MARK Bower will do a double-take when he looks across at the away dug-out at Horsfall Stadium on Friday night.

He has seen some familiar ex-pros leading the opposition against Bradford (Park Avenue) before – but not one of the same magnitude as City chief Mark Hughes.

As a Bantams fan and former player, Bower can understand the buzz generated by the Welshman’s presence – but it will still feel “surreal” going head-to-head in the first pre-season friendly.

“We’ve had proper Premier League footballers like Steve Watson and Mike Williamson managing in our league last year but Mark Hughes is on a different level,” admitted the Avenue boss.

“He was an unbelievable football player and has had a brilliant career in management. You look at the clubs he’s managed and some of the names who have worked under him.

“It will feel a bit surreal that he will be managing opposite me – and managing the team I supported as a kid.

“But I think it’s absolutely fantastic for the club and that’s shown in the recruitment.

“They’ve been able to bring in some really good players and got them in early as well. Hopefully they are ready to hit the ground running.”

Hughes has made 12 signings in a frenetic summer and expectations for the upcoming season are already going through the roof.

Bower knows that pressure the team will be under – especially in front of 14,000 season-ticket holders at Valley Parade.

“That’s part of why you’re playing for the best club in that league and they are probably being well paid relative to that level.

“We see that in our league. We’re ‘little Bradford (Park Avenue)’ and go away to some of the big clubs and grounds and the first thing you try to do is turn the crowd.

“The fans have got their part to be patient and not play into the opposition’s hands.

“It’s been proven over the years that at times a City team not playing well can crumble at home. Other clubs come and frustrate and make it a difficult atmosphere to play in.

“But I’m sure the manager won’t be fazed by that. He’s played in plenty more intimidating places than that and he’s got to get that message through to his players to make sure the ones he brings in are more than capable of coping with it.

“Mark Hughes has worked in some of the best set-ups in the country, so I’m sure he’s insisted that everything is done right.

“Everything is in place to ensure that there are no excuses and all the I’s will be dotted and T’s crossed so that everyone can be fully focused on the pitch and on getting promoted.

“City should not be in that division. Look at the teams they play week in, week out.

“You see some of the fixtures they could be playing in League One and it feels a real travesty that they are missing out.

“But they look well set and fingers crossed they can finally have a real challenge for that top three this season.”

Avenue trained on Monday and will have another session tonight as they build up to the opening warm-up game for the Tom Banks memorial trophy.

Bower said: “We’re probably going in a touch earlier than we’d like to. But we’ve got a couple of sessions under our belts.

“It’s been such a short break from the end of last season that we’ve come back and not had to do as much of the physical stuff as we would have normally.

“We’ve been able to get the balls out a bit more and been able to do a very limited amount of preparation.

“We’ll be approaching it in the same way as City, I guess, and get some minutes in the legs and see how one or two players cope in different situations.”

Avenue finished 18th in National League North last season – seven points clear of the drop.

Bower accepts they have to punch above their weight at times against clubs with far more financial clout.

“The money at our level is crazy these days and one or two players have gone on to so-called bigger clubs,” he added.

“We’ve managed to retain the core of last season’s squad and some of the younger players who did really well for us.

“George Sykes-Kenworthy, who City fans will know, has been absolutely outstanding in goal and we’re delighted he’s signed a new contract.

“You’ll find teams lower down and, all of a sudden, somebody puts some money in and wants to go on a ride.

“There are clubs coming up from the league below who are really well equipped in terms of budgets and the players they can attract.

“That obviously makes it very difficult for the likes of ourselves.

“We average crowds of about 500 and there are plenty of teams who get four times that. There are clubs like Hereford who I used to play against in the Football League for City.

“There are some decent players at our level who I think are good enough to be doing it full-time. But given they get good money playing part-time football and have got decent jobs, why take the risk?

“That does make it a real challenge but we are a bit of an underdog and I think that tag suits the club quite well.

“The players buy into it and our supporters appreciate where we’re at. It can be tough at times but it makes those wins taste that bit sweeter when they come about.”