By Matt Bishop
AFC FYLDE are the envy of many clubs in Non-League – and they’re going from strength to strength.
With a young, passionate manager in the shape of ex-Tranmere man Dave Challinor, an impressive multi-million pound stadium and training ground recently opened at Mill Farm, and a side already seven points clear at the top of the National League North, everything is going in the right direction.
But the Coasters are refusing to rest on their laurels, and with the help of SCL, they now have an Academy system to match their huge ambition as they prepare for the future.
“We are a very progressive club,” Challinor, 41, told The NLP. “We started a few programmes with our academy at some local schools and colleges, but with our new ground and education centre, we wanted to move in house and control what the lads were training and learning.
“SCL is obviously very big down south, and looking to branch out, and it seemed a perfect fit for us because we also wanted to grow and they have a great reputation. We had a few meetings, and Steve [Franks, Partnership Director and company co-owner] sold SCL to me – his enthusiasm and optimism was something I could relate to.”
To produce young players through the academy is the ultimate aim for any football club, of course, but Challinor also recognises the brutal nature of the game, and that work with SCL is integral in providing young players at Fylde with more opportunities than ones that only present themselves on the pitch.
The many youngsters in the academy would be forgiven if they thought they were already on the road to a career in professional football, but Challinor knows the importance of giving the boys an education too – something SCL are passionate about.
Challinor said: “To some extent, of course it is important to get the balance right between football and education, because we are an ambitious football club and want to produce players.
“But I think it’s not about balance; at their age, education is vital and paramount to give them opportunities.
“We make sure they all know they have to work hard with SCL away from the pitch too, and that if they fall behind in work then their football will suffer too.
“We are always realistic with the players and parents – they understand that we are trying to develop them into good footballers, and over their two years with us we will try and make that happen. But, whatever happens, after two years we make sure they leave with qualifications to help them with whatever they do afterwards.”
Franks agrees with Challinor’s mantra, and recognises how important the role of education is in the lives of young footballers.
He told The NLP: “Our Academy programme uses the power of football as a tool to motivate and encourage young people to stay in education while keeping one eye on the dream of progressing through the ranks to the first team or other opportunities in the football sector.”
A prime example of the success being had at Mill Farm between AFC Fylde and SCL is the rise of young striker Serhat Tasdemir, who has already made a massive impression within the first-team.
Not only has the 16-year-old already made his debut for the National League North leaders, but he’s already notched a hat-trick, when he scored a treble against AFC Darwen in the Lancashire FA Trophy.
Boss Challinor named a strong team that day, so to start with Tasdemir up-front was a huge show of faith, but it is just a sign of how much confidence the manager has in his youth players, coming from such a well run Academy.
“Serhat is a prime example of someone who has worked hard, got his opportunity with the first team and taken it with both hands,” said Challinor.
“He has worked hard and we have worked with him to develop him into a great young player, and his hat-trick has shown he is developing well thanks to our work and SCL’s work.
“Working with SCL has been brilliant – to get players through our Academy while also providing an education from with SCL is building a reputation for years to come.”