GUISELEY manager Mark Bower admits last season was big learning curve for both the National League club and himself as a manager.
The Lions escaped the drop on a dramatic final day after beating Torquay United 4-3 to condemn neighbours FC Halifax Town to relegation.
Three months on, Bower is preparing for the club’s second season at the top level of non-League football and he is eagerly looking forward to the big kick-off at Eastleigh.
“It was a big learning curve as a club and for me,” admitted the 36-year-old with a week to go until the new season. “I had never been at this level before. I’d been at Bradford in the Premier League, and played in the Championship, League One and League Two.
“I’d also been at Conference North level and, overall, played in or been involved in the seven divisions either side of the National League. But never at this one.
“We came up and I wanted to keep doing what we had done to win promotion, play football in the same way.
“We might have to step away from that at times this season. You need that ability to adapt and maybe we didn’t do it enough last time.”
Guiseley, as a part-time club operating in a division featuring 12 former Football League clubs, are again among the favourites for relegation with the bookmakers.
Only promoted North Ferriby United are priced at shorter odds than the Lions but Bower is ready for the unique challenges that come with competing in the National League.
“There is a massive gulf between the haves and have-nots in this league,” he added. “I look at the Championship or wherever, and although there are rich clubs and not so rich clubs, they are pretty evenly matched in terms of facilities, players etcetera.
“Here, there is a big, big gulf in terms of finances and so on. There are full and part time teams, for instance.
“The National League has its own feel to it, thanks in part to some being semi-professional clubs and yet everyone travels the length and breadth of the country.
“At Guiseley, we had to get that balance right between training, games, rest-time and so on. The lads also have families.
“I played full-time and realise now how lucky I was. There was no juggling of the day job with having to get to training.
“We try to help by leaving for overnight stops as late as possible on the Friday night. We were also fortunate not to have too many long trips on a Tuesday night. Even so, I take my hat off to the lads for their dedication. It can’t be easy, especially if you have a young family. But they make the sacrifices.”
Ferriby, about to embark on their own debut campaign at this level, are also looking forward to the season’s opener, a home game against Braintree.
Manager Steve Housham said: “Braintree will be a very proud day for us all. I will tell the players beforehand just how proud they should be.
“I know their families will be proud and the key is for them not to let the occasion pass them by. I definitely won’t.”