8:00am Saturday 10th May 2014
By Simon Parker
Lee Sinnott was there at his shoulder for Mark Bower’s introduction into professional football.
Today they will share the touchline at Altrincham’s Moss Lane where Bower hopes to take his first major step forward in management.
It is over 16 years since a teenage defender made his Bradford City debut as a second-half replacement for Wayne Jacobs at Norwich. Sinnott, on loan from Oldham at the time, was playing centre half in a 3-2 win.
A few weeks later, Sinnott himself made way for Bower’s home debut as a substitute on the final day of the season against Portsmouth.
Now Guiseley’s rookie boss hopes to follow in Sinnott’s footsteps by steering his team through the Skrill North play-off final and into the Conference Premier.
Sinnott once managed it with Farsley Celtic – now he stands in the way of Bower crowning a dream start in the hot-seat by repeating the trick with their neighbours.
“Lee is someone I’ve come across quite a few times,” said Bower. “He was on the pitch when I made my debut at Carrow Road and our paths have crossed.
“He’s someone I look up to and hope to emulate. He’s got a good side at Altrincham which has been gradually building up and got promoted through the play-offs from this league with Farsley not too long ago.
“He’s been there, done it and experienced it as a manager. Obviously this is new for me.”
But Bower is a fast learner. Anyone brave enough to set up their own estate agents with a mate is no mug.
Now the Shipley office for that four-year-old firm doubles as the hub of Bower’s non-league homework.
It’s why he is unlikely to switch on Match of the Day. He would much rather use the time swatting up on the world of part-time football.
“I’ve got far more knowledge of the Conference North than what’s going on in the Premier League now,” he laughed.
“I don’t bother with Match of the Day so much. Every opportunity I get I’ll be on Youtube looking for something.
“Get a quiet hour in the office and I’ll be trying to find out who’s injured and suspended, things like that. At this level, you don’t have the resources to scout teams every week.
“It’s vital to give the players as much knowledge of what teams are going to do. If we can identify a weakness or something they do at set-pieces then it will help.”
A bulging contacts book has been another key weapon. Bower played from Championship level down to the Evo-Stik Premier and assistant Danny Boshell has done similar rounds so their network is wide.
It has meant they can pick up former Leeds and City left back Ben Parker one minute and then centre half Danny Hall the next from Celtic Nation in a league three below Guiseley. Trusted confidants such as Halifax boss Neil Aspin have also offered opinions on players they don’t know.
Bower had never seen himself as management material. Others might have but work commitments meant he never had “that burning desire” to pursue all the coaching badges.
But thrust into the role when Steve Kittrick was sacked in September, he is clearly enjoying every minute. There have been no regrets, even in those dark days when the Lions lost the first five games of his command.
“I try to approach it a little bit differently. I want to be straight with the lads and I’ll certainly let them know if I’m disappointed or if they could do something better.
“But there is no ranting and raving as such. I’m not a tea-cup thrower.
“I think the days are gone when the old-school types would lock the dressing room door for an hour, shout and bawl and pin people up against the wall.
“I try and do things in a constructive way. One thing we have tried to do is get into the players’ mentality and recognise who needs an arm round them.
“You don’t get four or five days a week to train at our level so you’re limited in terms of organisation. So looking after the players is so important.
“A confident player is ten times better than the other way and the little things can make a two or three per cent difference in their performance.”
With 43 points from a possible 54 followed by two further wins – and clean sheets – against North Ferriby in the semi-final, Guiseley’s form could not be any hotter for this afternoon’s promotion showdown.
Bristol Rovers’ relegation from the Football League last week just heightened the excitement about the rewards up for grabs for the winner.
Bower added: “That’s the carrot to dangle in front of the players. You see some of the names in the Conference and you’re that close to the prize on offer.
“Compare some of the places where we go now, with all due respect, and then think about where we could be playing next season. There couldn’t be a bigger incentive.
“The way we play football will suit us at that level because you’re playing on better surfaces. It makes a change from some pitches we’ve used that can best be described as fields.
“I’m nervous and excited – it’s a bit of everything. We’ve come so far now and you’re desperate to be successful.
“The players deserve it, supporters deserve it, the directors who have been so supportive deserve some success.
“The pressure is on to deliver that but it’s a pressure that you want. It’s better than finishing the season with meaningless mid-tables games, which it looked like we’d be doing.
“We won every single midweek game for two months to get this far and I’m really proud of the lads. Now we just want to get over the line.”
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