery and planning.
“Our lads are totally focused on a game on a Tuesday night, whereas other clubs in the league have players that have a day at work before a game, so it has its benefits.
“When you are part-time you train twice a week, you get in from work, you train, then you look forward to the weekend game. We are changing the way our players look at the game, how they look after themselves and spending more time with them means we can have more attention to detail.
“You can see little changes, they need to manifest into big changes and if they do we can have a successful season”
Possibly the biggest downside to the move into the full-time basis is the way the club are viewed by potential new signings according the Challinor.
In his own words the club are now “at the bottom of the chain in the full-time game”
Now they compete with Football League and National League giants in an ever-competitive transfer market.
However, after a “patient” summer, he is happy with the business they have managed to conduct, with the likes of Crawley Town midfielder Andy Bond (pictured) and Barrow defender Steve Williams joining the club in a busy summer.
Challinor commented “It hasn’t been as easy to bring in players as some people may think.
“With the move into full-time we have gone from one of the most attractive propositions in the part-time game to being at the bottom of the chain in the full-time game.
“We had to be patient and bide our time with some signings and that meant our squad really only came together on the day before the season started.
“We are still getting to know each other as a squad and we are reaching the point now where things will start to impress.
“People like playing at this stadium, the players like the setting. It motivates us and we enjoy calling it our home. It is playing a part in signing players but the challenge is still trying to get the right ones in.
“So far we have done that”
This is the Coasters third year in the National League North and according to Challinor it will be their toughest yet.
An already strong division has been boosted by some of non-league’s biggest names.
Kidderminster Harriers, Altrincham and FA Trophy holders FC Halifax Town dropped into the division from the National League.
Darlington and the Class of 92 owned Salford City followed the Coasters path by gaining promotion from the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League.
Existing clubs in the division strengthened considerably, with as many as ten sides seen as genuine promotion candidates.
For Challinor there is only one target and that is promotion and he believes that the strength of the league, where any side can take points off another, means that the points required to get promoted will be lower than in previous seasons.
“It’s the toughest division yet and we knew that in the summer.
“You see the likes of Kidderminster Harriers, Halifax Town and Altrincham coming down, you see Salford City and Darlington coming up. These are big non-league clubs coming into an already tough league.
“Everyone is trying to improve and there are no poor sides now. Some sides may have had an indifferent start but they will improve.
“In the main, the division from top to bottom, is tough and it was the same last year so we are used to it.
“If you don’t turn up in a game, you get beat. It was like that last year but I think this year it is even more so.
“I imagine it’ll be close all of the way through the season and I don’t like setting targets but I think the points total you will need to get promoted will be far less because it is that competitive
I think we can do it and we hope we can build on our positive start”
Building seems to be second nature to Dave Challinor, and now in their new home, they are ready to reach new heights once again.
Interview: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)
Images: Steve McLellan / www.actionimages.com