BRADFORD (Park Avenue) manager Mark Bower might be one of my favourite interviewees.

Our staple Thursday phone call is always picked up immediately, or returned within the hour, even though the man has his hands full managing a National League North side, and his own estate agents, Hamilton Bower.

Open, honest and engaging, he doesn’t hold back if Avenue lose badly, or a shocking tackle or refereeing decision has marred the game, and he rarely shirks a question, no matter how difficult.

One theme that crops up regularly is the lack of resources Avenue have compared to some of the big-hitters in the division.

Ahead of a recent game against rivals York City, he told the T&A that “pretty much all of York’s players are off our radar, given they’re full-time professionals”.

With a game against promotion favourites Fylde looming last week, he said: “The plan is to frustrate Fylde, because their fans will be expecting them to turn us over.

“It’ll be a tough one, because they’re a full-time outfit who haven’t played since Tuesday, whereas we’re part-time and played on Wednesday.”

And just before a trip to second-placed Brackley Town a fortnight ago, he mused: “We know, first and foremost, that our aim is to still be in this division next season, so there’s still work to do on that front.

“But if we can string a couple more wins together, we can maybe start looking up towards mid-table, and getting in and among teams we weren’t expected to compete with at the start of the season.”

And that is, and always has been Bower’s modus operandi. Keep Avenue in the sixth tier, and anything else is a bonus.

But while he often plays down expectations at the club, the manager is not daft.

He knows where Avenue’s strengths lie, and said recently: “People are here for the right reasons.

“Our older players would probably get more money elsewhere, but they love the club and their team-mates and want to help us move forward.

“We’ve got those who are a bit younger trying to move up the pyramid, and in general we’ve got everyone pulling in the same direction.”

And that last sentence is telling.

Avenue’s team spirit does play a big part in their success, helping them gain shock play-off berths in National League North in 2017/18 and 2018/19.

But boy, have Avenue nurtured some talent under Bower.

Jake Beesley was something of an unknown quantity heading into the latter of those two seasons, having struggled as a youngster at Chesterfield and Salford City.

Yet, after teaming up with Bower, a spark was lit, and the striker plundered 21 league goals in 2018/19.

Soon after, he got that coveted move back into the Football League with Rochdale.

Three months ago, he won League Two’s Player of the Month after scoring four goals in three games, earning him a January move and a three-and-a-half year contract at Championship side Blackpool.

Alex Hurst joined Avenue as a teenager in October 2018, and it was not long before he got a move to Port Vale, before being sent back on loan to Avenue to hone his craft.

That extra time in non-league paid off, and Hurst made 26 appearances for the League Two side last season.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Alex Hurst on the run for Avenue against rivals York City. Picture: John Rhodes.Alex Hurst on the run for Avenue against rivals York City. Picture: John Rhodes.

Hurst knows how key Bower and assistant manager Danny Boshell have been to his progress, telling the T&A in August: “They massively helped my progress and they’re two of the best coaches I’ve worked under.

“They brought me in when I had recently come out of an Under-23s set-up.

“They really helped me out in training and stuff like that, building my confidence and putting me in games at the right moments, and not asking too much of me too soon.

“I couldn’t thank them enough for that first season and I think it helped me kick on and get back into the professional game, so I’ve got a lot of time for them.”

Lewis Knight is back at Avenue on loan now from Notts County, but the forward’s form at Horsfall had earned him a move to the former EFL heavyweights.

Injuries have hampered his progress there, but at 23, he still has plenty of time for a second crack at a higher level.

Isaac Marriott got his move to National League side Altrincham on Christmas Eve, and just a couple of days before, Bower had said: “He’s producing quality at the top end of the pitch again, and his performance against Halifax really put him in the shop window.

“Obviously we don’t want to lose him, but we’re all about giving young players the platform to move up the divisions.”

Brad Dockerty is likely to be the next cab off the rank, with the Avenue forward praised by Bower last month, who said: “We’ve always known Brad had real natural ability, but what he’s done over the last two years is improved his all-round game and is making better decisions.

“I think Brad can keep on improving, and by doing that, he’ll score even more goals.”

They may not have the resources of others, but don’t pity Avenue too much.

Quite the talent factory is forming down at Horsfall, and as long as there is a sprinkling of that in the years to come, expect Bower’s men to give a bloody nose to plenty of sides in the sixth tier.