Guiseley set to tame big guns

DURING a playing career that included almost 300 Football League appearances, Mark Bower’s typical working day was usually over by lunchtime.

Guiseley's manager Mark Bower

“I wonder what I did with all that time,” laughs the former defender when talking about all those free afternoons during a decade spent with Bradford City.

With good cause, too, as Bower’s workload today is now very different to those more care-free days as he juggles the demands of running his own estate agency and planning for Guiseley’s first season in the top division of non-League football.

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“It is a big change and the first thing I noticed when I stopped playing in the Football League,” adds the 35-year-old when speaking to The Yorkshire Post ahead of the Lions’ bow in the newly-branded National League.

“The length of the days are massively different now. Back then, we would finish about 1-2pm and the rest of the day would be ours. My only concern back as a player was looking after myself and getting sufficient rest.

“Now, things are very different. For a start, I’ve got 20 blokes to worry about. What are they up to? Are they looking after themselves? Will they be fit for the weekend?

“There is always something that needs sorting out. Mind, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Bower, about to embark on only his second full season as a manager, is looking forward to the challenge of helping Guiseley acclimatise in a division that features no less than 14 former League clubs.

Last May’s Conference North play-off final victory over Chorley was a dramatic affair. Coming from two goals down at half-time, the Lions, making their fifth straight attempt at prevailing in the end-of-season promotion deciders, hit back in spectacular fashion to end all those years of heartache.

A big decision had to be made following that 3-2 success as to whether Guiseley should go full-time ahead of their bow in the fifth tier of English football.

“There were a lot of discussions but we decided to stay part-time,” reveals Bower. “We have a lot of players who have other commitments outside football and going full-time would have been very hard.

“Plus, we looked at Halifax and Altrincham. They both went up via the play-offs before us, decided to stay part-time and did very well.

“Of course, every team would like to be full-time but I don’t think it will be too much of a hindrance this season.

“The fixtures haven’t been too unkind, for a start. I know Halifax have not had many favours in the past two seasons with trips to Torquay on a Tuesday night and things like that.

“But ours are okay. We have about eight or nine overnight trips, which works out at one per month. Quite a few long trips will be out of the way early on, too.”

Bower, like his players, has remained very much part-time as he continues to play a hands-on role at Hamilton-Bower estate agents.

“It doesn’t cause me too many problems,” said the Lions chief when asked about coping with the demands of two jobs. “In general, I work in the office from nine to five and the football fits well round that.

“Providing you have a mobile phone in your pocket, that is as good as being in the office. Training is set in stone on Tuesday and Thursday nights so things work well, even if there has been a lot more ‘phone calls to deal with during the week.

“That has been the biggest eye-opener, seeing just how many agents and players are on the ‘phone offering their services.

“We stayed part-time but, following promotion, one or two might have thought we would go full-time so were getting in touch. It was constant at times. But it has been simple to achieve a balance. Moving things round has not been a problem, while if I need a bit of time off the boss is quite sympathetic.”

Bower laughs at that point, as he might consider the feel-good factor that surrounds Guiseley right now.

The challenge, of course, is to adapt to new surrounds and quickly, just as re-formed Halifax did a couple of years ago following promotion. The alternative is possibly suffering the fate of Farsley Celtic, the other Yorkshire side to win promotion to what used to be known as the Conference inside the last decade or so.

Farsley went straight back down in 2008 and were then wound up a little over a year later.

Bower, however, believes Guiseley have what it takes to both make the step up without too many problems and, hopefully, surprise a few more established clubs along the way.

“The challenge is one that excites us all,” said the club’s manager. “I am sure the likes of Tranmere, Grimsby and Wrexham are not really looking forward to coming to Guiseley.

“I have seen a few messages on the internet and tweets that are basically asking, ‘Where is Guiseley?’ But we will enjoy playing those bigger sides and I also think the way we play will suit the division.

“We will enjoy the improved pitches and better grounds and against bigger clubs, ones I played against a few times in my career.

“What we won’t be doing, though, is going into the league wide-eyed or feeling inferior. We mean business. We have good experience in the squad and I’m expecting them to thrive at this level.”