WHILE their West Yorkshire rivals Guiseley and Farsley Celtic flounder towards the foot of the National League North table, Bradford (Park Avenue) can gratefully look down upon them.

The table looked a little hairy at the turn of the year, but Avenue have really turned it on in the New Year, picking up excellent points against high-fliers Gateshead, Kidderminster and Chorley, and magnificent wins at the likes of York and Spennymoor.

And perhaps it just shows the value of keeping a steady hand.

Bower often discusses the fact that others have more money than Avenue in the division, and that it does affect them when things go awry.

Take their hefty fine last summer after failing to play games when a Covid lockdown meant fans could not attend Avenue’s games.

At the time, Bower said: “It’s a bitter pill to swallow.

“I was really disappointed. At the time we were seeing the good from people coming together, people making sacrifices, ultimately to try to get ourselves back to normal. This decision seems completely contradictory to that.

“We were very honest about the position we were in as a club at that time.

“It will have a big impact on my squad through no fault of our own. The fine is a player out of my squad, a first-team starter.

“There is no point in moaning about it. We have got to crack on and put it behind us, get out there and play.”

As for bad weather costing them a Saturday clash with West Yorkshire rivals Halifax in the FA Trophy and a Boxing Day derby with York in December, Bower said then: “If we didn’t have bad luck, we’d have no luck at all.

“That’s probably our three biggest earners of the season, Marine and Halifax at home in the FA Trophy on a Saturday afternoon, and now York on Boxing Day, that have been postponed.

“It’s (the York call off) disappointing for us as a squad as it is, as we’d put time into our game prep, but financially it’s a massive hit for the club.”

But yet Avenue keep ploughing on, with a couple of good reasons for that.

One is the near constant presence of Bower over the last few years.

Clubs quite regularly chop and change managers at this level, with Guiseley for example letting their management trio of Marcus Bignot, Russ O’Neill and Paul Clayton go earlier this week.

Farsley have had three different managers this season, with Adam Lakeland leaving in October for Curzon Ashton, Neil Ross departing at the end of January and former Scunthorpe boss Russ Wilcox the current incumbent.

On the one hand, Steve Kittrick has started brilliantly at Guiseley, earning a 2-0 win at Kettering on Tuesday night in his first game since being sacked in 2013, to push the Lions just two points off safety.

And results have improved with Wilcox compared to those under Lakeland and Ross at Farsley, and having looked like potentially being cut adrift at one point, they are now three points clear of the drop.

Whether the magic formula has been found for both in time this season remains to be seen, but even when things got nervy, Avenue knew they could rely on Bower.

He led them to 16th in 2016/17, then two play-off finishes in 2017/18 and 2018/19.

An attempt to rip up the script after the latter season did not work, as Bower left Horsfall then returned less than six months later.

By then, he had taken over a club in freefall, and they were only spared relegation in 2019/20 by the coronavirus pandemic.

But with dependable players coming back and the club on surer footing, they were mid-table in last season’s Covid-curtailed campaign and look set for something similar this time out.

Speaking of dependable players, that is something Bower relishes.

The likes of Luca Havern, Mark Ross, Ryan Toulson, Nicky Clee, Adam Nowakowski and Oli Johnson have been mainstays under Bower for years, and he knows he can rely on them to do a job.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Luca Havern (right) is Bower's trusted skipper. Picture: John Rhodes.Luca Havern (right) is Bower's trusted skipper. Picture: John Rhodes.

But Avenue are no one-trick ponies, and with their limited budget, they need ways to compete beyond Bower’s “blue-chip brigade”.

Smart loan signings of the likes of Frankie Maguire and Oli Arblaster have helped this term, while the presence of former Bantams George Sykes-Kenworthy and Dylan Mottley-Henry, not afraid to drop down a couple of levels, has proved a masterstroke.

And in the likes of Lewis Knight and Brad Dockerty, similar to Alex Hurst previously, their squad contains rough, currently being polished, diamonds, who have every chance of making it into the Football League one day.

There is no set formula to staying in any division, if there was, you could bottle it and sell it for millions.

But Avenue seem to have found a method that works for them, defying their relegation favourites tag, season after season.

It might not be exciting, it might not be glamorous, but it is hard to imagine Avenue fans would want it any other way.