AFTER an impressive rise back through the divisions in non-league, Farsley Celtic manager Adam Lakeland is feeling ambitious about where the club is heading.

However, he exercised an element of caution too, admitting that the off-field staff need to catch up with the team's progress, as he recalled the nightmare of the club going bust just a decade ago.

They reached the heady heights of the Conference in 2007/08 but were immediately relegated. With the club's financial problems mounting at this point, they staggered on in the Conference North for just under two seasons before resigning from the league and having their record expunged in March 2010.

Starting again in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division, the Celts made good progress, with Lakeland joining the club in May 2017 just after they had secured promotion to the Northern Premier League Premier Division.

After guiding them to the play-offs in his debut season as manager, Lakeland led them to the title last season. They have now come full circle back into the National League North, and currently sit fifth after a strong start to the season.

Speaking to the T&A, Lakeland said: "We're ambitious but we've also got to be realistic. My staff and I are ready to take the next step but our last trip to the Nationals (Conference/Conference North) sent Farsley under.

"We've got to be careful and wary of getting to the National League too quickly. As things are off the pitch, we'll struggle at this level. We've come a long way (on the pitch) in two and a half years and it's a bit of a reality check for us to catch up off the pitch.

"We have to ask: can we sustain ourselves? We all want to work towards being full-time, and that could come by improving the team and results, but the club has to evolve off the pitch to support us too."

Things do seem to be heading in the right direction off the field though. Some impressive new signings came in at the start of last season, and there was a takeover this summer.

The club now play in green and white, instead of blue, they have a new badge, and their ground has been renamed The Citadel instead of Throstle Nest.

Speaking about developments at the club since he took charge, Lakeland said: "It was unusual to go in there straight after promotion to the Northern Premier League but straight away I set my intentions out to go again and get into the National League North.

"We made the decision to freshen up the squad, reduce the average age, and just have a better blend of experience and youth.

"It gave us hungry players, alongside good people at the club. We reached the play-offs in my first season then the board were happy for me to get in three or four players to make our first XI stronger.

"We brought in quality players like Jimmy Spencer, Jack Higgins and Will Hayhurst and won the title. It superseded our expectations but I had the ambition and belief that we could do it."

Discussing the takeover following promotion, Lakeland said: "It's been a whirlwind six months of emotions as it's not always easy to manage a club in the middle of a takeover, especially given that we were under the stewardship of John Palmer for so long.

"But we've been told by the new chairman (Paul Barthorpe) that he's looking for us to go full time and we've made improvements around the ground.

"The fixtures coming thick and fast have slowed us up a bit, but we'll continue to invest in infrastructure. We've got to get to a competitive level, as we're up against several former Football League clubs with giant resources."

They have more than held their own against those relative giants on the pitch so far, with Lakeland saying: "A lot of the group we have now in the National North have played here and above before so the experience and physicality of the league is not a concern.

"The fixtures came out and and it was a tough August. We had nine games and they were against all the top teams really, big full-time sides.

"The players have been magnificent though and even after the odd bad defeat, we've stuck together and been able to move on.

"Just because we've been promoted, we won't accept just losing games as it becomes a dangerous habit and you get stuck in a rut.

"I've always gone in to every season thinking that I want us to finish as close to the top as we can.

"Thankfully, in September we played a lot of clubs down at the bottom, and we've capitalised on that. The first objective was always survival but we're enjoying the challenge, we've settled well, and built a good platform."

Lakeland is a busy man. Earning his UEFA A Licence coaching badge at 26, he works full-time as a director at Pro Sport Coaching Ltd, which has been offering sports coaching to primary school children since 2006.

A sub-division of that is Diddy Dribblers, which offers football for pre-school children between the ages of 18 months and five years.

Lakeland admitted that there is a lot to juggle, but scoffed at the idea that he has it harder than any other manager.

He said: "I'm no different to any other non-league manager that works full-time. Running any football club is full-time anyway, as you're always on the phone and in the car getting to other teams' games, on top of having training and matches.

"It just means that I have a full-time job on top of another full-time job that's all. You've got to be resilient, self-motivated and give the best you can in both walks of life.

"I'm proud of my coaching and my ambition is to do that full-time, managing at as high a level as I can. Me and Bettsy (assistant manager Mark Bett) have got to earn that right though.

"We've just got to do the best we can at Farsley for now and then we'll see about the future."

Lakeland and Bett's next assignment sees the Celts visit play-off rivals Alfreton Town this afternoon.