Hartlepool United Dave Challinor reacts to Bristol City's Ashton Gate being confirmed as the National League play-off final venue
Dave Challinor is hoping to guide Hartlepool United to the National League play-off final, regardless of where it takes place.
But Friday’s confirmation of Bristol City’s Ashton Gate Stadium as the venue for this year’s final on June 20 has caused some confusion and plenty of discontent from supporters.
The usual prestigious venue of Wembley Stadium is out of use due to it hosting Euro 2020 matches throughout June.
The majority of this season’s play-off contenders are northern based clubs. One notable exception is Torquay United, who are located within 100 miles of Bristol’s 27,000 all-seater stadium.
Fans from both finalists will be able to attend in limited numbers with a restricted 25-per-cent capacity attendance of 6,750 being reported.
Should Pools get to the final, they would be facing a near 550-mile round trip – one of their longest of the season.
“It’s not ideal is it?” Pools boss Dave Challinor admitted. “From a selfish perspective, I can say I’ve gone to Wembley, I’ve played there twice so it doesn’t really affect me but of course it does.”
Challinor managed AFC Fylde to a National League play-off final at Wembley Stadium in 2019. Unfortunately that ended in defeat to Salford City but they returned the following week to win the FA Trophy against Leyton Orient.
As a player, Challinor was a League Cup runner up with Tranmere Rovers at Wembley in 2000.
"For any player at this level, the opportunity to play at Wembley is a huge one,” he added.
“We know how important the game is and what rides on it for all the clubs. Not just for the supporters but the prestige in doing that.
"And when you look at the teams in the play-off picture, I’m not sure you could get many, if any, bigger teams in the top nine.
"The National League have to make decisions and unfortunately there’s going to be situations where you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
"We have no idea if they’ve spoken to every Premier League club and been told no, or whether this is the only option for us.”
"Being really critical, you look at the makeup of the play-off places and go that potentially five out of the six teams could be northern based clubs and it becomes a difficult one for supporters.
"Ashton Gate holds 27,000 and if the crowd is going to be, for example, 10,000 and 4,000 for each team then I can guarantee those tickets will be snapped up in a heartbeat and those fans won’t be disappointed if they have to travel all the way there and it results in their team ending up in the Football League.”
The Pools boss added: "Let’s look at it in a positive light and fingers crossed we’re there and we’ve got however many thousand Hartlepool fans there to support us.
"I’m sure on another day in normal circumstances at Wembley, I’m sure there would have been 20,000 plus wanting to see that game.
"Unfortunately that’s not the case but hopefully we can give ourselves the best shot of having that occasion to look forward to.”