Non-League: Lions’ seemingly ever-expanding pool of players could lead to their downfall

Former Guiseley manager, Paul Cox.
Former Guiseley manager, Paul Cox.
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A TALLY of just four National League wins so far this season may be a damning one when it comes to analysing Guiseley’s increasingly bereft and painful 2017-18 story.

But it is another stark number – much higher – which is perhaps the major reason for the Lions’ disastrous campaign.

One of the few remaining recognisable Guiseley squad members, 'Will Hatfield.

One of the few remaining recognisable Guiseley squad members, 'Will Hatfield.

A meagre and lamentable return of just three victories from 24 league matches in charge saw Paul Cox pay the price when he was sacked on Wednesday morning, with assistant Adam Murray and first-team coach Ben Marvin also departing Nethermoor.

Yet that aforesaid statistic is not the most worrying.

What definitely is surrounds the fact that, so far this season, Guiseley have used a colossal 38 players in their National League fixtures, with 14 games still left in 2017-18.

In its own way, the huge number tells the story of just why the club prop up the division and are effectively 11 points adrift of safety and needing a minor miracle to stay up for a third successive campaign.

Another of the few-surviving Lions squad, Alex Purver. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Another of the few-surviving Lions squad, Alex Purver. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Players have come and gone with increasing, some would say alarming, regularity, with the constant chopping and changing having failed to instigate anything like a renaissance.

Of the side who lined up at Nethermoor in the opening game of the season against Ebbsfleet back on August 5, just two were involved in Guiseley’s last league appointment in midweek against Gateshead, in Cox’s final match in charge.

Those being Will Hatfield, who came off the bench in the 1-0 reverse, while Alex Purver was an unused substitute.

The decision to switch to a full-time status in the middle of the season has also clearly proved an ill-fated one, with several players with part-time status who have been part of the Guiseley story during several previously successful campaigns being jettisoned or overlooked.

Other signings during the season, including the likes of Jean-Yves Koue-Niate, Chris M’Boungou and Darren Holden had been used sparingly.

A by-product of this has been a dilution of team morale and spirit, with the nett result being that Guiseley’s relegation back to the National League North looks a case of when not if.

In the immediate aftermath of the departure of Cox, recently signed defender Sean St Ledger, a former Republic of Ireland defender, has been entrusted with taking training as the Lions – on a grim six-match losing sequence – prepare for their home encounter with Maidenhead United at the weekend.

The 33-year-old has already started to make contingencies for his future employment after the end of his playing career, yet it remains to be seen if that incorporates senior coaching.

Speaking recently to the YEP, St Ledger said: “I did my B licence in the summer with the Irish FA and it is making the transition into what you want to do next.

“I think that is one of the hardest things that players have to go through; doing something so regimented from a young kid and then all of a sudden, your legs just stop. Or something happens and you have to go into something different.

“All I have ever known is being a footballer. You come in at nine o’clock and then it can go to all of a sudden you can get all this free time and you have to do something different. It is a real big change.”

Elsewhere tomorrow, FC Halifax caretaker-boss Neil Young will take charge of Saturday’s home game with Ebbsfleet at The Shay.

Interviews are ongoing with managerial candidates, with the club hopeful of naming their new permanent boss next week.